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Garden Hill Conservation Area Trail (Port Hope) Review
UPDATE – January 11 2021 – Just returned from a walk here, and I must admit to being quite pleasantly surprised at how nice this place is in the Winter. The Wife suggested I re-name it a “Winter Walkable”. The gates are closed of course, so the over-sized parking lot isn’t accessible, but there’s lotsa parking outside the gates. The trails are quite level and easy walking. Someone shoveled snow off the ice of a small inlet to make a coupla skating rinks too. Nice.
I was going to title this review “The Late, Great, Garden Hill Pond” as this CA is now a shadow of what it once was. When the Wife and I were just newlyweds, we visited this popular swimming hole and picnic area often. Seems half the population of Northumberland County would descend upon it every Summer weekend. The Wife has fond memories of it from her childhood, long before we met. This 53 acre CA was the first property owned and operated by the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority, and is almost as much pond, as it is land.
I saw it in the last few years before its collapse as a public mega-meeting place. I’m not entirely sure what caused its demise as such. There were rumours of contaminated water due to waterfowl droppings, or fertilizer runoff from local farms. Reductions in Govt. funding was another suggestion. I don’t think the new changeroom building was ever opened before the end came.
Today, the large parking lot is usually deserted as are the picnic tables over looking the (still, as it always was) lovely pond. On occasion, Ranger and I would take advantage of the solitude for a quiet picnic lunch, and a look about the shoreline. As well, the Wife and I sometimes take a wander around, reminiscing about what it was like back then.
Go North from the Hwy 2 exit near Port Hope at Welcome. Drive 12 kms to Ganaraska Rd. (Cty Rd. #9). Turn left on Ganaraska Rd. and the entrance will be 1 km further along, on the right. Or click the link below for the parking lot here :
On these walkabouts, we’d marvel at the numbers of huge snails in the shallow waters off the old beach. There are tadpoles in there as well, along with dozens of inch long jet – black catfish darting between weed patches. I snapped photos of a log covered with turtles in the little bay where kids used to swing out on a rope to splash into the water, many years ago.
There used to be 3 connected parking lots here (rapidly being reclaimed by Nature), that have become a sort of loop trail of about 0.6 kms.
There’s also a 0.4 km (return) trail that goes out to the end of a small peninsula. Someone has built a sturdy bridge over a deep ravine, allowing access to the tip of the point.
The trails aren’t marked, but are easily followed as the paved former roadway still provides a solid base for the loop, and the peninsula trail is well worn. There is an offshoot trail from the loop that heads around the North end of the pond. However, it runs into impassable marsh before going very far. I should mention the constant honking and quacking of the waterfowl on the pond. The traffic on nearby roads is rather minimal. Though if it wasn’t, the din of the wildlife would surely drown it out. Every time I’ve been there, in any season, that pond is chock full of fowl, all squawking together. That’s the kind of background racket I can happily live with on a trail.
If you’re looking for more trails, you can go 220 meters to the East of the parking lot entrance on Cty Rd. #9 to Mill St. which is on the other side of the pond.
Go North on Mill St. for 1.5 kms to the road’s end. Walking about 400 meters from there will bring you to a crosstrail. Following to the right will take you to Pine Grove Lane one km away. To the left will bring you to another crosstrail. Taking it to the left will give you a 1.8 km walk to Oak Hill Rd. Taking it to the right, will put you at the Southern end of the “10 on 10” trail which I’ve done a review of here The 10 on 10 Trail Review. It will take you up to Concession 10.
The Final Take
As you walk this CA, it’s obvious that it was once a popular weekend destination. Then again, it’s also obvious that it hasn’t been, for decades. There are numerous small ponds scattered about the wooded areas and the pine needle forest floor makes wandering about quite easy.
The picnic opportunities really are wonderful. The views of the pond are gorgeous at any time of year, and the numbers of waterfowl, amphibians, and reptiles are impressive. The pond is visible from many locations on either of the trails, and from the parking lot. The small beach with its shallow waters always provides a view of small fishes, frogs and huge snails.
The trails are easy to walk with no hills and are mostly wide enough for two to walk side by side. Other than more than ample parking and picnic tables, there are no facilities. This is a good dog walking spot.
The trails are very short, but this CA is all about the pond. Always was … still is … and always will be.
Have a nice walk,