Vanderwater Conservation Area (Thomasburg) Trail Review

***Please click on this link Map Locations of ALL Trails on this Site to view a map with the location of every trail “2oldguyswalking” has written a review on.***


UPDATE – July 19 2019 – Just heard that the gates from the parking lot here are kept closed now. I’m not entirely sure if that’s correct, so I’ll have to go and take a look myself. Since the trail system here basically … isn’t… It might be awhile before I can justify the trip. In the interim, be aware that it’s a 1.5 km walk to the riverbed access if the gates are closed to cars. 

UPDATE – October 21, 2018 – Quinte Conservation Areas are now “pay to park”. It’s only a lousy $5.00, but the methods of payment are rather silly. See this link :

Then just go park on the roadside nearby

UPDATE – June 10 2018 – Just returned from here. The original review below was written during the Summer of drought. This year, the river (though still shallow) covers the riverbed uniformly. There are no trails designed yet, and likely never will be. However, there’s a posting at the trailhead, warning that if dog owners don’t start controlling and cleaning up after their pets, they’ll prohibit dog walking on all Quinte Conservation Areas.


Vanderwater CA is just East of Hwy #37 (from Belleville) at Thomasburg on Vanderwater Rd. This link will open Google Maps at the parking lot:


We first saw Vanderwater CA just in passing, last year while exploring HR Frink OEC. We were hot, tired, and hungry so we took a quick drive North to Vanderwater, and had a lovely picnic lunch at what used to be a campsite right on the banks of the Moira river. Vanderwater is a former family campground become conservation area under the Quinte Conservation Authority. There are alot of really good things about it.

Unfortunately, its trail system isn’t one of them. Quinte Conservation’s website says the trail system is slated for re-routing and re-marking. That’s a good thing as, from what few trails we could find and follow, the terrain might be interesting. Currently I would describe the trails as unremarkable and difficult to find, much less follow.


So Bushwhacker (one might ask), if the trails are nothing to write Home (or to your website) about, what’s the point of this review? Well, I’ll tell ya. I mentioned there are alot of really good things about it, and there are. The former campsites along the Moira river make excellent picnic spots. Shady and cool with access to the river, and they all still have nice sturdy picnic tables too.


Never mind the trail system, the paved road that brought campers to their campsites (now our picnic sites), is in rather good condition and would make a nice cycle path. We walked it ourselves and found a fair diversity of wildlife from hawks to herons, and bottle gentians to hickory nut trees. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes for this little cedar growing out of a crack in this rock (and yes, I do remember these things for years and years, and I do check back on them).


The real star of this show is the riverbed of the Moira, at about two kms on the paved road in. At this point, the Moira’s riverbed becomes huge chunks of shattered, cracked limestone. Its an eerie feeling to walk out into the middle of the river, look up and down stream, and see a forty foot wide river in both directions while you stand on dry rock, right between them. Then you look down and see the water rushing through the cracks and fissures under your feet. In the dead of Summer, you can wade, ankle deep across this expanse and enjoy the cooling effect.


Looking at a satellite view of Vanderwater vs a trail map, it appears we missed half of the property. In fact, at the two km mark, there was a closed gate which we respectfully wouldn’t go around. However, the road can be clearly seen carrying on to the far South end of the conservation area from the satellite view. I have no idea what the gate was all about but it was closed and that’s all there is to it.

The Final Take

The trails here are scheduled to be upgraded … yeah … OK , whatever … whenever.  But at least the riverbed is lots of fun.  The picnic lunch opportunities are excellent both on the riverbed, and at the former campsites. The road is walk-able and cycle-able (about four kms round trip – at least to the mysterious gate mentioned above).

Vanderwater is a worthwhile place to visit if you’re “in the neighbourhood”. The shallow/dry riverbed being the high point, followed by the lovely picnic opportunities. We’ll visit from time to time over the next few years and let you know if the trails are ever really upgraded. I didn’t even bother to include a map of the trails as we had one with us, and still couldn’t figure it out.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: