10 things to do at our conservation areas this summer
Summer is short – embrace it at our 11 conservation areas! From fishing to frog-catching to finding fairy homes, there's fun for the whole family.
1. Hit the beach! Each of our three public beaches is unique. Rideau Ferry Yacht Club beach on Lower Rideau Lake is always humming with sun worshippers, picnickers and boaters. Baxter Beach on the Rideau River at the southern tip of the City of Ottawa offers a casual beach scene for families hoping to beat the city heat. And Foley Mountain's natural swimming area is a secluded slice of serenity on Upper Rideau Lake, where you'll most likely have the sand to yourself. Both Baxter and Rideau Ferry beaches offer accessible mobi-mats for people with wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Parking is $8 per vehicle at each site.
2. Find the Ice Cream Float: When you visit Baxter Beach, make sure you're there to catch the Ice Cream Float! This floating oasis (in the form of a brightly decorated pontoon boat) stops by the beach around 1 p.m. each day in the summer to sell ice cream cones for $3.50 each. Be sure to bring cash! Learn more about Ice Cream Float creator Bob Harlow and his 20-year ice cream legacy: https://www.rvca.ca/view-all-blog-posts/ice-cream-float-serves-scoops-and-smiles-at-baxter-beach
3. Go geocaching: Join the world's largest treasure hunt! Many of our conservation areas are home to hidden treasures called geocaches – and you can find them using your trusty GPS and the Geocaching App. Bring your phone, a pencil and maybe a trinket or two to add to the cache when you find it. Remember to stay on the trail and leave the cache in the same condition you found it! Learn more: https://www.geocaching.com/play/search
4. Find the fairy doors: Do you believe in fairies? We sure do – and Chapman Mills Conservation Area has a thriving population. Bring the kids for a gentle walk along the Rideau River in Barrhaven to see how many fairy homes you can find along the way. As you go, enjoy a pleasant boardwalk path and a unique urban oasis in the heart of Ottawa South.
5. Pick up a paddle: Explore the watershed from a new perspective! There are many places to launch your canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard at our conservation areas. Chapman Mills, Richmond, Rideau Ferry and W.A. Taylor conservation areas each have dedicated docks, but many of our properties have casual water entries, as well. Be sure to wear a life jacket and review Transport Canada's safe boating guide before you go.
6. Cast a line: You know what they say: a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work! Launch your fishing boat at W.A. Taylor or Rideau Ferry conservation areas to start reeling in the whoppers – or at least some good stories – or drop a line at any of our smaller docks and shorelines across the watershed. Remember to follow safe boating rules when on the water.
7. Seek out new species: Download the kid-friendly Seek app from iNaturalist to explore the forest in a new way! Using millions of citizen science observations, Seek will help you identify the insects, birds, plants and animals you find at your local conservation area. You can even participate in challenges and earn badges for logging different types of species! Download the app: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/seek_app
8. Visit Spy Rock: Have you ever played I Spy from 150 feet above a lake? You can do just that from Spy Rock at Foley Mountain Conservation Area. The famous lookout offers an excellent vantage point to check out Upper Rideau Lake and the village of Westport. When you've had your fill of the lovely view, head further into the park for a hike or a picnic, or head into Westport for an ice cream cone!
9. Catch a frog: Hop to it! If catching frogs is on your bucket list this summer, there are plenty to be found at Baxter's education pond, Foley Mountain's beaver pond or the many other marshy areas we maintain at our public conservation areas. Just be sure to stay on the trail, handle the frogs with care and return them quickly to where you found them.
10. Get creative: Keep the kids engaged on your next hike with a natural art project or photo scavenger hunt along the trail. To make your nature creation, collect materials like fallen leaves, twigs, stones, flower petals and bark to create a compelling design. Take a photo and leave it there for another family to discover! Or, if tech is a better bet, pass your phone to the kids and encourage them to find everything on our natural scavenger hunt.
Happy summer – see you outside!
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