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The Carden Alvar Part 1 of 3 – Cameron Ranch and Sedge Wren Trails Review
The best time to visit the Carden Alvar for wildflowers is in June. So I’d like to thank my blogging buddy, Ranger, for allowing me to hog the entire month of May’s publication schedule, so I can present all three reviews before June.
I have one thing I want to make absolutely clear right now. I don’t care if you’re a beauty pageant contestant, and driving Wylie Rd. North of The Sedge Wren Marsh Trail will bring World Peace … DON’T DO IT ! Under no circumstances, for any reason on this Earth or any other, DO NOT drive Wylie Road North of The Sedge Wren Marsh Trail ! There ! I feel much better now. I’ll explain that rant later.
OK, I studied the Carden Alvar for quite some time, in search of trails. There was alot of confusion for me because it seems no one loves the alvar more than birders … and birders don’t care about trails, unless there are birds on them. Birds can fly, so they don’t care about trails either. But I could see trails from satellite views, so we swung by the alvar on our return from exploring the Muskoka region one afternoon. We found enough trails to spend three days with our “feet on the ground, lookin’ around”. These are the first two, of seven trails we found across the Alvar.
The link to part 2 of 3 is here : The Carden Alvar Prairie Smoke, Little Bluestem and Grassland Loop Trails and Part 3 can be found here The North Bear Alvar and Kris Starr Sanctuary
OK, this is where I’ll explain my initial rant. I read (on a birder’s site) that the recommended route to see the alvar was by taking Wylie rd (North from the Sedge Wren Trail) to Alvar rd, to Dalrymple Lake rd, back to Cty rd #6 to Wylie rd. NOT a good idea. Wylie rd. takes on the characteristics of the lunar surface past The Sedge Wren Marsh Trail. Not in a good way either. Don’t waste your time, nor potential damage to your vehicle, by trying to make this circuit. Unless you’re a birder, you won’t see anything more by driving North from The Sedge Wren Marsh trail, than you will getting to the :
Sedge Wren Marsh Trail (1.5 km Loop)
This trail is pretty short anyway, so it won’t take you long to walk it. You can get to the parking area by turning off Cty rd # 6 (Kirkfield rd) from Kirkfield at McNamee rd, then an immediate left onto Wylie rd. About 2.6 kms on you’ll find rather ample parking. There’s a motor-vehicle barrier that only pedestrians can get through. Very slim pedestrians as the Wife and I joked about while trying to get through with our backpacks on. This link will open Google Maps at the parking area :
You’ll walk alongside a wire fence for awhile, but then there’s a small boardwalk with a lovely view of a small marsh. After this, you should be careful as the fence changes to barbed wire. But there’s not much of that before you come across a “V” boardwalk. We took it to the right, and walked through a dark cedar woods with the marsh slightly visible through the trees. We came across a sign indicating a beaver dam which we never did find, but had another nice view of the marsh. The rest of the loop was a blend of forest and open meadow.
I’m sorry, but try as I did, I couldn’t find an official trail map for this. So, I drew one from satellite views, my pictures, and memory.
From The Sedge Wren, head back South to Cty rd # 6. Turn right and about 6 kms on, to your right, you’ll see :
The Cameron Ranch Trail (2.5 kms one-way)
On our second day exploring the alvar, we hit the Cameron Ranch Trail. This one has ample off road parking. Take Cty Rd # 6 (Kirkfield rd) from Kirkfield for 11 kms and the parking lot will be on your right. This link will open Google Maps at the parking lot : https://goo.gl/maps/APLvRHX3Xqo7yxQU6
This trail starts with near 30 feet of boardwalk. That’s the first of four on this one. Pretty much the entire trail walks alongside a fence (NOT barbed wire), and we didn’t care because it doesn’t detract from the view one little bit. It’s a wide open “big sky” trail with less than 0.25 km of canopy in it’s 5 kms of length. Bring water and a hat eh ?
You’ll walk over a boardwalk of about 120 meters, then after some more grasslands you’ll plunge into a lowland with the first shade you’ll get on this trail (all five minutes of it … at best). This boardwalk was the only time I heard a mosquito on this entire trail.
Not long after you step back into the sunshine, you’ll hit an interpretive sign about “Native Plant Species” and a sharp 90° turn to the right. This is where you’ll enjoy the 2nd piece of shade on this trail. It’ll last about five minutes as well. Did I mention to bring water and a hat ? The grassland you’re on might be wet enough to make you choose your footing a bit more carefully, but nothing serious.
The last interpretive sign “The Healthy Balance Alternative Water Sources and Buffers” is where the trail starts to fade out. It goes on a little ways further, but completely disappears as you approach the trees.
The Final Take
Despite being only 20 minutes apart, these two trails couldn’t be more different. The Sedge Wren being a short loop alongside a marsh and returning through light canopied forest, while the Cameron Ranch Trail is five kilometers of wide open big sky, typical of the classic expectation of an alvar. Beyond adequate parking at both trailheads, there are no facilities of any kind at either of these trails (despite the “Provincial Park” designation you’ll see on my satellite view trail map above). I didn’t notice any dog walking restrictions, but I wouldn’t recommend it as there are ground nesting birds here and you might make yourself very unpopular, very quickly, with other users. There are no charges for parking, nor use of the trails. The trailbeds are either boardwalks or compacted soil, and mostly single-file in width. As for the matter of ambient sound … the breeze around your hat’s rim, birdsong, and your own footsteps are all you’ll hear.
If you’d like to add a bit more of a stroll to your visit, you could always check out the Juniper Trail. It’s about 4.5 kms North of Kirkfield on Cty Rd # 6 /Kirkfield Rd. You passed it on your way to these two trails. It’s called Juniper Trail, but it’s really just a dirt road that cuts off the corner to Cameron Ranch (but don’t try driving it). It has an interesting field stone wall along most of the Southern stretch but was flooded out about halfway, and we didn’t have time to go around and finish it from the other end.
Have a nice walk,