Skip to content

On the Trails: March 2024

February 22, 2024

Spring is in the air, and the calls of chickadees, cardinals, and wrens can be heard throughout the nature sanctuaries, while the Bald Eagles have nested again.

As of the beginning of March, Cootes Paradise Marsh has both open water and areas of thin ice. Large flocks of many species of birds, particularly raptors and waterfowl, have also begun to arrive on their long journey north. The most common species for the property, the Red-winged Blackbirds, are also expected imminently.

The first spring wildflowers Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) are in bloom with this large plant found in spring feed lowlands. The best trails to spot it include the Grindstone Marsh in Hendrie Valley, the Anishinaabe Waadiziwin Trail on the north side of Cootes Paradise, and Westdale Ravine Trail on the south side.

The nature trails have experienced a dramatic rise in visitation in recent years and to mitigate the soft conditions of early spring many have been resurfaced. However interior woodland trails remain as sensitive soft ground habitats. The most sensitive are the Grey Doe Trail, Sassafras Point Trail, Thornapple Trail, and North Bridle Trail. As part of trailside woodland ecology restoration, a substantial restoration is visible below Hendrie Valleys Cherry Hill gate. Equally challenging has been the extensive wildlife feeding at Hendrie Valley which has led to forest decline, unbalanced wildlife populations and loss of plant and animal diversity. An updated Environmental Status Summary Report for the valley is expected to be available in April.

Also noteworthy is water levels of Lake Ontario water have increased to average resulting in a large area of marsh underwater, and a dramatic change from low water just a few months ago. Fish and wildlife spring nesting and spawning is anticipated to be very successful.

With the ongoing warmer weather forecast, the Fishway at Cootes Paradise is anticipated to begin operation in mid-March and will once again be open to the public to visit. The first fish species passing through will be Rainbow Trout, White Sucker and Yellow Perch on route to their spawning grounds in the inlets and streams of the marsh.

The nesting bald eagles have an excellent vantage point to spot the fish but is challenging for a visitor to spot. The nest is visible by spotting scope only looking south from the Marshwalk Boardwalk observation platform, and as per the past decade the nest is in the top of a large White Pine tree. An eagle in flight is the most likely thing to be observed, with many migrating eagles and a number of resident juvenile eagles also hunting the fish in the marsh area.

  • pair of bald eagles, one standing at the edge of the nest and the other is taking off in flight
  • Skunk Cabbage
  • Light layer of snow gently covering the forest floor
  • Red-winged black bird on a bare branch
  • Skunk Cabbage plants melting snow around them

Trail User Notes

Cootes Paradise:

  • Spring Arboretum hours will begin on Sunday, March 10 (open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.)

Hendrie Valley:

  • The Grindstone Marsh Boardwalk will have periodic user interruptions as deck sections are replaced. Notifications will be found at the trail entrances.
  • The small parking lot located at Unsworth Ave is permanently closed. Creekside Walk nature trail access remains open and parking is available at Cherry Hill (1101 Plains Rd W.) or Hidden Valley Park.

Escarpment Properties:

  • The Rock Chapel parking lot is closed for the season as of December 21, and will reopen Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

For Your Safety

  • Please note that all trail use is at your own risk. Most of our trails are hilly and the trail surfaces are natural soil. Consider your footwear as during winter surfaces can be icy or muddy depending on the weather.
  • Please stay on the marked trails to avoid trampling regenerating shrubs and trees or buried roots of understory plants such as trilliums.
  • The nature trail system is considered closed during extreme weather event notifications from Environment Canada.
  • Mountain bikes/fat bikes are not allowed as our trails are not designed to accommodate these activities.
  • Please be aware ticks, including those carrying Lyme Disease, are found throughout the Hamilton/Burlington area and are active at temperatures above 0°C. Protect yourself by staying on marked trails. RBG does not accept ticks for testing. For inquiries regarding ticks, please contact the Region of Halton or City of Hamilton Public Health.

Explore RBG’s Trails

RBG’s nature sanctuaries feature more than 27 km of nature trails! Find maps, guided hike schedule, and more.