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Hay Marsh Nature Reserve

The reserve is located within the Hay Marsh wetland – a provincially significant coastal wetland composed of fen, swamp and marsh.

Wood duck © Nigel CC BY 2.0


Located on St. Joseph Island along the St. Mary’s River, the 42-hectare (103-acre) Hay Marsh Nature Reserve protects a precious piece of Great Lakes shoreline. The nature reserve property is part of the Hay Marsh wetland, a provincially significant coastal wetland composed of fen, swamp and marsh.

The property donor, John Kerastas, enjoyed many summers fishing and hiking in northern Ontario’s bush, and wanted to see Hay Marsh protected. “Just as I enjoyed the Canadian wilderness,” says Kerastas, “so too should future generations have that privilege.”

Autumn tamaracks © Maria Papoulias

Plants and Animals

Ontario Nature’s Hay Marsh Nature Reserve is composed primarily of mixed swamp with a marsh along the shoreline of the St. Mary’s River. In the fall, the tamarack trees blaze in golden hues, while the black ash, sugar maple and poplar trees complete the autumn colour spectrum.

Shallow marshes of cattail and thickets of alder and bulrush extend along the river’s edge. The nature reserve is an important stopover for migrating waterfowl, as well as a fine habitat for spawning fish.

Midland painted turtle © Bill Kendall

“After having kept the land in its natural state for almost 25 years, I became more convinced its best use would be as a nature reserve under the control of professionals for the benefit of all.”

– John Kerastas

Royal fern, Hay Marsh Nature Reserve © Tharanya Ravikumaran


The federal wildlife sanctuary at Fort St. Joseph is nearby, as is Ontario Nature’s Wallwork Nature Reserve.

Hay Marsh Nature Reserve is virtually inaccessible by land, and it is difficult to land a boat on the shoreline. Please contact Ontario Nature if you are interested in knowing more about this property.

Common whitetail dragonfly © Janet Nelson

Hay Marsh Nature Reserve