The Mathison Conservation Area Trails (Havelock) Review

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The Mathison Conservation Area Trails (Havelock) Review

Mathison Trails Location Map-min

Cleverly hidden behind the Havelock Community Centre, are a surprisingly appealing set of trails. Access to the trailhead parking lot can be a challenge though. On our 1st visit, we had no problem driving right into it from King St. E. However, that way was gated off on our 2nd visit, so we drove around to Mathison St. E. and parked in the Community Centre parking. The link below will point out the trailhead parking. You can determine how you wanna get to it :

We first visited these trails in early April on our return Home from another exploratory walk excursion. It looked promising enough for further exploration. In mid May, we returned for a closer, longer look. Finally in early June, we returned to do our review. While there are 10 listed/named trails here, none are over a kilometer in linear length.

Mathison Trail Map-min

Since the majority of trails are short and clustered near the West end of the Conservation Area, I’ll review them as a group, and cover the trails North and East of the trailhead parking lot separately. I will point out that, though all the trails are named, coloured, and symbolized on the trail map above, on the trail itself, they’re not all that well marked. But they’re very clear on the ground, and the whole trail system isn’t terribly complex anyway.

There are numerous trailheads from the parking lot. This review will start from the one directly to the North. There are a coupla signs at the entrance. One states “No Hunting on the Mathison Property” (Yaaaaay!), and the other warns of Blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease. This is actually the start of The Mathison Trail. You’ll climb a mild hill to a crosstrail (the Newton’s Way Trail). We took the Newton’s Way to the left to explore the cluster of six trails off to the West. Judging by the names, lengths, and terrain, I assume some of these were named after cyclists, or dirt bikers.

The Settler’s Path, The Wetland Ridge, The Andrew’s, John’s, and William’s Passes, and Marsh Outlook Trails (about 2 kms loop)

Anyway, after a pleasant stroll through the forest, you’ll come to a tiny dam and bridge over the stream below it. I would highly advise you take the shoreline trail immediately to the right after the dam (despite the wide, clear trail up the hill directly in front of you). This trail will take you along the edge of a beautiful pond. This was where we watched a pileated woodpecker feeding it’s young in a tree beside the dam in early June. We then encountered a mated pair of uncommon Trumpeter swans with their cygnets actually blocking the trail (native Trumpeters have black bills as opposed to the invasive species Mute swans with orange bills).

Mathison Trail, Dam, & Swans

This narrow trail will take you further West until you climb a hill for a spectacular view of a massive wetland.

Mathison Wetland & Trail

If you continue on this trail, you’ll make a loop around, and back to the dam … having enjoyed a view of the back of the Timber Mart store and a dozen or so residential backyards. Yeah, I’d suggest you just turn around and retrace your steps past the ponds and wetlands. Muuuch nicer a view, but you can decide for yourself once you’re there.

Mathison Trail I Don't Care For

Now, once you return to where the Mathison Trail comes up from the parking lot, turn left (North) on :

The Mathison Trail (2 Kms return … or … more)

This is a lovely walk through a canopied mixed forest. We sighted a few wildflowers in the Spring when we walked it, and of course, water. Lotsa that around here. These trails are rather lush and we took a side trail alongside a small pond before continuing to cross a “bridge” of sorts.

Mathison Pond Bridge & Trail

After awhile, we came to the Hydro tower corridor. By climbing the hill toward the tower on your left, you’ll find yourself on one of the “lookouts” in this CA. There aren’t any platforms nor anything fancy for the lookouts here, just heights of land, and that’s fine with me. If the “Fleming Overlook” sign (they call lookouts – overlooks) has fallen down again, fix it up will ya ? The Wife and I rammed and rocked it in pretty good when we found it on the ground on our May visit. It was still up in June, but it’s awful windy up there so anything could happen.

Mathison Lookout & Corridor

So, we crossed the corridor and plunged back into more canopied forest until we came across a blown – down tree. I assume it was blown down, but it was also very close to the end of the Mathison property so I don’t know. Anyway, the trail went on past it, and no signage said we couldn’t … soooo … over we went.

We crossed a fanciful boardwalk, as we passed under another Hydro corridor. Beyond, we plunged into the forest again and could see the trail continuing on into the trees. We knew we weren’t on the property anymore but, the ATV tracks of the A-holes who’d made such a mess of the Mathison (walking) Trail continued on so, why shouldn’t we ? The forest here became very clear of undergrowth, and was cheery and bright green and sunny. This was where some interesting stuff began happening. After having the crap startled outa me by a deer that looked like a Sasquatch charging through the bush, a fox walked onto the trail ahead of us. It just stood there studying the Wife, while I quietly cursed it for standing behind a tree from my (with the camera) perspective. I did get a lovely shot of a birch tree with a fox’s tail sticking out of it though.

Mathison Trail Beyond Mathison

Then I saw something else rather odd. A ribbon (or garter – I never could tell them apart) snake bolted onto the trail in front of me. It appeared to have a mouthful of squashed toad. It stopped and, obligingly enough, posed for a number of pictures of itself and it’s prize.

Mathison Snake

We finally encountered a “No Trespassing” sign along with an “HDATV prescribed trail” sign, and not long after that, the trail turned to total ATV carnage, and ceased to be pretty, so we turned back just as another deer startled the crap outa me.

Once we returned to where the Mathison Trail intersects :

The Newton’s Way Trail (about 600 meters return)

We turned left (East) and walked along a ridge above the first pond we’d encountered on the Mathison Trail. There are a few oddities with this CA. I noticed on the map that a number of trails just plain STOP when they exit the property (even though the trail continues on the ground). Not quite understanding this, we carried on as long as there was no private property signage or whatever (again). In this particular case, we eventually started to get too close to residential backyards for our comfort. However, before turning back after walking down to a Mary St access, we caught sight of another fox (totally oblivious to our presence) calmly walking off to the North on a trail. We tried to follow, but the ATV damage had caused flooding, making it impassible to walkers.

Mathison Newton's Way Trail

The Final Take

These trails are something Havelock should be very proud of. I know I ragged on ATVers alot in this review, but I hate to see such lovely trails rendered useless to anyone but brainless rednecks by … those same brainless rednecks. Hunting is not permitted on the Mathison property, and I’d love to see ATVs banned too. When we visited this place in April, the trails were fine. In May, some punk on a dirt bike went roaring past us. By June, we had to sidestep stretches of trail, trying not to slip on the muck splashed everywhere, between wheel ruts full of mud that was the trail one month earlier.

However, please don’t miss the opportunity to walk these trails because of my ranting. The main trails are walkable, and if the weather has been dry recently, you will have a nice stroll. The wildlife spotting ops are wonderful here. The trails are mostly wide enough for two to walk at the shoulder and are so obvious on the ground that markers aren’t necessary. There’s more than ample parking, and picnic tables at the Community Center, but there aren’t any other facilities (nor are there any charges for use).

Have a nice walk,



  1. Kevin McAvoy · · Reply

    Awesome review. Thanks. Havelock is about 30 minutes from me so I will have to check this one. I save all of your reviews. Thanks again.


    1. Kevin !
      The Wife and I were talking about you just last week-end, as it’s been awhile since we’ve heard from you. Glad to know you’re still out and about, and that we’re able to be of assistance to you.


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