Cootes Paradise

With fresh, perfect snowball-making-snow on the ground, we decided to try a hike that is very winter-friendly:  Cootes Paradise.  The area, owned and operated by the Royal Botanical Gardens, is also a Fish and Wildlife Habitat Restoration Project—in fact, the largest restoration project of its kind in North America . From human overuse and the introduction of carp, this once lush marsh went into ecological decline.  Thanks to the efforts of many volunteers and the RBG, the area is in a state of regeneration.

Located adjacent to the 403, you’d think that it would be clear-cut and urbanized but it is thankfully a natural paradise that is a real treat to find so close to two major centres. Cootes Paradise lies at the west-end of Hamilton where this city meets Burlington and has become home to many species of wildlife; including white-tailed deer, Canadian geese, red fox, raccoons, opossum and beavers.  Some rare species of trees can also be found in the area, such as the sassafras tree.

 

You can access Cootes Paradise from many different points:  the dead-end of Macklin Drive or Longwood Rd North in Hamilton or from along the Hamilton Harbour Waterfront Trail. Depending on where you’re traveling from or what activities you’ve planned for the day, other routes may be more convenient.  Here’s a map of the area to help you out.  Dundurn Castle , Canada Marine Discovery Centre and the Royal Botanical Gardens   are in the immediate area if you’re in the mood for a day of exploration!

Upon our arrival at Princess Point (at the base of Macklin Dr.), we were greeted by a full fleet of Canada Geese and what seemed to be a Snow Goose! Looking for a snack, they were very willing to get up close and personal. Though, we did not feed them and recommend that you don’t either. Human interactions have altered the geese’s migration habits and by feeding them, we’ve encouraged them to stay in Canada over the winter months when they should be far, far away.

There is a lot of wetland in Cootes that freezes over in the winter. Though we could see some brave souls out on the iced-over marsh creating some sort of winter symbol or skating rink (we really couldn’t tell what they were doing), we wouldn’t recommend you venture out unless you’re with someone who knows what they are talking about when it comes to human-safe ice depths! It is really quite beautiful to look out over the waterway from one of the many lookout points.

The hiking trails are especially fun in the winter since they are a bit rugged and slim, asking hikers to navigate many ups and downs, despite some slippery conditions.
Luckily, we had that good-grip sticky snow to work with and were quite happy bounding along the trails! If hiking isn’t your thing, there is a toboggan hill ready for action— a nice slow grade that is very kid-friendly. A father and son duo were partaking of the ideal winter conditions and were having a blast! We also saw many a canine friend along the trails too—dog owners, feel free to bring your pooch along for some winter fun.

We plan to make a return trip to Cootes in late springtime to see what changes the new season brings to the area. We’re hoping to see the bird population that we’ve heard so much about looks like in action!