Cheltenham Badlands - Ontario Heritage Trust

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Accessibility update: Now open! Entry to the Badlands is by reservation only. Visitor and parking capacity limits in effect to ensure physical distancing. Illegal parking subject to fines and towing. All visitors must follow COVID safety guidelines. See the Credit Valley Conservation website for more information.

Cheltenham Badlands

The Ontario Heritage Trust – along with its managing partners, the Credit Valley Conservation and the Bruce Trail Conservancy – reopened the Cheltenham Badlands in 2018.

The Cheltenham Badlands is one of Ontario’s geological treasures, formed at the base of an ancient sea about 450 million years ago. The 36-hectare (91-acre) site is a provincially significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest and hosts one of the most recognizable and visited natural heritage landmarks in southern Ontario.

Ancestors of the Mississaugas of the Credit arrived here to hunt, fish and forage. They set up small, temporary villages on the river flats and practised horticulture, seasonally migrating and living lightly on the land. They stewarded this land over many generations.

European settlers cleared the land to establish homesteads and farms. From around 1850 to 1950, crops such as winter wheat, oats, potatoes and peas were grown here, and cattle grazed on the property. Signs of the apple orchard and a stone foundation from one of the original buildings still exist on the property.

The removal of trees and early farming practices caused the shallow topsoil to erode away, in turn exposing the underlying Queenston shale. Rain, snowmelt and freeze-thaw conditions caused rapidly accelerating erosion of the shale, resulting in the unique ridge and gully landscape known today as the Cheltenham Badlands.

Since being exposed in the early 1900s, the shale eroded into a series of hummocks and gullies, producing the current distinctive landscape. Approximately 20 per cent of the property consists off badlands topography; the remaining portions of the site include mature forests, wetlands and regenerating cultural woodland. The property was acquired by the Ontario Heritage Trust in 2002 in collaboration with the Bruce Trail Conservancy and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Please come to enjoy the view but be sure to park legally in the parking lot or use the shuttle bus service offered from Terra Cotta Conservation Area. All visitors are asked to be good to the Badlands and stay on the trails and boardwalks so that future generations can continue to enjoy this site.

Heritage significance

The Cheltenham Badlands property is designated as a provincially significant Earth Science Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). Due to its importance as a groundwater discharge area (groundwater emerges from the escarpment into streams), the property is also recognized as an Environmentally Significant Area (ESA). The coldwater stream on the property at the foot of the exposed badlands is a tributary of the Credit River. The diversity of habitat types allows the property to host rare flora, ranging from prairie sundrops to butternut.

Help us preserve the Cheltenham Badlands

The work of the Trust in conserving Ontario’s heritage would not be possible without the support of donors, corporate sponsors and partners across the province. Your support will ensure that the Cheltenham Badlands are enjoyed by future generations.

Make a donation to support work being done at the Badlands.

Recent conservation work

Cheltenham Badlands is a unique and spectacular natural landscape feature in southern Ontario at risk of damage from intense public use.

The Cheltenham Badlands Management Planning Team worked closely together with the Ontario Heritage Trust to plan for the long-term conservation and interpretation of the Badlands property. The Trust is grateful to Credit Valley Conservation, the Bruce Trail Conservancy, the Town of Caledon, the Region of Peel, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, the Caledon Countryside Alliance and the University of Toronto.

The Trust undertook a project in 2017-18 to improve access to the site, upgrade the trails, enhance public safety and introduce new trail wayfinding and onsite/virtual interpretive features.

The Trust would like to acknowledge the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada for their financial support for this project.

The Trust would also like to acknowledge the support provided by the Region of Peel and the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.