Great Blue Heron Route, South Nation River

Location: South Mountain-Chesterville Ontario
Region: Southeastern
Character: Seasonal Portage

Great Blue Heron Route
By South Nation Conservation Authority

The Great Blue Heron Route begins in South Mountain. From County road 3 you will turn onto Mill Street, bringing you to the watersedge. In some locations, cows venture into the river to cool off during the summer. If you do see cows in the River, steer clear and keep paddling. As you approach the junction of the South Branch and the Main Branch of the River you may encounter some rapids. This will require a short portage or lift over. These rapids are seasonal and portaging along the top of the bank is suggested, until this shallow, rocky area has passed. The River is quite shallow after the junction, so checking water levels is suggested before continuing.

Further down the River, on your left-hand side, you will come to Cass Bridge Conservation Area. Parking, outdoor toilets, a picnic area, and a boat launch are available at this site. Cass Bridge Conservation Area is located off of Highway 31 between Winchester and Winchester Springs, should you wish to access the river from the Winchester area.

As you paddle into the Village of Chesterville, the Village boat launch will be on your left. To access the boat launch by car, follow Highway 43 into Chesterville. Located on Queen Street (County road 22), the boat launch is on your right before you reach Main Street. You can then continue on your journey along the King Fisher Route.

The South Nation is a relatively young name for this river. For well over 200 years it was known as the Petite Nation and it was not until 1908 that "South Nation" became the river's official name. The mouth of the SNR is directly across the Ottawa River from the mouth of the Nation River in Quebec. The name "Nation" was derived from the Algonquin tribe, Ouescharini, whom the French referred to as La Petite Nation d'Algonquin. Hence the name, "South Nation River".

The SNR is home to a diverse wildlife population. Great Blue Herons and Snapping Turtles can be seen along the route. The Great Blue Heron can easily be identified by its long folded neck in flight and its long thin yellow bill. You may also spot one of the Snapping Turtles that inhabit the River. You will find this brownish creature lurking in the mud on the river banks. Warning! Do not attempt to touch these animals, they are endangered and also known for giving nasty bites!

The McIntosh apple was discovered in Matilda Township by John McIntosh in 1811. At the turn of the century, the popularity of the McIntosh had spread across Ontario and by 1910 it had become a national favorite.

The SNR banks are an ideal habitat for many types of wildflowers, trees and other vegetation. The nearly extinct White Elm can be seen on the banks of the SNR. It is truly a special occasion to view survivors of the Dutch Elm disease which nearly wiped out the entire North American population of White Elm Trees. However the White Elm is producing sturdy seedlings and it is hoped that its numbers will gradually be replenished.