HOTSPOTS

The following is a list of great places where you can go to enjoy nature in Muskoka. This page is a work in progress. We hope to have descriptions of and directions to over 50 places. Please check back frequently for updates. The locations are grouped by proximity to the nearest town.


Henry Marsh
Henry Marsh and the surrounding woods and meadows provide critical habitat for local breeding birds. Golden-winged Warbler, Red-shouldered Hawk, Least Bittern, American Bittern, and Pied-billed Grebe have all nested here. During spring and fall migration the area is an excellent location to find songbirds, and the thermals rising off the ridge of land to the south of the marsh are inviting to hawks. Otters and beavers are seen frequently, along with the occasional Moose and Black Bear. Eastern Coyotes have also been heard howling and yipping at night. Dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, and moths are also attracted to the wide variety of flowering plants. Henry Marsh can be accessed from the parking lot at the end of Henry Road off of Beaumont Drive, approximately 2.6 kilometres west of the Wellington Street Bridge. The marsh lies along a portion of the Trans-Canada Trail, which links to Kerr Park to the east, and Stephens Bay Road to the west.




Hardy Lake Provincial Park
This 700 hectare park surrounds Hardy Lake and is characterized by distinct ecological zones. The eastern half of the park is dominated by dry, granite ridges of Red Oak and White Pine. The Five-Lined Skink, Ontario's only lizard, can be found here. The ridges are interspersed with wetlands, including an extensive open bog and Black Spruce-Larch forest, supporting a number of unusual plants, grasses, and sedges, and a locally rare White Pine bog, home to Virginia Chain Fern. The deeper soils of the western half of the park support Red Maple and Eastern Hemlock, and at the north end of the lake there is a large area of Buttonbush swamp and a rich community of Atlantical coastal plain species. Trails loop around the lake and there are quiet spots where you can sit on the warm rocks and dangle your feet in the cool water. The park is located 19 km west of Gravenhurst off Highway 169.



BRACEBRIDGE
Bracebridge Sewage Treatment Ponds (aka Bracebridge Lagoons)
The Bracebridge Ponds is the premier birding location in Muskoka. A series of 4 large settling ponds, connected by raised dikes, and surrounded by wet woods and thicket swamps, provides a variety of habitats that have hosted an incredible 218 species. In spring and fall, the ponds attract migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, and the woods play host to over 20 species of migrating warblers. A number of rare birds have been recorded here, including American White Pelican, Peregrine Falcon, Great Egret, Golden Eagle, and Nelson's Sparrow. The area is also a fantastic location to observe butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies. The Ponds can be accessed from Kerr Park, which is off Beaumont Drive, approximately 0.6 kilometres west of the Wellington Street Bridge. Park in the parking lot and walk up the hill to access the covered viewing stand. Henry Marsh, see below, can be accessed by following the Trans-Canada Trail west from the viewing stand.
South Monck Drive
This quiet road, just west of town north off Highway 118 West, runs through an area of open fields and farmland, and is a great location to view birds of open country, such as Northern Harrier, Bobolink, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Meadowlark, and Rough-legged Hawk. The road passes by a golf course, which provides habitat for migrating Canada Geese, the occasional Snow Goose, and sometimes migrating shorebirds, such as plovers and Muskoka's first record of Marbled Godwit! The open country soon gives way to a wetland and forest cover. At the intersection of South Monck Drive and Partridge Lane/Crawford Drive, a small thicket swamp is a great place to find American Bittern, Northern Waterthrush, Wilson's Warbler, and Canada Warbler. If you return to this spot at night in June, you can hear the songs of the Eastern Whip-poor-will and the Common Nighthawk.
GRAVENHURST
Kahshe Lake Barrerns
Exposed bedrock ridges support open forests of White Pine and Red Oak. Linear wetlands between the ridges harbour a variety of aquatic plant communities. The area supports a very high diversity of vascular plants, including Thimbleweed, Virginia Meadow Beauty, Slender Yellow-eyed Grass, Water Wort, and a number of sedges. Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Sedge Wren, and Spotted Turtle are unusual species that have been recorded from this area.
Devil's Gap Trail
This trail is located on the original colonization road between Gravenhurst and Bala. The trail meanders overs Precambrian Shield and alongside a number of wetlands. This is a great location for birds such as Field Sparrow and Eastern Towhee. During spring migration, a good variety of warblers and vireos can be found along the trail. 6.8 km west of Gravenhurt on Highway 169, turn left on Snider's Bay Road for 1.3 km to Muriel Crescent. 0.4 km along this road is the trailhead on the right. The large, flat rock is for parking.
North Muldrew Lake Road Marsh
This wetland is privately owned, but it can be well viewed from the road. It supports stands of cattails, which have provided habitat for Least Bittern, Sedge Wren, and Marsh Wren, all regionally rare species of birds. Whip-poor-will and Yellow-billed Cuckoo have beeen heard singing from the ridge behind the marsh. The marsh is located along North Muldrew Lake Road at the intersection of Peninsula Road, 4 km west of Highway 169.
Muskoka Beach Park
This public beach on Lake Muskoka is a great place to look for waterfowl. Red-throated Loon and Surf Scoter have been found here, and large rafts of Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and Lesser Scaup are common here during the early spring just after the ice breaks up and again late in the fall, when other smaller water bodies are ice covered. The park is just off Muskoka Beach Road, approximately 5 km from downtown Gravenhurst.
Muskoka Wharf
This newly redeveloped area is the home of the RMS Segwun and her sister steamships, but it is also a great place to access Lake Muskoka. A 2000 foot boardwalk hugs the shoreline and a walking trail allows access to a peninsula of land extending out into the lake. Although a busy commercial and recreational area, it is a great place to search for gulls and terns, and rafts of ducks in early spring and late fall. Muskoka Wharf is located off Muskoka Road 169.
HUNTSVILLE

