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Pigeon River Headwaters CA
UPDATE – July 2, 2019 – Despite my statement below, about not coming here in Summer, we just returned from a re – visit here today. Yes the bugs were impressive but tolerable. It has been 5 years since we made numerous attempts to see the boardwalk, and … sigh …this time a couple of bridges were under repair and half the trails were closed ! But we did make it to the boardwalk which was, unfortunately, quite overgrown and offered very little to view. The forested trails were quite buggy, but the upland meadows were rather pleasant. Please don’t take my remarks as criticism. This CA is very well cared for. As the new boardwalk, the bridge work planned, and obvious recent repairs to the picnic area prove. However, if you wanna visit, bring a truck or a high riding vehicle. Gray Rd. (which the CA has no authority over) darn near tore our Honda apart. Regardless, with the work on the bridges scheduled, this CA will likely be of limited interest for the remainder of the Summer. My original review follows :
The wife and I visited Pigeon River Headwaters Conservation Area last Fall, and were disappointed to find access to the boardwalk blocked. It was under repair and the sign requested we leave it alone until finished. Encouraged, as they were working on replacing it, we carried on with intention to return the following Spring. The PRHCA is a blend of damp lowlands, high dry forests, and a lovely river containing a unique species of trout found only in that stream (isolated by DNA analysis). We spotted provincially rare (“endangered’ in Florida and Illinois) cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) right on the trail. We came upon a hand painted forest scene that totally blew us away. I’ve never seen anything like it in any CA anywhere. We couldn’t believe it hadn’t been covered with something to protect it from the elements.
The Pigeon River trail is going to require some fancy footwork, or better still, fancy footwear. It can be very wet in places at the best of times. I’ve hit it in both September and October last year, and May of this year, and it was pretty damp. More so in the Spring than Late Fall. In the dead of Summer it might be drier, but it looks like a great breeding site for mosquitoes, so I won’t be reporting on that.
Awhile later that same year, I returned with Ranger to show him the place. This time, I brought the repellent spray I’d acquired due to some problems we’d had with critters (see the posting “The Problem with Pooches”). Ranger immediately noticed the sign :
Ranger has a healthy respect for bears, and since my family was chased off an island by a couple of them back in my childhood in the 60’s, so do I. I took the lead on the trail with my pepper spray in hand. There were plenty of bear activity indicators. Everything from scat on the trail to pawprints in the muck, and stumps torn apart by hungry Ursine claws and teeth searching for grubs. ‘Course, I made an awful lot more noise than I normally would as we walked through the trails.
The wife tends to be a bit shy of walking around orange netting barriers, while Ranger is a bit bolder. I land somewhere in between the two. Anyway, ranger says “Well, we can get around the fence from over here”, and promptly walked around the makeshift gate. I quickly joined him as, really, who would be working on a swamp boardwalk that late in the season ? As we trespassed along the boardwalk, it sounded like about five guys were working on it, that late in the season. We beat a hasty retreat back, despite Ranger’s firm belief that they’d love to meet, and chat with us. He may’ve been right, but I didn’t feel lucky that particular day.
So, just last week, the wife and I returned to see the promised swamp boardwalk before the bugs would spoil the experience. The orange netting barricade was still up as well as the sign explaining the boardwalk was being replaced. The wife, in a departure from the norm, followed me around the fencing, and proceeded on without hesitation. I seem to recall her saying something about not doing a 2 hour drive to miss seeing the boardwalk again. The boardwalk was complete, despite signage to the contrary, and was very nicely done, complete with a lookout platform. Of course, it had yet to be levelled, but it was still an excellent effort.
The Final Take
Pigeon River Headwaters Conservation Area is a lovely place (albeit a tad elusive to find) to visit if you’re in the area. After our third two hour round trip there and back we concluded there are other, better places, closer to Home we’d rather visit. But it’s well worth the effort if you’re in the area anyway.It’s best approached from Hwy 7A to Century Farm Rd. to Gray Rd. At what appears to be a “road to nowhere” to your left as Gray Rd. curves off to the right is actually the road in (though not marked). This link will open Google Maps at the parking lot : https://goo.gl/maps/aYfvcZBzbTHUqTP3A
It’s almost as though they tried to make it difficult to find. It’s a rough road in, but with ample parking, picnic and washroom facilities at the end of it. Have a good walk.