Beyond Our Borders Gems 1: Wye Marsh
Many folks are very familiar with all that Wye Marsh has to offer in the spring, summer and autumn months but winter packs just as much of a punch, albeit a rather frosty one. Located in close proximity to Saint Marie Among the Hurons at 16160 Highway 12 East in Tay Township, the marsh is beyond being well worth the trip. With Midland nearby, a Tim Horton’s is just moments away to indulge in your favourite hot beverage and treat post chilly adventures.
Make the Visitor’s Centre your first stop. Helpful and friendly staff are always ready to share handy tips and to provide maps with additional suggestions as to which routes may be most suitable depending on whether or not you are hiking, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing. For instance, if you are cross country skiing or snowshoeing, they will often suggest staying off of main or highly frequented trails as the snow is quite hard packed from the larger amount of foot traffic. While at the Visitor’s Centre, it is highly recommended to make use of the facilities before venturing out. As always, layering clothing and bringing an extra pair of socks or mittens as well as some easily noched snacks is always wise.
Most trails can be initiated from the Visitor’s Centre via the Hardwood and Return Trail. The trail itself is only 0.4 km but is a great place to immerse oneself in a cathedral of trees and to feed the ever present chickadees. Sunflower seeds are available at the centre. For those never having had this experience, prepare to be enchanted by the sensation of tiny feet grasping onto your hand as they daintily select the perfect seed before flying off to allow friends and family to enjoy a nibble. Their signature call and varied chirps offer a serenade of pure joy and gratitude.
Slightly west of the Hardwood and Return trail is the Waterfront I.D. Trail. Skirting the water’s edge, this path is fabulous for those with an interest in overwintering waterfowl. The highlight of this trail is a stop at the Waterfowl Monitoring Station to embrace the elegance and cacophony that is the Trumpeter Swan. Mallards can also be spotted paddling amongst these downy and statuesque beauties whose feathery coats echo the surrounding wintery hues. The more woodsy John Lucas I.D. Trail, located a tad north and west of the Visitor’s Centre, offers opportunities to sight birds of prey, including snowy owls, if you are among the fortunate few. These trails are 0.9 km in length.
At 1.5 km in length, the Woodland Trail is located just south of the Hardwood Trail and briefly skirts the Service Rd. before heading deep into the woods. Prepare to be greeted by more chickadees, red squirrels and the odd bunny as you wind your way through the forest. This trail requires trekkers to walk, ski or snowshoe single file. From this trail, you can access the Graham MacDonald Snowshoe Trail which takes you even further into the woods and offers much peace and quiet for those wishing to remain far from the madding crowd. This trail is 2.72 km in length.
The Muskrat Loop can be accessed from the Woodland Trail and is 1.6 km in length. For those who like to mix it up, this trail offers a little bit of everything. While part of the trail is forested, the other sections offer you wide open spaces and long range views as you navigate your way through the wetlands. The Boardwalk is an extension of this route and is a great place to seek out gorgeous winter vistas. Those enjoying the thrill of identifying the footprints of wildlife in the snow will not be disappointed. Two lookout gazebos as well as a tower structure are also located within the boundaries of this route to enhance your viewing pleasure. Before venturing forth on this path, please ensure this area is “open for business” by consulting with staff as parts of it either go across or are in very close proximity to water and a keen knowledge of ice conditions and thickness is essential.
For those wishing to completely immerse themselves in the forest, the Beaver Trail (1 km) and Arboretum Trail (0.6 km) are located just east of the parking lot and are also great routes to include in your cross country skiing or snowshoeing adventure.
Wye Marsh is truly an amazing spot for the winter outdoor enthusiast and well worth the $10 entrance fee. To further support the marsh, be sure to checkout the gift shop before heading off to warm up with a well deserved hot bevvie.