The Bruce Trail

The oldest long-distance path in Canada, the Bruce Trail follows the escarpment, stretching 900 kilometres (559 miles) from Queenston to Tobermory. The Bruce Trail Conservancy was incorporated in Ontario on March 13, 1963 and the trail opened officially in 1967. The Conservancy is supported by nearly 13,000 members and ~1,450 active volunteers in nine clubs.

In 1997, the Ontario Heritage Trust and the Bruce Trail Conservancy developed an expanded land trust partnership. Under this partnership, the Trust holds for the people of Ontario lands acquired for a permanent route for the Bruce Trail. These lands include over 116 properties, totaling 1,834 hectares (4,528 acres).

The Trust accepts donations of money, property and easements that contribute to the completion of the Niagara Escarpment Parks system and a permanent route for the Bruce Trail. The Bruce Trail Conservancy manages the trail, raises funds and negotiates property acquisitions and donations.

The Niagara Escarpment

The Niagara Escarpment is one of Canada's most scenic landforms. The Ontario portion of it extends 725 kilometres (450 miles) – from Queenston near Niagara Falls to the islands of Fathom Five National Marine Park off Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. From that point it runs underwater to Manitoulin Island and then into the United States, forming a horseshoe-shaped rim around the Michigan Basin.

The Escarpment originated over 450 million years ago as an immense delta from eroding ancient mountains. Later this area became the bottom of a shallow tropical sea. The skeletons of primitive sea creatures were added to layers of sediments and compressed over time into shales, sandstones, limestone and dolostone – the rocks of the Niagara Escarpment. Over millions of years, the forces of water, weathering and a succession of glaciers sculpted the rock layers into the dramatic natural landscapes we see today.

The Escarpment's forested surface forms one of the largest remaining wooded areas in southern Ontario, a life-sustaining corridor for forest species. Wetlands abound. Several major rivers and numerous creeks and streams arise from headwaters located on the escarpment and tumble over its edge as spectacular waterfalls such as Ball's Falls. Unusual plant communities create rare and precious wild gardens. Dozens of species of lime-loving ferns such as the Hart's-tongue Fern thrive in shadowy nooks and crannies all along the Escarpment. It even supports an old growth forest. Tiny gnarled Eastern White Cedars clinging to the cliff edges are up to 1,000 years old, making them some of the oldest living trees in eastern North America.

The escarpment's unusual geological formations – compressed layers of shale, sandstone, limestone and dolomite formed over millions of years – are its most dramatic features. Hikers treasure the escarpment's immense variety of delicate ferns and orchids, and the gnarled, 1,000-year-old cedars that grow on the face of its steep cliffs. In 1990, the United Nations designated the Niagara Escarpment a World Biosphere Reserve.

Along with other partners, including the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Bruce Trail Conservancy, the Trust makes a significant contribution to protecting the escarpment. We help acquire parkland (over 11,000 acres or 4,452 hectares), accept donations and promote wise stewardship of privately owned land.

Oak Ridges Moraine

Trust properties totalling 465 hectares (1,148 acres) lie on the Oak Ridges Moraine. The hardwood and mixed forests of the 65-hectare (161-acre) Bullen property lie adjacent to the Ganaraska Forest, a significant natural area on the Moraine. The property was donated in 1980 by Robert and Dorothy Bullen.

Perched on the "shoulders" of the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Fleetwood Creek Natural Area protects the forests and swamps in the headwaters of Fleetwood Creek. This 365-hectare (910-acre) site – home to 268 species of flora and 44 species of breeding birds – was purchased by the Trust with the help of the Pangnam family in the mid-1980s. The Kawartha Region Conservation and the Trust work in partnership to preserve the property.

The 70-hectare (173-acre) Walker property, donated in 1978 by Mr. and Mrs. James Walker, is located near Uxbridge and is linked to the Glen Major Forests, owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation. This natural area forms part of the headwaters of Duffin Creek.

Sheppard's Bush and the Smith property lie within the Town of Aurora. The forests at Sheppard's Bush were donated in 1972 by E. Reginald Sheppard. The Smith property was donated in 1992 by the late Anne Bartley Smith.

The Wright Property falls within the Humber River watershed. While small, it plays an important role in conserving the headwaters of the Humber River. The Wright Property, one of the early natural heritage acquisitions of the Trust, was donated by Justice Peter Wright in 1970.