|◘ Parks||◘ Scenic Drives||◘ Nature Areas||◘ Island Princess||◘ Winter Fun|
|◘ Scout Valley||◘ Geo. Langman Wildlife Sanctuary||◘ Grant's Woods|
Because Orillia is located in the middle of a rural area there are several areas just outside of the city where one can find natural areas to walk, hike, or just enjoy the great outdoors. (See links above). But even within the city, there are walking trails that snake through areas of of wetlands where one can spend several hours enjoying the peaceful surrounds, or studying the birds and small animals.
For anyone new to Orillia, finding these spots can be a bit of a challenge.
The city of Orillia offers a trail map in .pdf format here.
Marked on the map are two main trails that snake through town. I've walked all of these trails, and walked the trail on the other side of Woodland Drive out to the next concession road. This particular trail can be walked (or biked) for many miles. It's probably my favourite section of of the trails (from West Street South over to Woodland Drive). Second in line is the trail that leads from Veteran's Park at the waterfront over to Tudhope Park, and then continues on past the Stephen Leacock Museum and ends at The Narrows, the old swing bridge out in front of you.
I spend a lot of time between April and November walking the trail systems through and around Orillia. Part of the trails run through the heart of the city, the industrial areas - just a couple of blocks from the downtown core. Along this section of trail (between West Street and Woodland Drive) there exists a lot of wildlife: birds of all kinds; turtles, frogs, fish, muskrat, beaver, snakes - much more than that I'm sure. I've seen cardinals in pairs, bluejays, sparrows, crows, doves, redwing blackbirds, robins, cowbirds, chickadees, pigeons, seagulls, and a number of birds I can't identify (I love to watch the birds, and photograph them, but I'm not a birder, so identification isn't high on my list) - there's Canada geese, ducks, and cranes, too. Where the trail meets Woodside Drive are two osprey nests. Once, I've seen a small fox.
I've seen snakes on the edges of the wetlands where it meets the trail (not my favourite thing), broken turtle eggs along the sides of the trail - not likely hatched since there were holes dug all around them; more likely something dug them up and ate them, but I have on occasion seen the odd turtle in the wetlands and once, saw one walking across the trail. Frogs too. If you scan any of the larger pond areas in the wetlands you'll see beaver dams and lodges - occasionally you'll may even see a beaver. Many times I've seen the muskrat swimming through the reeds.
This portion of the trail itself doesn't take that long to walk if you just hike it - but I can spend a lot of time hunched down at the edge of the trail scanning the waters and standing trees for wildlife - I can easily spend a couple of hours in here on a walk. Sometimes I forget how long I've been there - and by the time I get home I am facing a worried husband. Besides the wildlife there are a multitude of water plants; marsh marigolds, something I call "wild orchids"; Queen Anne's Lace; Cattails; reeds and grasses; wild Anemones and wild Roses; trees of many kinds. It's a wilderness area in the heart of the city.
Along this trail is also a lot of garbage - the streams are becoming polluted, and a lot of it comes from us; casual visitors who think nothing of tossing their wrappers into the wetlands thinking it will disappear into the marsh. Unsightly? Yes, it surely is, but more than that, it affects the habitat of the wildlife; some of the things cause injury to the wildlife, some pollute the waters and kill the plants. Every year, there is a clean up effort that involves a lot of volunteers who use the trail, so please ... when you walk these trails, don't toss your garbage on the ground. It pays to keep our trails clean,