Category Archives: Nature

A Piece of History Gets Renovated

Drive through Dufferin Islands and you’ll notice a hut constructed of stone boulders located at the base of Burning Spring Hill. The former police hut is the last of its kind still standing from 1907 and will be renovated to preserve a significant piece of history within Niagara Parks.

A complete overhaul will commence in Spring 2017 including a new cedar roof with copper cap, repaired block work, new masonry ledgers on existing window openings, and a number of structural repairs to wood and concrete throughout.

Once completed it will serve as a location for light displays, interpretive information on Dufferin Islands and some explanation of the plants and animals of the area.

Around 1794 this was the location of Bridgewater Mills. The mills and community were destroyed during the War of 1812 by retreating American troops. The islands were called Clark Islands and later The Cynthia Islands before the name Dufferin Islands was selected to honour the Governor General responsible for suggesting the creation of Niagara Parks.

The hut was first constructed during the development of the hydro-electric plants in the early 20th century. The hydro construction dramatically changed the appearance of Dufferin Islands leading to the creation of landscaped islands, paths and a swimming area in 1907.

Two bath houses were constructed in 1910 with observation decks on the second floor. More islands were added in 1918.  Starting in 1973, paddle boats were added to the swimming area.

The Niagara Parks Police posted officers in the “hut” and the only communication was by telephone. The addition of police vehicles and portable radios in the 1920’s made the buildings unnecessary. This hut survived and was used by staff for storage and by visitors swimming nearby.

Today swimming and paddle boating are no longer part of the experience at Dufferin Islands but millions of visitors from around the world enjoy its natural beauty during the summer and the world famous Winter Festival of Lights during the winter.

New Homes for Fish and Wildlife along the Niagara River

View from the shore looking out at Niagara River

An exciting effort is underway at Niagara Parks to provide new homes for fish and wildlife while building on projects intended to slow shore erosion.

Seven sites along the Upper Niagara River have been identified for habitat restoration, with the mouths of Ussher’s Creek and Baker’s Creek already completed in March 2017.

In the past, the Niagara River shoreline would have been lined with coastal wetlands. In 2015, it was determined by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry that over 75% of these coastal wetlands have been lost on the Canadian side of the Niagara River largely due to erosion prevention efforts. Coastal wetlands are essential for many fish species found within the Niagara River, including Lake Sturgeon, a species at risk. Typically these wetlands consist of various plants that provide safe shelter which is important for increasing fish populations in the Niagara River.

How are these habitats created?

  • Installation of fences that control the movement of dirt and small rocks
  • Shaping the river bank to a gentler/stable slope
  • Ash trees damaged by the Emerald Ash Borer pest were recycled and included as part of the project and placed into the river bed to slow wave action and create calmer near shore habitat
  • Planting of shoreline shrubs and plants
  • Ongoing monitoring

Anchored Root Wads create fish habitats

Submerged fish habitat project (rock ‘weir’ with anchored logs)

Niagara River Shoreline works – reduced wave action leading to vegetation growth

Niagara River Shoreline works – reduced wave action leading to vegetation growth

3 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Weekend in Niagara Parks

Sweater weather has officially arrived in Southern Ontario and the leaves on the trees that line our 56km stretch along the Niagara River are sprinkled with hints of orange, yellow and red. Whether you’re coming home to Niagara to spend time with family and friends or looking to plan a weekend escape, here are 3 ways to celebrate the Thanksgiving long weekend in Niagara Parks:


1. Leave the cooking to us
Spend more time relaxing this weekend and visit one of our five Feast On certified restaurants along the Niagara Parkway. Feast On, a criteria-based program from the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, recognizes businesses committed to showcasing Ontario’s unique taste of place. By dining with Niagara Parks Culinary, you help to support the many growers, producers and craftspeople that make up the province’s strong food and agricultural sectors.

On Sunday, October 9, enjoy brunch at the picturesque Queenston Heights Restaurant. Enjoy our seasonal menu while overlooking wine country and the winding Niagara River. Reservations are recommended. Call (905) 262-4274 to reserve your spot.

If you’re looking for a traditional turkey dinner with sides of Spy Apple Sage Stuffing, Yukon Mashed Potatoes, and Harvest Pumpkin Pie with Chantilly Cream, look to Elements on the Falls. Enjoy a prix-fixe Thanksgiving Dinner at the brink of Horseshoe Falls from October 8 to 10 and don’t miss the falls fireworks on Friday, Sunday and Monday evening at 10:00pm. Reservations recommended. Call (905) 354-3631 to reserve your table.



2. Discover some fall colour
A harvest-themed display featuring pumpkins, gourds and other fall décor is now in place at the Floral Showhouse alongside the annual Reiger Begonia Show. Wander through rows of coleus, ferns, and tropicals before heading outside to view our Life on Display exhibit.

After checking out the harvest displays at the Floral Showhouse, head north along the Niagara Parkway to visit White Water Walk and our 100-year-old Whirlpool Aero Car. Stroll along the wooden boardwalk at the edge of the Niagara River at White Water Walk then soar over the whirlpool and enjoy a panoramic view of the gorge aboard the Whirlpool Aero Car. Check out these vantage points before it’s too late – both of these attractions close for the season on November 6.

Plan your adventure and learn more about our passes here.




3. Reconnect with nature
Niagara Parks features 15km of hiking footpaths through six different nature areas, one 56-km paved Niagara River Recreation Trail, and also maintains a section of the Bruce Trail.

Explore the north end of the Niagara Parkway and hike the rugged trails that wind through the Niagara Glen. Located deep in the Niagara Gorge, stairways lead to 4km of rugged paths that wind through this pristine pocket of Carolinian Forest, past prehistoric geological formations, wild flora and fauna. The Niagara Glen overlooks the rapid teal-coloured waters of the Niagara River and the Niagara River Whirlpool.

Niagara Parks also offers superior cycling for all ages on our 53km Niagara River Recreation Trail. As part of larger trail systems that includes the Trans Canada Trail, the Waterfront Trail, the Greater Niagara Circle Route and the Greenbelt Route, the Niagara River Recreational Trail borders the winding Niagara River and is divided into four picturesque sections. Pack a picnic and stop at any of the look-out spots along the river for lunch.