Nestled between Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment, Royal Botanical Gardens’ Cootes Paradise is currently undergoing an extensive recovery process in an attempt to return the water to its natural marsh state. Cootes offers nature lovers access to a 320-hectare river-mouth marsh, glacial plateaus, 16 creeks and 25 kilometres of shoreline through its 18-kilometre trail system. The Marsh Boardwalk provides access to the Spencer Creek Delta, one of the largest creek deltas on Lake Ontario.
Look closely and you’ll also discover some feathered residents — Cootes Paradise is a nationally designated Important Bird Area (IBA) that is home to hundreds of species of birds during their spring and autumn migrations, including the Least Bittern, Hooded Warbler, White Pelican, Caspian Tern, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Osprey, Pileated Woodpecker, and the Prothonotary Warbler. A pair of nesting Bald Eagles has stolen the show in recent years, however, with the claim of being the first on Lake Ontario in more than 40 years.
One of the best ways to explore Cootes Paradise is by canoe, allowing a glimpse of the astounding life that depends on the health of the marsh for its survival. Paddlers can make use of the canoe launch located at Princess Point and will be treated to the sights of turtles, birds, swans, geese, ducks and even deer sightings as they paddle through the quiet water. If you’d prefer to make a splash on a guided experience, RBG offers two programs for those who are looking to give paddling a try. Morning, evening and moonlight “Paddle in Paradise” guided tours give participants a view of wetland plants and wildlife and the chance to learn about the restoration efforts that help keep Cootes a Paradise. The three-hour “Scenic Canoe Tour”is a quintessential Great Lakes Canadian paddling experience. RBG supplies the canoes, paddles and lifejackets, so all you need to bring is your camera and binoculars.