Windy Ridge Conservation Area
Windy Ridge Conservation Area
By David Richardson
At a quick glance Windy Ridge Conservation Area looks like no more than a gravel parking lot with a picnic shelter hidden by tamarack trees along a sparsely travelled backcountry road. However if you were to slow your car down, pull into the gravel parking lot and take a short walk up the hill behind the picnic shelter you would discover that Windy Ridge offers the type of view that would rival any other in the Kawarthas.
Located a short distance west of Omemee on Mount Horeb Road, on the shore of the Pigeon River, Windy Ridge is easy to miss by anyone who is not paying attention while rounding the bends through the country side. Once in the parking lot you can clearly view some of the area's features, among them a long ridge stretching to the south. Next to the parking lot sits a well maintained picnic shelter and an information board describing the history of this 209 acre conservation area and showing a map of the 1.3 kilometre trail that loops through the north end of the area. The board describes the trail as starting behind the picnic shelter and heading up the ridge but it is our personal opinion that the trail should be started at the other end of the parking area which will bring you to the best part of the trail last. Walking the trail in this direction takes you up a steeper part of the ridge but the view at the end is worth every step.
Not far down the meadow path can be seen a huge old tree that scarcely looks like it should be alive. The plaque at the bottom of the tree names this The Habitat Tree and the reason is obvious. Filled with holes and cavities it is easy to imagine several different animals calling this tree home. Upon closer inspection of a mound near the trunk there is a lot of evidence that confirms the presence of porcupines inside.
The trail then continues on along a small cedar forest until coming to a spot at the river's edge with a picturesque view. To the south the Pigeon River and Fleetwood Creek meet to form the large Fleetwood Creek Wetlands, a great area to explore by canoe or kayak. A short distance north and a favourite shot among photographers is a former rail bridge that crosses over the river and is now part of the Ganaraska Rail Trail.
Leaving the river the trail then climbs up the steeper end of the tallest ridge in the area. At first it is a gradual climb and doesn't seem like such a big deal but closer to the top your legs may start feeling the burn and for a moment you'll wish you had followed the info board's directions. Until you get to the top that is. Once you've caught your breath and can straighten up to admire the view your breath will be taken away again. With the Fleetwood Creek Wetlands stretching to the south and Devil's Elbow Ski Area in the distance the view is bordered by the Oak Ridges Moraine rising from the southern horizon. To the east, the Hogsback or Omemee esker is evidence of the ancient glacial activity that formed the entire region. To the north and west are the rolling hills and farms of the Kawarthas reaching as far as the eye can see. Standing on top of the Windy Ridge you'll be forced to experience a moment of silent awe as you try to take in the vastness of the view before you. After reaching the top, the trail follows along the ridge a little ways and heads back down to the parking lot but since you can't get a panorama like this from your car, why not stay up there a little longer?
Remember, these hidden areas are all around us so let's get out there and find them.
By Kawartha Conservation
Windy Ridge Conservation Area is an ideal spot for a relaxing walk, hike, cycle or snowshoe in the open air. In 1999, Hugo Germeraad bequeathed 35 hectares (87 acres) to Kawartha Conservation, ensuring the land would remain in its natural state for generations to enjoy. In 2004, the Ontario Heritage Foundation (OHF) and Ducks Unlimited provided assistance in securing 49 adjoining hectares (122 acres) from the Tuckerman family. Kawartha Conservation manages this parcel on behalf of the OHF.
Significant Natural Features
Windy Ridge offers a panoramic view from the lookout perched atop the areaís tallest ridge. Directly below lies Fleetwood Creek wetlands, where the Pigeon River and Fleetwood Creek join. Fleetwood Creek wetland is home to a wide variety of vegetation and has been named an International Biological Program Site. Visible on the southern horizon sits the Oak Ridges Moraine, a protected greenspace. A view of ancient glacial activity unfolds to the east in the form of the Hogsback or Omemee Esker.
On the Trail
A multi-use loop trail of 1.3 kilometres begins with a gentle climb, then winds south for a short walk to the spectacular lookout. From there, the trail leads downhill to the valley floor and right to the waterís edge, before looping back through an open meadow to the parking area.
Outside of the conservation area, but running adjacent to the western border of Windy Ridge is the popular multi-use Rail Trail system. The two trails donít intersect due to wetlands lying in between, but each is accessible to the other from Mount Horeb Road.
A picnic shelter just off the parking area provides an enjoyable spot for a meal or a rest. Picnic tables are also located atop the lookout and at the marsh area.
Hours of Operation
May-October 7:00 am to 9:00 pm
November-April 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
No access is permitted outside of posted hours.
1.From Highway 7 west of Omemee, turn south onto Mount Horeb Road for 3.8 km
2.Destination will be on the right at 998 Mount Horeb Road, Kawartha Lakes, Ontario
The parking area is not maintained from October 31 to May 1.