The statistics are stark. As a result of land development, agricultural runoff and invasive species, more than 70 percent of Canadian wetlands have disappeared. That’s a concern for all of us, because wetlands play an integral role in how the rest of our world works. They clean and filter our fresh water, prevent shoreline erosion, decompose vegetative matter, recycle nutrients and provide habitat and breeding grounds for a wide range of wildlife. That’s why the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre has put education at the heart of its programming.
About five kilometres east of Midland, the 1,000-hectare Wye Marsh nestles along the southern shore of Georgian Bay. Designated a Provincially Significant Wetland, it comprises primarily cattail marsh, with pockets of fen, dense coniferous swamp, upland forests and shallow Wye Lake (a.k.a. Mud Lake) at its hub. Today, 64 nester bird species, including the black tern, least bittern, Virginia rail and marsh wren, reside here. Wye Marsh is also famously home to the largest concentration of trumpeter swans in Ontario. That’s due to the dedicated work of marsh supporters and biologist Harry Lumsden, who launched a program in the 1980s to bring the trumpeter back to its traditional habitat. It had been hunted to extirpation a century before.
With 25 kilometres of groomed trails and boardwalks, visitors have access to the marsh year-round. Bikes and ski and snowshoe equipment can be rented, and rustic cabins are available for overnight group stays. Guided eco-tours by canoe, kayak and snowshoe, day and overnight camps for kids and annual festivals round out the centre’s generous outreach initiatives. Visit this beautiful wetland to see environmental stewardship in action. While you’re here, be sure to spend some time observing the magnificent trumpeter swan, which came so close to permanently vanishing from Ontario, and consider making a donation to the centre.
For more information, visit: wyemarsh.com
The Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre is one of the hot spots featured in 100 Nature Hot Spots in Ontario: The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places, to be published by Firefly Books in spring 2016.