Axe Lake
The lowland around Axe Lake is one of the largest peatlands in Muskoka. Black Spruce and Tamarack swamp forests and extensive open bogs support fauna with a northern flavour, such as Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Gray Jay, and Southern Red-backed Vole. The lake itself is shallow and sand-bottomed and is a great spot for exploring by canoe. The south end of the lake shoreline is home to Pitcher Plant, Sundew, and Virginia Chain Fern, and a number of dragonfly and damselfy species can be found here. The south east corner of the lake can be accessed by following Yearly Road north until it ends at Rome Road. Turn left and drive approximately 2 kilometres to the lake.
Muskoka River
During the winter months, the open water of the Muskoka River at the Centre Street Bridge, Main Street Bridge, and the Brunel Locks, often attracts waterfowl whose main populations have normally moved farther south. Red-breasted Merganser (below), Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Barrow's Goldeneye, and Trumpeter Swan are some of the unusual species to have been recorded along this stretch of the river during the winter months.
Arrowhead Provincial Park
16 km of trails take you along the remnant shoreline of the ancient Lake Algonquin, around beaver ponds, through maple forests, and across old homesteader's farms. The variety of habitats has attracted over 150 species of birds. Muskoka's only record of White-eyed Vireo occurred here, but you are more likely to find a great selection of thrushes, warblers, vireos, and flycatchers. The park is easily accessed from Highway 11, just north of Huntsville.
BALA

Torrance Barrens Conservation and Night Sky Preserve
This almost 2000 hectare site is characterized by low ridges of Precambrian Shield, separated by a variety of wetlands, including peat lands, open-water marshes, and small ponds with floating bog mats. This is a great spot to look for Ontario's only lizard, the Five-Lined Skink, and the Southern Bog Lemming. The Barrens are also home to Ontario's only venomous snake, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake! Breeding birds include Field Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Towhee, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Eastern Whip-poor-will. A number of unusual butterflies have been recorded from here, including Olympia Marble. The lack of light pollution makes the Torrance Barrens an incredible place to view the night sky and it was the world's first permanent Dark Sky Reserve. Access to the Torrance Barrens is off District Road 13 (Southwood Road).
Muskoka River
The Muskoka River at Port Sydney is an excellent place to view early spring and late fall migrating waterfowl, and in some winters, birds will overwinter on the river, which remains open due to the rapids and strong current. Birds swimming in the rapids can be viewed from the Muskoka Road 10 bridge or the parks to the north and south of the the bridge.
PORT SYDNEY

Matthiasville Road
This road runs along the south branch of the Muskoka River and is a great place to view returning waterfowl early in the spring, as well as late fall migrants. Common Merganser and Common Goldeneye typically return when there are still ice floes on the river. Ducks often linger here late into the fall, taking advantage of the turbulent open water below the dam, as most of the other water bodies in Muskoka ice over. A Gadwall was found here during the 2013 Christmas Bird Count, the first record for the count for this species. Red-shouldered Hawks have nested in the area and can be seen and heard  from the road. Matthiasville Road can be accessed approximately 7 km west of Bracebridge off Highway 118 east. The road is level and makes for a wonderful bike ride along the river's edge.
HONEY HARBOUR

