BELFOUNTAIN CONSERVATION AREA
The Gameboys beeped and shrieked for the entire car ride, but as soon as we arrived at Belfountain Conservation Area, owned and operated by Credit Valley Conservation Authority, the kids discarded the electronic gadgets without a backward glance.
There has been much written lately about our children’s lack of connection to nature and society’s nature deficit disorder in general, but for the three hours we were at Belfountain Conservation Area my kids were captivated by everything mother nature had to offer.
Located near the historic village of Belfountain and on the Niagara Escarpment, Belfountain Conservation Area has a unique history. In the beginning, the site was privately owned by Charles Mack, the inventor of the cushion-backed rubber stamp. Starting in 1908, Mr. Mack and his wife built stone walls along the river, created a waterfall and dam, built paths, installed a fountain topped by a bell and created a stone cave — all of which are still on-site today.
The kids, however, weren’t much interested in history of Belfountain. They were more interested in the suspension bridge, the hiking trails and playing in the shallow waters of the credit river.
“Everyone loves nature,” my son said after I lamented out loud that there weren’t enough opportunities for children to be children, to explore a forest — hop over rocks and roots, stop to examine a flower, a snail, the bark of a Birch tree.
We were hiking along the side of the river at this point, not far from the scenic Forks of the Credit.
“I think you’re right,” I said. “But unfortunately some people don’t know that yet.”
We continued along the trail, enticed by the scenery around us. Like many other destinations on the Niagara Escarpment, Belfountain boasts steep limestone cliffs, areas of tumbled down rocks and dark cedar forest that produces an abundance of moss and ferns.
Because it was mid-week, we almost had the entire conservation area to ourselves. There was a family fishing, but that was all. They were taking advantage of the cold, spring-fed waters that provide an ideal habitat for brook trout, brown trout and other fish. We didn’t have fishing rods, but we did have excellent sandals for wading in the shallow parts of the river.
“Who wants to wade in the river?” I asked as I headed down the gentle slope and stepped into the refreshing water.
“I do!” the kids said together and followed me upstream, carefully stepping through the rocks with the water rushing past their ankles.
Playing in streams always reminds me of my childhood. I was lucky enough to grow up in a rural setting, out in the countryside with a stream running the length of our property. I spent hours wading in the shallow water, hunting minnows and frogs and splashing away the summer heat. Watching my children at Belfountain didn’t just make me wish I was a kid again, it made me want to be a kid with them – so we could enjoy the magic from the same perspective. And maybe, for a few heartbeats when we walked around the bend of the hiking trail and saw the water churning over the pebbly bottom, knowing we’d found the perfect place to play, we were in it together.
The Credit Valley Conservation Authority manages over 2400 hectares of land in the Credit Watershed and operates 10 Conservation Areas which represent a cross-section of natural and cultural landscapes. Rare flora and fauna, habitats, ecosystems, and cultural heritage features are all protected within these areas. For more information on Belfountain Conservation Areas or one of their other parks, go to www.creditvalleycons.com and look for Rec & Leisure.
Christina Kilbourne is an avid outdoor enthusiast and writer. She is the author of four novels, including Dear Jo, winner of the 2009 Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award , the 2010 Saskatchewan Snow Willow Award in 2010 and the 2010 British Columbia Red Cedar Award. She lives in Bracebridge with her family and various four-legged creatures.