Niagara Parks Nature Activities
Explore just a few of the many opportunities to experience the stunning natural landscape of Niagara Parks. Go for a hike in the Niagara Glen and marvel at the prehistoric geological formations; take a leisurely bike ride along the Niagara River Recreation Trail; or join the many birders on the lookout for the rare and exciting species of birds that call the Niagara Region home.
Niagara Parks has 15 km of hiking footpaths through six different nature areas and one 56-km paved Niagara River Recreation Trail. The wonderful thing about hiking is that it is easy to get started. All you need is a sturdy pair of shoes and a hat. What you do along the way is up to you. Some choose to take photos, others bring along binoculars to watch the birds and other wildlife, some carry a guide book to identify the plants they see, while still others choose to simply walk, listening to the sounds of nature and greeting those that cross their path with a wave or a smile.
While Niagara Parks welcomes all to enjoy the outdoor adventures that await you, please note that many of the natural areas are home to the rarest plants and animals in the country. As members of Leave No Trace Canada, Niagara Parks has adopted the outdoor skills and ethics of the organization and encourages visitors to “leave only footprints."
Niagara Parks also maintains a section of the Bruce Trail.
Things to Remember
Before you embark on your hike, be sure to plan ahead. Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit; prepare for extreme weather, hazards and emergencies; schedule your trip to avoid times of high use; keep groups to a small size, breaking larger parties into groups of four to six; and repackage food to minimize waste. When it's time to go home, please remember to respect the environment and take home whatever you brought with you.
Niagara Parks offers guided tours of the Niagara Glen during the spring and summer months. Daily hiking tours leave from the Niagara Glen Nature Centre at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Please call the Nature Centre for more information and availability: (905) 354-6678.
Cycling Niagara Parks is part of a larger initiative of the Region of Niagara known as the Greater Niagara Circle Route. The Niagara River Recreational Trail (56 km) parallels the Niagara River on the Canadian Side. It extends from Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake, through Chippawa, to Historic Fort Erie. This mixed use path passes through many Niagara Parks attractions, historic sites and natural areas.
Constructed in 1986, the Niagara River Recreation Trail is a paved path for non-motorized traffic. It is divided into four scenic sections, each with its own history and high adventure set amidst lovely countryside. It takes one to two hours to pedal leisurely each of these sections: (1) Niagara-on-the-Lake to Queenston; (2) Queenston to the Whirlpool Aero Car; (3) Chippawa to Black Creek; (4) Black Creek to Fort Erie. In 2007, Niagara Parks worked with volunteers to implement distance markings every 500 metres along the length of the Trail. The markings are designed to heighten safety on the trail and to allow trail users to know how far they have traveled.
Trail users are cautioned that the Trail was not designed to accommodate small wheel devices such as roller blades, roller skates or skateboards. Portions of the Trail are shared with motorized vehicles and traverse public roadways and private driveways. Trail users must obey all traffic regulations and be careful, courteous and respectful of public and private property.
Niagara Parks is a proud member of Ontario by Bike.
Historically, bouldering was a means of training for longer climbing routes and mountaineering. Over the past 30 years, bouldering has evolved into a popular sport with appeal as a health-conscious physical form of human-powered recreation. Bouldering’s social aspects of community and camaraderie has created an expanding number of enthusiasts. The Niagara Glen has become noted world-wide for its bouldering opportunities, and the need for programming was recognized to assure the protection of the physical, cultural and ecological integrity of parks.
Bouldering Permits will be available for purchase ($20 fee and signed waiver required) at the Niagara Glen Nature Centre, located at 3050 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ontario. Permits can also be purchased at the Butterfly Conservatory, located at 2565 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ontario. Completed waiver forms must be signed and returned to either the Nature Centre or the Butterfly Conservatory for verification. Please bring photo ID with your signed form.
Geocaching is an outdoor activity that is similar to a treasure hunt. The goal of the activity is to find hidden containers, known as caches or geocaches, using a portable satellite navigation device called a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. Individuals who practice this activity (generally referred to as cachers or geocachers) place a cache in an outdoor location and post the cache’s latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates on the Internet. Other geocachers then use their GPS devices to download the coordinates and cache descriptions from one of several geocaching websites in order to find the caches.
Once the participants have found the cache, they may log their findings on the website. There are a number of different types of caches. Physical caches include a logbook, pencil, and trade items (small objects left in the caches for geocachers to trade with one another such as toys and key chains). Another type of cache is an earth cache, which highlights an area’s unique natural features. More information regarding different types of caches and geocaching in general can be found at Geocaching.com, Opencaching.com, and Earthcache.org.
Visitors wishing to request permission to place geocaches within the Niagara Parks jurisdiction must download Appendix A and Appendix B, then email the completed documents back to the Parks Naturalist.
Birding (Bird Watching)
Niagara's lure as a natural wonder does not end with the Falls. Just ask the growing number of people who visit the Niagara River each year to see one of the world's greatest gatherings of gulls and other migrating birds.
In 1996, the entire Niagara River corridor - stretching 56 kilometers from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario - became the first site in North America to receive international recognition as a "Globally Significant Important Bird Area" by major conservation groups in both Canada and the United States. Starting mid-November, the river comes alive with the aerobatics of more than 100,000 gulls on migratory flights from as far north as Greenland and the Canadian Arctic to as far south as Florida.
The Niagara River becomes a critical winter feeding area for these birds and many others. The river's swift current keeps it free of ice, assuring the birds access to water when many other waterways along their migratory path freeze over. The fast-moving waters also carry downstream a steady supply of alewives, shiners and other small fish that make up an important part of the birds' diet. The Niagara Falls Nature Club that has co-ordinated Christmas bird counts along the Niagara River for many years, says 19 individual species of gulls have been identified on the river (there are 43 species worldwide). Among their ranks are an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 Bonaparte's Gulls - as much as 10 per cent of the world's population.
Nature buffs may catch a glimpse of other harder-to-find species like the Franklin's and Sabine's Gull, and rare species like the California Gull, a native of the west coast, and the Slaty-backed and Ross's Gulls, which nest as far away as Siberia.
The Niagara River is also a major wintering area for numerous species of ducks, geese and swans. Along the Canadian shore near Old Fort Erie, people gather with binoculars to watch American Widgeon, Redhead, Canvasback and numerous other species of ducks. The ducks can be seen diving and bobbing for fish downstream from a floating boom Canada and the United States installs across the head of the Niagara River each winter to hold back massive fields of lake ice. As the ducks feed, they let the current carry them downstream toward the Peace Bridge (crossing the Niagara River to Buffalo, New York) before beating their wings back to the boom to begin the cycle again.
The Niagara River received international attention in the spring and summer of 1998, when a pair of peregrine falcons successfully hatched and fledged three chicks on a narrow ledge of rock along the Niagara River Gorge, a mere 200 meters from the Horseshoe Falls. This was the first documented case of peregrine falcons choosing a natural area to nest in southern Ontario, and it was spectacular for countless visitors who caught a glimpse of these powerful birds of prey soaring through the mist near the Horseshoe Falls.