Monday, September 04, 2017

Exploring Nature in Owen Sound and Grey County, Ontario

Owen Sound is a small town located just a bit more than 2 hours driving north west of Toronto. It's part of a bigger countryside called Grey County. Lots of protected green land, forests, farms and natural wonders dot this area. Hiking, zip lining, treetop trekking, camping, fishing, horseback riding etc. are all very popular activities here in the summer and fall. Given that we have young kids, we were somewhat restricted in our outdoor activities, but still decided to make a weekend trip to Owen Sound.

Hiking through this heavily wooded area, it was surprising to see how cool a forest cover could make your environment. It was a warm 29C outside, yet it was easily a little chilly under these trees. Then of course, there were sudden clearings and you were right beside a pond.

This was the Inglis Falls Conservation area. The hike is through a marked trail in Harrison Park, and very easy with kids, although you cannot take your stroller here (your kids must be old enough to walk and run).

Parking nearby in the conservation area (near the dam) is $8 for the day. All of this, of course is for Inglis Falls.

It's one of the many smaller waterfalls that dot the Grey County area. You can actually take a Waterfalls Driving Tour that can let you see as many as 18 such waterfalls in the area. Not all of them are easily accessible and require some rough hiking. And when I say small, I am comparing them to the giants such as Niagara Falls and so on. Inglis Falls, for example, is 18m tall.

With Owen Sound being the only sizeable city nearby after Collingwood, there's a lot of undisturbed land here and with that, a lot of wild flora and fauna.

You could also drive around a bit, and explore the farm and the countryside from nearby lookout points.

We even saw lots of butterflies in action on a farm near the Bruce Conservation Area. Unlike Toronto, where you hardly see them in nature unless you go looking for them in various parks, here the butterflies seemed to be quite unafraid of people and didn't flinch or fly away when you went near to take pictures.

Farming is big here, and when we drove and parked on a lookout point on a high hill, we could see farm country for miles in all directions.

Owen Sound also has some great beaches (such as Cobble Beach) on the fantastic Georgian Bay waters, and nearby on Kelso Beach there was a festival going on, with visitors having the chance to get a ride on a hot air balloon. This was the first time I did this, and it was quite the experience (especially getting on and off the balloon). We did this with both kids!

One of the must-go places in the summer is the Grey Roots Museum and Archives. Amongst their many attractions, they have a great tiny model of Owen Sound in the 1800s.

You can see miniature horse drawn carriages and almost hear the sounds and cries of the times of Sherlock Holmes in this model.

During the time we went, they also had a castle exhibition, partnered with Legos. Lots of castle exhibits, and lots of Lego-built castles for everyone to see.

In addition, they also had play areas for kids where they could build their own castles with Lego (provided).

The museum also has a huge outdoor heritage village exhibit. This is where they have a whole village with the original buildings etc. from the 1800s. You can walk through this exhibit and there are folks there (dressed in period costumes) who explain how Irish refugees and settlers made Owen Sound home. You see a tiny cottage and marvel that a family of 10 used to sleep there.

There was a huge building that I thought was the church, but it was the village school. I was surprised to learn that there was only one instructor here, but each classroom had kids from ten grades learning at ones. Yes, ten! The teacher would seat the students in rows so the first row was all grade 1, the next grade 2, and so on. Then he or she would proceed down the rows and oversee the work and all the students. It was very much like the village in Back To The Future 3.  The kids really enjoyed this museum.

One final waterfall (and hike) we saw was the Weaver's Creek Falls.

This waterfall has two lookout points. The first can be accessed by kids, but the second one, which I didn't go to, is the one where most people choose to go to. It's a steep walk (almost a climb) down the cliff (about 20-30 meters) and you can get right at the base of the waterfall for some fantastic pictures.

Overall, Owen Sound is a good place for a day trip and overnight stay. When you go with young kids you are slightly restricted in what outdoor activities you can do, but if you plan your trip it can be fun for everyone involved.