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Purdon Conservation Area (McDonald’s Corners) Trail Review
OK, so this isn’t just a trail review as much as it’s a rare fen wetland, and woodland, trail review. Purdon CA is quite small and even more remote, as you can see from the map. However, for about three weeks beginning in mid – June the 415 meter boardwalk loop will reward you for the drive, with an equally rare sight. In the 1930s Joe Purdon discovered a small cluster of endangered native Showy Lady’s Slipper orchids in the fen. He grew the colony to 16,000 blooms.
There are about 1.5 kms of wooded trails and a coupla lookouts included. I’ll mention here as well, if you take Hwy #7 to get here, the drive is damn-near as beautiful as the fen. This is a lovely stretch of highway to cruise. We found both the fen boardwalk and the wooded trails to be very light on mosquitoes as well.
The unpaved section of Concession 8 was severely washboarded so take your time. You have two free parking options. The trail from the first, will lead you down the ridge where the trail splits. To the left is a lovely little lookout over Purdon’s Lake complete with picnic tables and an outhouse. To the right will take you down the ridge to the orchids boardwalk. The description “difficult section” on the map just means it’s steep. Hence, the stairs.
The second free parking lot trail (also complete with picnic tables and port-a-potties), is a much more gradual decline to the level and easy walking boardwalk. While the stars of this CA are the Lady’s Slipper orchids, there are also twinflowers, pitcher plants and numerous other rarely seen fen plants. Interpretation boards are plentiful, and informative.
The Ted Mosquin Highland Trail branches off the boardwalk trail about halfway around. It provides a dark canopied walk between the fen pond and the base of a ridge. Huge boulders that have fallen off the ridge line the path. There’s a short boardwalk out into “Purdon’s Lake” where you’ll often see pitcher plants. Just before the trail starts to get hilly, you’ll come across a lovely little picnic site at the far West end of the lake. The hills aren’t anything to fuss about as the trail meanders through lightly forested land and some open meadows to loop back to the trail returning you to the orchid boardwalk.
Right where the Ted Mosquin Highland Trail starts, you’ll see a set of stairs. These just lead up to the pretty little lookout over Purdon’s Lake and the 1st parking lot mentioned above.
On the official Purdon CA website, they claim that the orchids are human-hand pollinated as … “These orchids don’t attract insects like other flowers”. However, while taking the macro shots below, I noticed something inside the “slipper” parts of a few of these orchids.
They appeared to be a type of “Skipper” butterfly. We saw thousands of them fluttering around the dirt road to the parking lots, and here they were right inside the orchid’s “slippers”! I have no explanation as to what they were doing in there, nor why they’d have forced their way in.
The Final Take
Yes, Purdon is a fair distance from populated centers (five hours round trip for us), and yes, the trails are short (we spent only two hours there). However, you’ll not see such a proliferation of rare species right at your feet, anywhere else. Both ample sized parking lots (ours had a dozen cars and a tour bus) are free of charge, as are the trails. Purdon recently suffered Provincial Govt cutbacks (No ! Really ?) and lost major funding so please be generous as you pass the donations box.
There are washroom facilities at the 2nd parking lot and the 1st parking lot lookout. Picnic facilities are also available at the same locations, and a 3rd location on the (single file wide) Ted Mosquin Highland Trail. The Orchids Boardwalk is wheelchair accessible from the 2nd parking lot.
There’s a handy-dandy website that will give you a “% of orchids in bloom, notification” as well as directions from any major centre from any direction here :http://mvc.on.ca/places-to-see/purdon/
Start checking it around early June.
Have a nice walk,