Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Petrel Point Accessible Boardwalk

After our picnic lunch in Wiarton we headed over to the west shore of the peninsula at Oliphant, and then north through Red Bay to Petrel Point just south of Howdenvale.  Petrel Point is an old nature reserve established in 1962 I think, and owned by Ontario Nature.  I had heard they had built a wheelchair accessible boardwalk here and was anxious to try it out.

There's a large new welcoming sign which explains the uniqueness of this wetland, a 'fen'.  Common bordering Hudson Bay, these wetlands are very rare in southern Ontario, but there are small pockets of them along the Lake Huron shore of the Bruce Peninsula.  You can see the new boardwalk on the right.

The new boardwalk, beckoning us into the cedar forest, looks great.  It replaces an old narrow boardwalk that has been here for decades.  There are very few wheelchair accessible trails through natural environments of any kind anywhere that I have found, so I was thrilled to see this one.  It was well built, with bumper edges, and plenty wide enough for safe operation of a wheelchair.

A sign announced it's construction and gave credit to several funders.

The dark cedar forest with it's tilting trees is fascinating in it's own right, but the orchids that grow here are finished for the year.

The boardwalk widens out in several places, giving spots to rest or turn around.   And in this case provide some information boards.

Two display boards explain the uniqueness and fragility of the orchids that grow in this unusual habitat.  Photographers have been wont to leave the boardwalk in the past just to get that ideal picture.  On occasion entire busloads from the Toronto Guild of Colour Photography would show up and some would even spread out groundsheets so they didn't get their knees dirty or wet in the process of getting their prize-winning picture, trampling all the surrounding vegetation in the process.  They added the second sign to emphasize this, along with some discreet fencing most people wouldn't even notice.

They have purchased several additional land parcels since the years when I was involved; this trail leads to one of those.

This part of the boardwalk forms a loop, which was appreciated.  This is one of the longer stretches leading out into the open fen.

And this is the fen, a marshy looking meadow interrupted with small cedars and Cinquefoil shrubs. on a base of wet sand.  Except these aren't marsh plants, they're sedges, rushes, and in this picture carnivorous Pitcher Plants.  There would be a few inches of water here in the spring, but in mid-August of a dry summer, it's just sand.

You're looking at the back of the Pitcher Plant flowers here, one of the three carnivorous plants that this nature reserve is known for.  The flowers nod over and hang down, so it's nearly impossible to get a picture from a wheelchair.

And these are the 'pitchers', enclosed leaves with downward pointing hairs that trap insects which get dissolved, providing the plant with it's nutrients.  You may be able to distinguish a side view of a flower on it's curved stem at the upper left of the cluster of leaves.

The colours range from dark purple to bright green or almost yellow.

A second carnivorous plant found in this unique habitat is this tiny yellow Bladderwort, most of the year with it's surface roots under water ready to trap and digest any tiny insects drifting by.

And the third of the carnivorous plants is the Slender-leaved Sundew.   It`s very hard to make out in this picture and I couldn`t get down on my belly to take a close-up, but it`s the reddish short leaves below the taller green stems of the rushes.  Tiny hairs on the leaves wrap themselves around any passing insects and then the plant devours them.

There are lots of other interesting plants in the fen.  This is just one, the False Asphodel.  We want to go back in fall and spring to see some of the others and get some more pictures.

At any rate, it`s a well done accessible boardwalk, and we really enjoyed it.  We`ll definitely be back!

Sorry it took me three days to get to this post; life is just too busy these days!


  1. I am so glad you found this. I am sure you will return and watch the seasons change. It is similar to a walk I once took in northern Maine. Love the exotic orchids and pitcher plants.

  2. Hello, the nature preserve and boardwalk look wonderful. I nice place for you to visit. The Pitcher plant is interesting. Great photos and outing. Wishing you a happy day!

  3. What a great boardwalk. I'm so glad the municipalities are getting on the ball and making these natural spaces more accessible. There is a great one on the lakeshore in Pembroke too. It was badly damaged in the spring floods but the students of Algonquin College and volunteers soon put it to rights again.

    1. Some municipalities are and conservation authorities too. This one is a charitable organization! Thankfully lots of government funding to improve accessibility to nature was available. I hope they continue to make it available.

  4. Those boardwalks are so handy, we walked on one some years ago in the Central Plateau region on a tramp to Boyd Hut. That one would be totally covered in snow in the winter. Great photo of you, looking good every day.

  5. Splendid post, FG. If anyone can figure out how to get those from down under photos, it is you. I'm thinking some sort of selfie stick.

  6. Great pictures and info. It seems like you've had a couple of full days all in one day, and Oliphant still to come. A tip of the hat to you and Mrs FG. Gord.

  7. That is fabulous to hear that there is such an accessible boardwalk! Great pics!

  8. I'm so happy that the boardwalk was there and you got to see all the beautiful sights along it.
    You took some lovely photos.

  9. What a wonderful place! I'm so glad you shared it with me, and I do hope you return. Often. :-)

  10. Boardwalks through areas like that always look so nice winding their way through all the flora and how nice that you are able to make use of them as well as you do. Great photos again. You and I like the same kinds of areas. Wished I knew all the plants as well as you do though. And a couple 'Furry Gnome' pics to boot in this post too:))

  11. Looks like a dandy place for a naturalist and especially one who uses a wheelchair. The boardwalk is beautiful and very necessary in a fragile habitat such as this. The most abundant colony of showy lady's-slipper I've ever seen has a boardwalk which was crawling with photographers who, thankfully, all stayed on the boardwalk.

  12. Yeah for a place you can safely visit! :)

  13. So glad you enjoyed it. I really enjoyed the review. Hopefully there will be more for you to explore from Ontario Nature :)