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Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve

Located within the Hay Marsh Wetland, a provincially significant coastal wetland composed of fen, swamp and marsh.


Located just north of the lake and directly bordering the northerly boundary of the Long Beach Conservation Area, the property was purchased in 1970 by Ontario Nature on behalf of the Niagara Falls Nature Club.

Hidden within the 14-hectare (34-acre) Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve is possibly the last mature hemlock forest on the shores of Lake Erie in the Niagara Region.

Mature hemlock © Ed Krolow


The nature reserve is named after Dr. Harold Mitchell, who was an avid birder and former president of the Buffalo Museum of Science. Dr. Mitchell originally bought the property to save it from development, and then sold the land to Ontario Nature to ensure that it would be preserved in its natural state. Gus Yaki, a renowned Niagara region naturalist, arranged the purchase.

The Niagara Falls Nature Club remains the active stewards for the nature reserve.

Starflower © Rick Young

Plants and Animals

In addition to the hemlock stands, the property supports red and sugar maple, American beech, yellow birch and swamp white oak. Other interesting plants to look for include Indian cucumber-root, spicebush, swamp milkweed and southern arrowwood.

Songbirds abound on the reserve as do typical forest nesting birds such as ovenbird and great horned owl. Additionally, the ponds and wetlands are ideally suited for waterfowl breeding.

As one of the few mature stands in the area, the nature reserve’s hemlock forests also shelter a number of deer, which take shelter from the elements and give birth to their fawns.

Great horned owl © Tony Carver CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


There are no formal trails on the nature reserve. Please help us prevent the spread of hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) by staying off the property.

If you have any questions about research on the property, please contact Ontario Nature at 416-444-8419.

Western chorus frog © Scott Gillingwater


Hemlock woolly adelgid, an aphid-like invasive insect from Asia, is present on the property. This poses a significant threat to one of the last remaining mature hemlock stands on the shores of Lake Erie. Human disturbance at the site can worsen the situation and potentially spread HWA to other hemlock-dominated forests in Ontario. Ontario Nature is currently working with various partners to research the ongoing impact of HWA and mitigation strategies.

To learn more about HWA visit the Invasive Species Centre website for more info.

Wetlands, Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve

“Stewarding the nature reserve in Wainfleet has been a continual learning journey. It’s given me the chance to feel an extra special connection with a magical swamp forest and an opportunity to meet many fine and supportive folks. The staff at Ontario Nature have been unfailingly professional and supportive of the unique management needs at Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve. It has been a pleasure to do what I can to bring people together in caring for this woodlot.”
– Kerry Kennedy, Harold Mitchell steward

© Kirsten Dahl

George G. Newton Nature Reserve

The Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve is generously supported by:

Invasive Species Centre logo, high resolution