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Nawautin Nature Sanctuary / Hartop CA and Wicklow Beach (Haldimand) Review
UPDATE – May 28, 2018 – Just returned from a walk at the Nawautin “Nature Sanctuary” in the hopes of seeing the beavers. There was no trace of beavers, and all the ponds are about two feet low and very scummy. Excuse me while take a moment to vent. Damnitall ! For years this place was a gorgeous little jewel on the shore of Lake Ontario. A living, breathing, isolated ecosystem it was. Small ? Yes. But Beautiful ? Yes ! Well worth the drive, despite it’s tiny footprint. Then, some A-hole had to kill the beavers whose damming tendencies kept it regular and flowing. It looked like crap until new beavers arrived, and now all trace of them is gone (again), and the place looks like hell (again).
OK, so the reason I’m doing these three together is because they’re so geographically close together, and they’re all quite small. There’s also the fact that one of them (the best marked one on a map) virtually doesn’t exist. Of the other two, one is a lovely picnic spot, and the other is stunningly beautiful. That’s a helluva start to a trail review eh ? Well, I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true.
Don’t even bother looking for Hartop CA as it isn’t even marked with a name sign. Hartop CA is a boat launching pad and nothing else. The big swath of parkland Google Maps shows, doesn’t exist. See the tiny, little blue inlet right in the middle of the green Hartop CA on the map below ? That’s Hartop. The rest of the green swath is private property with estates on it.
So, what about the other two ? Well, I get to them by heading East on Hwy #2 from Cobourg and turn south (right) on Archer’s Rd. Then left on Lakeshore Rd. Continue East on Lakeshore Rd (past Hartop) and turn right on either Keewatin Dr (just drive to end of the road – this link will open Google Maps at the location : https://goo.gl/maps/nkyPTJt8abu5K1caA ), or pass Keewatin Dr and turn right on Nawautin Dr, then right on Shawano Dr and drive to the end. Either one will get you to a parking area for Nawautin Nature Area.
Unlike Hartop, Nawautin, doesn’t even show up on Google Maps. That’s why it looks strange on my map. I had to draw it in with a very limited graphics program (not that having a good graphics program woulda made any difference with my skills). When the wife and I first saw Nawautin, we were blown away. How could such a paradisiacal place be so close to us without our knowing it ? I took Ranger to see it the very next week we got together. Yes, it’s a little buggy in the season in the bush, but that’s to be expected with all the water around. The trails are loops and cover grassland, cedar woods and some mixed forest. Then they meander alongside the ponds and stream, past well placed resting benches, and across a covered bridge with a terrific view of the area and the Lake. Lots of turtles, fish, birds, and rarely seen wetland species of plants are present.
A year after our first visit we went back and something serious had happened. A family of beavers had been trapped and their absence caused an alarming change in the wetland. I won’t get into the issue of beavers here, as it’s a hot topic. I actually found more references on the I’Net to the trapping of those beavers than I did the Reserve itself. There are numerous residences nearby, and I’m sure they had their concerns and reasons. Be that as it may … if you’d never seen it before the beaver removal, you’d still find it lovely.
This is a .GIF from our last visit – April 14th.
The Final Take
The trails are flat and easily walked, though short (I’m estimating about a km). The stretch through the cedar bush might be a bit spongy as those areas usually are. Of course the time to walk it, depends upon your style. The whole Reserve is just over five hectares so there’s not much real estate to build trails on. I don’t know who maintains the grounds, but I’ll tip my hat to whoever it is, as it’s always very well kept any time I’ve been there. There’s ample parking at the end of both Keewatin Dr and Nawautin Dr. You’ll want to look the map over as there aren’t any signs pointing to either parking site while approaching by road. Bring your camera, and a picnic lunch. There are a few benches you can sit on with a sandwich or something in hand, but there are no traditional picnic benches of any description. Be warned, there’s something about Nawautin that makes you return again and again, to take the same pictures, over and over. I guess that’s what picturesque means.
If you want a nice spot for a picnic you could go to Wicklow Beach Boat Launch and Public Park. Just go back out to Lakeshore Rd and turn right (East). Lakeshore will change names to Orchard Grove Rd along the way. Take a right (South) on Wicklow Beach Rd. It’s only about 10 minutes from Nawautin Nature Area and there are picnic tables at the huge boat launch/parking lot, or anywhere along the beach with alot of “pull off and park” space and access to the beach. The rock formations along sections of the beach near the picnic site almost look man-made in their perfectly geometric “cut stone” shapes. Geologically, they’re called orthogonal joint systems, and what created them is controversial.
The only down side is that there’s no takeout places nearby for picnic fare, so you’ll have to bring your own.