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The Carden Alvar…”a bit north east of here”

Tom Wilson at Wolf Run alvar

In my early years, I spent my summers growing up at the cottage. Enjoying the warm waters of Lake Simcoe, catching frogs and staring in awe of the beautiful sunsets. A lot of the travelling was done in my mind, looking around at pennants pinned to the rafters, wondering what life was like there. Remember those triangular banners people would buy when they went to a faraway place? They came from all over the world but also from places close by. I always remember seeing a Lake Dalrymple pennant and asked my Gramma where it was. “Oh, it’s a bit north east of here,” she said from her rocking chair.

Fast forward 40 years and my wife Judy is dragging me to a Carden Field Naturalists meeting, just “north east of here” and presto, I finally got to see where that pennant came from. Through a series of events that I can’t fully recollect, I am now the club’s President and team stewardship leader of some very special properties in the area.

The Carden properties I’m referring to have been brought under protection by The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ontario Parks and The Couchiching Conservancy.

These properties are part of an area known as the Carden Plain, which is part of the “Land Between,” an area bordered by the Canadian Shield and Great Lakes Lowlands. An alvar is characterized by a limestone base with a small or no amount of soil. The birding in this area is world renowned and it is recognized as an Important Birding Area. Also, it supports unique plants that adapt to the harsh conditions of wet springs and very dry summer conditions. An open alvar vista in bloom will take your breath away with its delicate, harsh beauty.

The Carden Field Naturalist club has been charged as Stewardship Leaders to provide quarterly walks on five properties. The properties are Prairie Smoke Alvar, Little Bluestem Alvar, McGee Creek & Cranberry Lake, Wolf Run Alvar and North Bear Alvar. The walks among other things are to monitor for invasive species, record any new species, note any natural damage, but it is also an opportunity to enjoy a very special landscape. After each walk, the team leader fills out a monitoring report form and sends it on to Stewardship Program Manger, David Hawke at The Couchiching Conservancy and to appropriate Nature Conservancy of Canada contacts.

Scheduled walks are published on The Couchiching Conservancy website, under Events with contact and meeting information. It is also posted on the Regional Guidebook, www.regionalguidebook.com. Quite often the walks are joined by a knowledgeable naturalist and the amount of information available is truly amazing. Then again, just a stroll through a unique landscape in quiet conversation with someone who doesn’t know very much at all (like “moi”) is sometimes just as rewarding.

So check the website and come on out for a scheduled walk sometime. There is no grueling pace as a lot of time can be spent stopped and observing a natural wonder.

Hope to see you on one of the alvars on the Carden Plain.

Written by Tom Wilson.