Nature Sanctuaries at RBG

The nature sanctuaries cover 900 hectares of land at the head of Lake Ontario forming a Nodal Park in the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve.

The property occurs in three main areas, the Niagara Escarpment, Cootes Paradise, and Hendrie Valley.

Royal Botanical Gardens’ 1,100 hectares is dominated by nature sanctuaries enveloping the western end of Lake Ontario. These form a Nodal Park within the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO) and the heart of the Cootes to Escarpment Ecopark System. With more than 750 native plant species, 277 types of migratory birds, 37 mammal species, 14 reptile species, 9 amphibian species and 68 species of Lake Ontario fish, the area is an important contributor to ecosystems that span international borders.

Cootes ParadiseHendrie ValleyEscarpmentConservation
Map of Cootes Paradise

Cootes Paradise Sanctuary

Established in 1927 for its significance as a migratory bird stopover, Cootes Paradise is RBG’s largest and most diverse sanctuary at over 600 hectares. The area features a 320-hectare river-mouth marsh, 16 creeks and 25 kilometres of shoreline.

Major Access Points:

  • Princess Point
  • Arboretum
  • Burlington Heights
Download Map (pdf)

Map of Hendrie Valley

Hendrie Valley Sanctuary

This 100-hectare sanctuary is centred on the Grindstone Creek Valley. The area features forested slopes with towering trees, a 60-hectare river-mouth marsh complex and four creeks. Transferred to RBG in 1941 for ecological protection, it stretches to Carroll’s Point in Hamilton Harbour, and contains an extensive collection of floodplain wetlands.

Major Access Points:

  • RBG Centre
  • Cherry Hill Gate
  • Valley Inn and Laking Garden
Download Map (pdf)

Map of the Escarpment Property

Escarpment Sanctuaries

Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve is represented here by several properties forming a 110-hectare, three-kilometre ribbon along the Escarpment edge. RBG trails, and especially the Bruce Trail, link our local lands — collectively all these properties are a key part of the new Cootes to Escarpment Ecopark System.

Major Access Points:

  • Rock Chapel
  • Valley Road, Berry Tract
  • Sydenham Road
Download Map (pdf)

Trail Systems

The sanctuaries feature more than 27 kilometres of scenic walking trails. The four main trailheads include Princess Point, the Arboretum, Cherry Hill Gate, and Rock Chapel, as well as two canoe launch sites (Princess Point & Valley Inn). The 31 trails include multiple lookouts, boardwalks, and 21 stream crossings, as well as links to other regional trails, providing access to birds and butterflies, canoeing, the Fishway, heritage trees and a diversity of wildflowers.

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It is our mandate and challenge to protect these lands as an ecological legacy for future generations by balancing the needs of wildlife with more than 100,000 visitors who walk our trails each year. To ensure preservation of species, 20% of the property is without trails, protected within core areas called Special Protection Areas, one of a number of conservation initiatives. Each Special Protection Area has associated lookouts allowing the visitor to appreciate the vistas and diversity of life found within.

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Experience the Nature Sanctuaries

There are lots of ways to get in touch with nature in a manner that is respectful to the species who call them home! Join us for a hike, a paddle, or see what's turning up in the fishway!

blue bird on a branch


Royal Botanical Gardens provides easy access to some of the most diverse birding in Ontario.

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RBG ecologist holding out net with fish to visitors


See the marsh and its inhabitants from a new perspective as your guide leads you from one shore of Cootes Paradise to another.

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RBG ecologist holding out net with fish to visitors


Located at the mouth of the Desjardins Canal, RBG's Fishway is protecting native species and their wetland habitats.

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