Royal Botanical Gardens’ 1,100 hectares is dominated by 900 hectares of nature sanctuaries enveloping the western end of Lake Ontario. The properties and activities are regulated by the Royal Botanical Gardens Act and supporting bylaws.
These lands 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.
The property occurs in three main areas, the Niagara Escarpment, Cootes Paradise, and Hendrie Valley.
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.
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.
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.
On the Trails
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.
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 +400,000 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.
Support Conservation at RBG
These conservation projects are possible thanks to the generous support of RBG Members and donors. With a donation to Growing up Green, you can ensure an active, vibrant and healthy future for the children of today and tomorrow through our horticultural and conservation projects.
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!
The nature sanctuaries of RBG are home to 27km of trails. Find your route to stay active, and set aside some time to appreciate nature.
Royal Botanical Gardens provides easy access to some of the most diverse birding in Ontario.
See the marsh and its inhabitants from a new perspective as your guide leads you from one shore of Cootes Paradise to another.
Princess Point provides access to a natural skating area across Cootes Paradise.