Enjoy a family day out surrounded by wildlife
Spring has sprung and it seems everyone — including the birds — are eager to soak up the sun and inhale a deep breath of fresh air.
If you’re looking for an outing that’s not too far from home, a visit to Cooper Marsh in Lancaster, Ont. is an excellent spot to switch off from the modern world and get close to nature.
Open year-round, the Cooper Marsh Conservation Area trails are located on County Road 2 near South Lancaster, about an hour drive west of Montreal. So pack some snacks and water (or even a picnic), and hit the road for a day trip that will likely be good for the body and soul.
Approximately 200 species of birds
Visitors can stroll the 11.5 kilometres of nature trails and newly-restored boardwalks while enjoying the fauna and flora of the ponds and wetlands. A migration hot spot, the area provides habitat to upwards of 200 species of birds, six species of amphibians, and at least three species of turtles.
Peer over the sides of the boardwalks for a chance to see blue-spotted salamanders, jewelweed and water lilies poking through the ground, and watch the turtles sunbathing on logs.
An absolutely astonishing array of bird species live and migrate through the area, so keep an eye out for impressive osprey in their huge nests, hawks flying overhead, fishing herons, and the adorable pied-billed grebes. For those who love the colourful little birds, there are an abundance of warblers, friendly sparrows, chickadees, and woodpeckers flitting about. It’s a birdwatcher’s wonderland; rare and threatened species such as the least bittern and sandhill cranes can also be found in the area.
Interpretive panels on the trails and at the entrance to the large pond will help identify the various plants and animal species that make the space their home. And viewing platforms allow for a rest and a quiet spot from which to try and see resident otters, beavers, and muskrats. Those unfamiliar with the trails will appreciate the wayfinding signs to help locate the trails, washrooms, picnic area, and visitors’ centre, which is open on weekends until October.
Protection and preservation
Located alongside the St. Lawrence River and the north shore of Lake St. Francis, the area is owned and managed by the Raisin Region Conservation Authority (RRCA) with a goal of conserving, protecting and enhancing the area’s natural resources. The marsh was the vision of the late William (Bill) Cooper, a past Chair of the RRCA, who rallied neighbours and regulators to save the marsh.
The Cooper Marsh area is part of the larger Charlottenburgh Marsh, which is recognized as one of the most significant wetlands in Ontario. The address is 20020 S.D.G. County Road 2, South Glengarry, Ont.
Helpful information and tips
- Entry and parking are both free.
- Due to the sensitive nature of the habitat, bicycles, dogs, and motorized vehicles are forbidden.
- The boardwalks are wheelchair accessible, but the grass trails may be muddy depending on the season.
- Do a tick check when leaving.
- Depending on your kid’s age and stamina, some of the trails might feel very long.
- Before visiting, you can download the map with trail lengths here.
For more information, visit the RRCA Facebook page at facebook.com/raisinregion for nature programs, public activities, and site updates.