Beausoleil Island
This 8 km long island is the largest island in Georgian Bay Islands National Park. It lies astride the contact zone between the Precambrian Shield of northern Ontario and the limestone-based bedrock of southern Ontario. The north end of the island is dominated by barren rock capped with Red Oak and White Pine. This is the best place in Ontario to find breeding Prairie Warblers (see photo at right), which can be easily located by their ascending, buzzy song. The thicker soil of the island's south end supports hardwood and mixed forest. This is a great spot for migrating warblers and is perhaps the last home of the endangered Cerulean Warbler in Muskoka. On the ferry ride over to the island you might be lucky enough to see a Black Tern foraging offshore, as birders did in the summer of 2013. In the fall, large rafts of waterfowl can be seen offshore. Amongst the Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and Lesser Scaup, you might be able to pick out a White-winged or Black Scoter. Migrating shorebirds can also be seen during fall migration as they forage along the island's beaches. The island and surrounding area supports the highest diversity of reptiles and amphibians in Ontario, including the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. There are a number of beautiful hiking trails that criss-cross the island, allowing access to a variety of habitats. The island can be accessed by boat only. Parks Canada offers a ferry service in season departing from Honey Harbour.
Muskoka Field Naturalists
HOTSPOTS

BIRDS

BUTTERFLIES

MOTHS

DRAGONFLIES/
DAMSELFLIES


OTHER INSECTS

SPIDERS

REPTILES

AMPHIBIANS

MAMMALS

FISH

PLANTS

TREES

FERNS

FUNGI



Bala Falls
Lake Muskoka's only outlet is at Bala Falls, where it drains into the Moon River. The river below the falls remains open during the winter and can attract late fall and early spring migrating waterfowl and overwintering birds, such as Common Goldeneye and Common Merganser, and even rarer species, such as Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked Grebe, and White-winged Scoter  (left). The river below the falls can be viewed from the Highway 169 bridge that crosses over the falls and from a park adjacent to the falls. A public boat launch and dock a short distance down River Street also afford a good view of the river below the falls.
Trent-Severn Waterway Lock 45 - Port Severn
The navigation channel and small bay below Lock 45 on the Trent-Severn Waterway at Port Severn, which connects Gloucester Pool to Georgian Bay, is the best spot in Muskoka to look for Trumpeter Swans (left). During the winter months, the water below the lock remains open and attracts good numbers of expected waterfowl, including Common Goldeneye and Common Merganser, and sometimes rarer species, such as Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked Grebe, and Long-tailed Duck. The lock area is easily accessed off Port Severn Road North.
PORT SEVERN
Trent-Severn Waterway Lock 44 - Big Chute
The Big Chute marine railway at Lock 44 connects the Severn River in the north to Gloucester Pool in the south. Open water above and below the lock during the winter months often attracts common species of waterfowl, such as Common Goldeneye and Common Merganser, and sometimes rarer species, such as Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked Grebe (below left), and White-winged Scoter. The area surrounding the lock is also a great place to look for Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, and Prairie Warbler during the breeding season. Big Chute is easily accessed off Upper Big Chute Road.
BARDSVILLE

Bardsville
The farm fields surrounding the junctions of Falkenburg Road with BeatriceTownline and Butter and Egg Road support a number of open-country breeding birds, such as Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Bluebird, and Bobolink, and in early spring, the fields are a great place to look for Sandhill Cranes. For several years, a colony of Brewer's Blackbirds (right) could be found in a grassy field alongside of Beatrice Townline, but a road realignment project and the construction of a farm fenceline seem to have displaced them. Although the birds haven't been seen in recent years, MFN members check this area each spring in hope that they have returned. During owl irruption winters, this area has played host to Northern Hawk Owls, Great Gray Owls, and Snowy Owls, and birders from near and far make the trek here to see these magnificent birds of the north.
BARKWAY

Barkway
The open fields and mixed forest surrounding Barkway are an excellent place to see and hear many species of Muskoka's birds. Eastern Whip-poor-will, Common Nighthawk, and Wilson's Snipe can be heard singing and carrying out their courtships displays in the spring, and the ethereal songs of Hermit Thrushes and Wood thrushes are frequently heard.

Lewisham Wetlands
The Lewisham Wetlands to the southeast of Barkway lie in a largely undisturbed corner of Muskoka and can be accessed from the end of Lewisham Road. This area plays host to a number of warblers, songbirds, and waterbirds. Documented breeding records for Blue-winged Teal and Ring-necked Duck both occurred here in 1991. The wetlands also attract a variety of dragonflies and damselflies.