Exploring Ontario's Bruce Peninsula

The Southern Connection
  |  Gorp.com

The southern jumping-off point into the Bruce, where northbound Highway 6 meets Highway 21, is the city of Owen Sound, a place of rolling landscapes exemplifying Ontario's role as a prime agricultural region. Just southwest of the city off Highway 6 lies Inglis Falls Conservation Area, where the waterfall plunges 18 m (54 ft) down a staircase of stone and the scenic view reaches to Georgian Bay. Enjoy a walk on trails around the marshes above the falls, or summon your rock-hopping skills to follow the Bruce Trail downstream.

Further north on the Bruce Trail, Jones Falls cascades 12 m (36 ft) as the Pottawatomi River plunges over the escarpment. Follow Highway 6 west of Owen Sound and park at the Grey Bruce Tourism Association for the 1 km (0.6 mi) trail to the falls. Pick up a good map in the tourist information center and find the side roads leading from Highway 6 to the peninsula's many natural treasures. Major roads avoid the bulge of peninsula between Owen Sound and Wiarton, but the Bruce Trail cuts through this countryside of stone and greenery, lush with rare ferns like the hart's tongue and wall rue, spotted with bogs brimming with pitcher plants, sundew, and rare wild orchids showing their brightest colors in June. In 1990, UNESCO named the Niagara Escarpment a World Biosphere Reserve—an internationally recognized ecosystem with unique natural value. Walk the Bruce Trail through this region, and you'll know why. More than 40 species of orchids grow in the wetlands of the Bruce Peninsula, many of them found nowhere else in the world.

One lonely coastal road parallels the trail. From Highway 6 in Owen Sound, follow the Eddie Sargent Parkway (2nd Avenue West) into 3rd Avenue West, which becomes Gray County Road 1, ending at Wiarton. Keep to the shoreline wherever the road forks. Woodsy summer residences crowd the lakeside, but the wild uplands beg exploration. Stop at Indian Falls and take a 1 km (0.6 mi) stroll to the horseshoe-shaped waterfall, lush with ferns and wildflowers. Pause at the overlook, where you can see the sweep of the escarpment—a virtual wall of limestone, topped with greenery—bounding the land's edge all along the lakeshore to the north.

Explore Bruce's Caves Conservation Area, along Road 1 and just a few miles south of Wiarton, where a 200-acre tract intersects the Bruce Trail. Ancient Lake Nippising once lapped at the base of the escarpment here, hollowing out sea caves in the limestone. Mosses and ferns now do their best to root in the soft rock, creating a wonderland of green against white. The rugged Bruce Caves Trail leads up and past the many tall, wide caverns to join up with the Bruce Trail on the top of the escarpment.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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