Hiking Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area
When I imagined Tiny Marsh I thought it might be a smaller version of my beloved Wye Marsh. Boy was I wrong. This so-called tiny marsh is massive. I remember my first visit, just over a month ago. I couldn’t stop shaking myself and muttering ‘tiny?’ Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area is located just outside the small town of Elmvale, Ontario. Set over 600 hectares of protected marshland, Tiny Marsh is home to over 15 kilometres of trails. These trails lead you over boardwalks, dykes and through forest.
Tiny Marsh is Ontario’s first provincially owned and managed wetland. It’s also one of around 1200 significant bird areas that are recognized in Canada. Some 250 species of bird have been found here, including rare species like the least bittern and the black tern. There are two observation towers, a viewing mound, as well as a nature centre that also offers a fantastic view, from above, over the marsh.
Hiking Tiny Marsh
On an overcast day, that threatened rain, back in July a friend and I finally headed to Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area. I remember arriving to the nature centre and looking out over the extensive marsh and thinking, ‘tiny marsh?’ Hardly! From the main parking lot we took the trail leading into the marsh, known as the Trillium Dyke. This area is a haven for turtle nesting. All along the trail, on both sides, were countless egg shell remains from recent hatchlings. The trail leads out a distance, and in the middle of summer was crowded at sections with wildflowers and foliage pushing past the fences out into the trail.
After reaching the Trillium Dyke’s end we headed back to the nature centre. Here we ascended the staircase, with the strong scent of old cottage meets wildlife, to the top floor lookout. The lookout offers a fabulous view over much of the marsh and is a great vantage point to watch birds swooping and diving over the wetlands. The open top floor lookout is also home to a variety of bird nests. Which I must admit warmed my heart knowing nature and wildlife is welcome everywhere here.
Next we headed into the forest, along a small river, and listened as birds sang to us from the trees. The trail lead over a boardwalk that took us through a forested marshland where a baby grackle cried out for more food. Further along the river widened. It seemed everywhere we looked there was another species of bird. A catbird there, a bumbling grouse over there and woodpeckers creating the drum beat to our soundtrack. Then I caught sight of one of my favourite birds, the belted kingfisher. These striking birds always captivate me. Maybe it’s their regal name or the commanding call, but I’ve been trying to photograph one for years now. I was determined today was my day. There was a pair of them, making their way along the river. We stealthily followed them. They lead us to an observation tower at the edge of the forest, overlooking the marsh. There he was, perched on a stick coming out of the water, and I took my shot. Aha! Finally I’d captured this beautiful, majestic bird on camera. I must admit I had a hard time tearing myself away from them. But it was a great way to end our hike.
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On our second hike through Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area we opted to take the large dyke out into the marsh. I had no idea just how long it was! The marsh stretched out on either side of us and the beaming afternoon sun beat down on us. We made our way out, keeping a keen eye out for wildlife. We weren’t disappointed! Turtles popped their heads above the water’s surface, marsh wrens flew between the reeds and great blue herons stood proud. Along our path the trail was littered with various species of frog species. At times it was like treading through a sea of frogs hopping out of our way. Watch where you step!
As we arrived to the mid-way point, looking back you couldn’t even see the trail head anymore, but before us was a sight to see. There perched atop a tall platform was a pair of osprey sitting on their massive nest. We crept, slowly, closer. They started calling out. Then one took off flying overhead. With their brilliant white underbelly they are amazing to witness in flight. We stopped short. Not wanting to disturb them we stood for a while watching them for a while.
Again, it was a successful day of the trails, exploring the wilds of Ontario and all while being surrounded by so much wildlife. The Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area is a remarkable place. And each time I’ve visited I’m floored by the total lack of other hikers. But to be honest, I’m okay to share this outstanding wild haven with only its wildlife.
Parking: Various lots along Tiny Flos Townline (all free)
Facilities: Washroom, canoe launch, and nature centre
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