Saturday, February 29, 2020
February 29th falls on a Saturday once every 28 years with the next one coming in 2048. To mark this rare occasion we decided to explore the area around Crawford Lake. We had been here about 5 years ago to explore the longhouses and the meromictic lake that helped modern scholars locate the site. It isn’t possible to see everything in one trip because the park is 232 acres in size and full of trails.
Having recently heard about stone foundations on the property, we set out to have a look for them. There is plenty of parking near the re-created Indigenous Village but you have to pay using an envelope and drop-box so no change can be expected.
Crawford Lake has more than 15 kilometres of trails, including the Bruce Trail. After parking near the longhouses we followed the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail until we came to The Bruce Trail. This allowed us to connect with the Escarpment Trail and make our way over to the lookout across the canyon. From there we used The Woodland Trail to reach The Crawford Lake Trail. Like most parks, we recommend that you take a picture of the trail map in the parking lot. This will help you keep track of where you are in the park and which turns to take at each trail connection.
After passing several trees with very large woodpecker holes in them it wasn’t surprising to see a Pileated Woodpecker. We saw one land on a nearby tree while a second one could be heard hammering away on a tree in the distance. A nesting pair will take turns incubating 3 – 5 eggs until they hatch in about two weeks. The young may take about a month to fledge after which time they can live for up to 12 years.
As you follow the trail you will see several large walls of stone that have been put up by the farmers as they cleared the land in an attempt to farm it.
When the settlers arrived they tried to become self dependent as quickly as possible. They would raise animals during the summer when feeding them was easy and then slaughter them for food before the winter set in. The livestock would be kept in a barn to protect it from the worst of the weather. As we neared the escarpment edge we came to the stone foundations of an old barn. The barn that was originally built on this property was small with an overhanging porch along the east side. Wagons didn’t fit in the barn so they were likely stored under the overhang. A few feet to the east of the barn stands the remains of another one of the stone walls that run across the property. It provides some shelter to the items stored on this side of the barn. Close examination reveals a single man-door and a larger animal-door. These days the barn is used as a shortcut by white tailed deer that shelter among the rows of evergreens near the barn foundations.
A few metres away from the barn are the foundations of the small house the family lived in. When settlers cleared the land they used the materials at hand to build their homes and the barns where they kept their livestock. The house was built on a foundation of field stones collected when the land was cleared. The trees that were cut down became the logs that were used for the house and barn. The log house would often have three rooms inside, two of which were bedrooms. By the middle of the 1800’s the log house would be often be outgrown and the family would build a new home out of bricks.
Crawford Lake Conservation Area covers several former land grants including that of Mrs. Allan White. The log house built by her husband can be seen on the county atlas map marked with a green circle. At the time the county atlas was drawn in 1877 the house was already reaching the end of its normal lifespan.
Crawford Lake Conservation Area and The Bruce Trail Association are working on removing Ash Trees from the park, especially along the Bruce Trail section in the park. Emerald Ash Borers have decimated the forests around the GTA with estimates reaching as high as 99% of all ash trees being infected with the beetles.
Emerald Ash Borers live in the layer between the bark and the core of the tree. The phloem is the layer directly below the bark and it is responsible for passing nutrients and hormones between the ground and the leaves of the tree. The larvae of the beetle eats extensive pathways under the bark and leaves the tree without the ability to feed itself. The places where the bark has fallen off the stumps below reveal the extend of damage on these trees and the reason for their destruction.
The trail leads to a lookout where there are several information plaques about the history and wildlife of the area. The canyon below is known as the Nassagaweya Canyon and it separates the Niagara Escarpment from a small section known as the Milton Outlier. Rattlesnake Point is at the southern end of the outlier and it can be reached by following the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail which is paired with the Bruce Trail through this section.
Limestone Creek flows through the bottom of Nassagaweya Canyon but it took a much larger force of water to cut the canyon through the limestone and dolomite layers of the escarpment. Melting ice sheets at the end of the last ice age were able to move large amounts of stone and till. Much of this material was deposited at the mouth of the canyon and is currently being mined by aggregate companies. In a couple of months, when they return from warmer climates, Turkey Vultures will fill the skies above the canyon.
Near Crawford Lake is the Hide and Seek trail which features wood carvings of several of the nearly 200 species that are at risk in Ontario. The wood carvings were made by Robins Amazing Art.
Originally the lake was known as Little Lake but when George Crawford bought it in 1883 he started a business called the Crawford Lake Company which ran a mill at the end of the lake.
A cottage and boathouse were included in the sale of the property to the conservation area in 1969. The house has since been demolished with only the front porch remaining.
Crawford Lake is an interesting place to explore and we’ll likely be back. We have previously posted about the longhouses in the conservation area as well as the Bruce Trail south of the park in the Crawford Forestry Tract.
Google Maps Link: Crawford Lake
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