Trip Reports

South Nation River July 14, 2022

07 S Nation scenery 3 Edit EditFollow the Heron!

or our South Nation River exploration

Thursday, July 14, 2022.

Six experienced club members set out to explore the South Nation River from Cass Bridge Conservation Area on the morning of Thursday, July 14th.  The conservation area had a nice dock, a shelter, a new open outhouse and plenty of parking for our group.  They had a table and benches showing all the turtles found in Ontario.  The weather was calm and warm.  The wind was low.  In four red boats we headed to the right (southwest and upstream).  None of us had paddled here before and we were not sure if there would be enough water to go very far.  The scenery was peaceful and beautiful.  There was little current.

A great blue heron led us upstream!  My paddling partner identified the various plants and animals we were passing, giving details about each.  We saw a family of mallard ducks and a muskrat.  There were some farms along the edges of the river.  Swamp milkweed was one of the first flowers to be spotted.  It is a very good plant for pollinator insects.  I noticed that wild parsnip lined the banks too – not so good.  Suddenly I heard, “That shouldn’t be here! We have to stop!” and we did.  A water chestnut plant floating in the river was the reason for our stop.  My paddling partner removed it and put it in our canoe.  It is not normal in the South Nation River and is an invasive species.  It is harmful to other plants.  To get rid of water chestnut plants, you must pull the plants out of the river.  We paddled on and removed more water chestnut plants.


After about 6 km we came to a fork in the river where the South Branch of the South Nation River enters.  We did not take the South Branch, so we stayed right.  The amount of water in the river decreased at this point and our paddles sometimes hit the bottom.  We watched for rocks but it was difficult to see the rocks.  We went under the Kirkwood Road bridge and then looked for the steep banks and pine forest of Oak Valley Pioneer Park on our right.  We found the Park just before the river became impassable with rocks. Two of our canoes made a valiant attempt to explore farther upstream before landing.  We had been able to paddle 7 km upstream – much farther than we expected!  We put our boats along the riverbank and then faced the challenge of climbing the steep mud and clay riverbank.  We had to climb about ten feet up, while avoiding wild parsnip, and other hazards.  We succeeded!  We walked through the pine forest to a meadow.  There was a shelter where we enjoyed our lunches and a washroom.  This park is maintained in part by a volunteer group with a pioneer focus.  We saw a plaque dedicated to the pioneers.  Here we could find butternut, walnut and oak trees in addition to pines and others.  South Nation Conservation Area workers were clearing fallen debris from the storm last month.  They were happy to tell us more about the South Nation River.  One asked for samples of water chestnut plants which were located at the bottom of the riverbank in our canoes.  Can you imagine what I was thinking?  Ralph came to our rescue and offered his water chestnut plants which did not require us to scale the bank again.  Thank you, Ralph!   South Nation Conservation workers told us that each spring the river is much higher and comes up to the top of the banks.  In the spring it is a different river and many sections of the river that are now impassable, can be paddled. 

We enjoyed visiting and having a leisurely lunch.  After lunch, we had to figure out how to climb down the riverbank.  It was actually harder to go down than it was to go up.  We succeeded again.  We had a slight headwind as we paddled back towards Cass Bridge Conservation Area.  Two great blue herons led us along for much of the distance.  We arrived back mid-afternoon after paddling 14 km.  We had seen no other boats.  The sun was still shining to end our adventure.  Thanks to our courageous explorer and leader Lynn!

South Nation Conservation is promoting a 75 km Challenge this year, to celebrate their 75th Anniversary.  They are encouraging as many people as possible to paddle, hike, or walk 75 kilometres worth of watercourses or trails in the region.  In case anyone is interested, info can be found on their website here:

25 InReach map Cass Bridge to Oak Valley Edit

Map of Route

00 heron July 8 10 22 Edit Edit

Blue Heron

01 Cass Bridge CA dock Edit Edit

Cass Bridge Conservation Area Dock

02 Cass Bridge CA Edit Edit

Cass Bridge Conservation Area Play Ground

03 Cass Bridge shelter Edit Edit

Cass Bridge Conservation Area Shelter

04 Turtles of Ontario Edit Edit

Turtles of Ontario

04 wild parsnip sign Edit Edit

Wild Parsnip Warning Sign

04 wild parsnip 2 Edit Edit

Wild Parsnip

04 wild parsnip Edit Edit

Wild Parsnip

05 S Nation scenery Edit Edit

South Nation River

06 S Nation scenery 2 Edit Edit

South Nation River

07 S Nation scenery 3 Edit Edit

08 S Nation scenery 4 Edit Edit

South Nation River

09 S Nation Scenery 5 Edit Edit

10 S Nation Scenery 6 Edit Edit

11 S Nation scenery Edit Edit

South Nation River

12 S Nation scenery 8 Edit Edit

South Nation River

13 swamp milkweed Edit Edit

Swamp Milkweed

15 water chestnut invasive Edit Edit

Invasive Water Chestnut

16 South Branch of river joins near Oak Valley Edit Edit

South Branch of River Joins Near Oak Valley

17 Under Kirkwood bridge Edit Edit

Under Kirkwood Bridge

18 Oak Valley Park river bank Edit Edit

Oak Valley Park River Bank

19 climb bank to eat lunch Oak Valley Edit Edit

Climb Bank to Eat Lunch at Oak Valley Park

20 Oak Valley Park shelter Edit Edit

Oak Valley Park Shelter

21 Oak Valley dedicated to Pioneers Edit Edit

 Oak Valley Park Monument Dedicated to Pioneers

22 lunch group at Oak Valley Park Edit

Lunch Group at Oak Valley Park

24 Our group at Cass Bridge CA Edit

Our Group at Cass Bridge