Hidden within the 14-hectare Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve is possibly the last mature hemlock forest on the shores of Lake Erie in the Niagara Region. 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.
The 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.
Plants and Animals
In addition to the hemlock stands, the property supports red and sugar maple, American beech, yellow birch and swamp white oak. The extreme northern part of the reserve is dominated by red and white ash. 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 reserve’s hemlock forests also shelter a number of deer, which take shelter from the elements and give birth to their fawns.
There are no formal trails, so bring high rubber boots if you want to explore the reserve’s many ponds and low ridges. The reserve’s rolling sloughs and poor surface drainage can make it a challenging place to walk.
Take Highway 3 west from Port Colborne past Ostryhon Corners; then take Niagara Regional Road 3 south and then west along the Lake Erie shoreline, following the signs for Long Beach Conservation Area. Turn north on Wills Road or Burkett Road immediately to the west of the conservation area. The reserve will be on your right.
View Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve in a larger map.