Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley
Mississippi River at Pakenham

Field Trips

Did ‘geo’ hear about the recent geoheritage tour?

WHEN?  Saturday, June 13, 2015

 WHO?   Twenty-five Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) members,  led by Dr. Allan Donaldson, Professor Emeritus, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University. 

photo Neil Carleton

MVFN members arrived at Metcalfe Geoheritage Park in Almonte by car, on foot, and on their bicycles.

WHAT ?   This was a full day geoheritage tour to examine and reflect on the geoheritage of our area.


Ordovician Sea Bottom (1024x682)

 In this postcard image (an artist’s interpretation of our local environment during the lower Ordovician period) one can see that about 470 million years ago a tropical ocean teeming with marine life covered our region.

Geoheritage Tour 9 June 13 2015 (732x1024)

The fossil remains of ancient Ordovician sea life can be seen in the area’s limestone bedrock.

Geoheritage Tour 3 June 13 2015 (1024x768)

WHERE? Metcalfe Geoheritage Park & two additional sites: The group gathered at this very picturesque location in Almonte: Canada’s first municipal geoheritage park; this park is new and nearing completion.

Geoheritage Tour 5 June 13 2015 (1024x768)

Geoheritage Tour 10 June 13 2015 (1024x767)

The local metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous rocks on display at Metcalfe Geoheritage Park in Almonte tell a story of towering mountains, ocean depths, colliding continents, and a landscape locked in ice over the past 1.2 billion years.

The group continued the tour after lunch, traveling via car-pool to two additional sites of interest.

Geoheritage Tour 6 June 13 2015 (1024x768)

The ancient geology of the Canadian Shield in the Carp area was examined at the 2nd tour site.

Geoheritage Tour 7 June 13 2015 (1024x768)

At the third site, the glacially sculpted contours and fossils of recently exposed limestone bedrock invited close inspection.

NOTE: Photos and [most] text by MVFN founding and current member Neil Carleton






Nature photography hike along Rock Dunder trail

Date: Saturday, June 27, 2015

This photography hike along the Rock Dunder trail within the Frontenac Arch Biosphere will be led by Simon Lunn, naturalist, landscape/wildlife photographer and recently-retired Parks Canada ecosystem scientist for the Rideau Canal. Simon will provide photography tips throughout the day. He will also interpret some of the natural and cultural history of Rock Dunder and the Rideau Canal & Waterway during the hike. Rock Dunder is a highly recommended Eastern Ontario hiking destination.

Location: Our destination is the 4 km Rock Dunder loop trail within the Frontenac Arch Biosphere near Elgin and the small hamlet of Morton. The trail meanders through woods adjacent to Morton Bay, a fascinating Precambrian shield landscape featuring one of the most dramatic views overlooking a particularly scenic portion of the Rideau Canal Waterway.  Access is free of charge, though on-site donations are always appreciated by the Rideau Waterway Land Trust who own and manage this significant ANSI-designated property. Parking is available at the on-site trailhead.

Carpooling: Meet at the Esso station, Almonte St./Hwy 29 in Almonte for 9 am departure. Arrival at the Rock Dunder parking lot is anticipated by 10:30 am. Our event leader, Simon Lunn, will meet us there.

Driving directions:  The suggested driving route is to follow Hwy 29 south to Carleton Place, take Hwy 15 south through Smiths Falls, Portland, Elgin and the small hamlet of Morton. Just south of Morton (approx. 1/2 km), you will see a sign on the right for Stanley Lash Lane. Turn right & proceed up Stanley Lash lane for several hundred metres to the parking lot on the left. Approximate map coordinates for laneway access are lat 44.532984 degrees long -76.199218 degrees. IMPORTANT NOTE: do not turn right into the private residential property located on the right partway up the lane.

Trail Difficulty & Conditions: Participants should be in good health. Be prepared for a half-day hike along a trail that is mostly of moderate difficulty. There is a short (roughly 100 m) steeper section to reach the Rock Dunder plateau & viewpoint.

Bring: sturdy hiking boots or shoes, a packed lunch, water, a camera, sunscreen, & mosquito repellant (just in case). We will eat  lunch at the top of Rock Dunder. A walking stick or pole, hat, and binoculars can also be useful.

You must pre-register for this event. To register, please contact Chris Baburek at   Chris has kindly agreed to take care of registrations on behalf of Gretta Bradley, for this event.  Please remember to give your name and the event you wish to attend.

Geoheritage Tour with Allan Donaldson

This full day geology tour for MVFN members and friends will be led by Dr. Allan Donaldson. The tour will start at the outdoor display of rock specimens at Almonte’s Metcalfe Geoheritage Park. We will spend the morning there discussing the rocks on display, as well as a suite of additional hand specimens of rocks and fossils representative of local geology.

After lunch (from approx. 11:45 am – 1 pm), the tour will continue with an afternoon drive and visits to outcrops of both Precambrian bedrock and fossil-bearing Paleozoic strata.

Date: Saturday, June 13, 2015

Time: 9:30 am

Location: Meet at the parking lot, Metcalfe Geoheritage Park, Almonte St. (South of Mill St.) in Almonte. In the afternoon we will be going to two other sites, with a return to Almonte at approximately 4:30 pm. Please arrange to car pool to minimize the number of vehicles for travel in the afternoon.

Bring: lunch, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug repellant, and hiking boots (the afternoon sites are on open but uneven rocky areas free of brush and boggy areas, so wear hiking boots rather than rubber boots). We will be observing rather than collecting, so also consider bringing a hand lens and camera.

You must pre-register for this event:  please contact Gretta Bradley at  or 613-256-4202.  Please remember to give your name and the event/s you are registering for.

NOTE: Our geoheritage tour leader,  Dr.Allan Donaldson (B.Sc. Geol. Eng., Queen’s; Ph.D. Sedimentology, Johns Hopkins), spent 10 years as a Research Scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada investigating Precambrian strata in Canada’s  northern Territories. He then joined Carleton University’s Department of Geology, where he taught for 30 years and during this time he and his graduate students continued research work in the north. Soon after retiring in 1996, Allan founded the Ottawa-Gatineau Geoheritage Initiative, an organization devoted to advancing public appreciation of the underpinnings of the landscape: via talks, field excursions and networking with other nature-based groups. In the past, Allan has led several other geology tours for MVFN.

MVFN Burnt Lands Alvar Tour

Ken Allison will lead a tour for MVFN members and friends; a spring tour of Burnt Lands Alvar, on Saturday morning, May 30, 2015.

We will spend the morning searching for the special plants that thrive in this habitat, such as Fringed Polygala, Seneca Snakeroot and New Jersey Tea. Hopefully, some of the lady’s-slippers will be in bloom. We will also be looking at any birds and butterflies that are present.

We will be looking at alvar woodland, alvar meadows, alvar wetland, and the regenerating burn site to see a variety of different habitats.

Date: Saturday, May 30, 2015

Time: Meet at location at 7:30 a.m.

Location:  Meet along Golden Line Road beside Burnt Lands Alvar Provincial Park area (marked by signs on the fence) at 7:30 a.m. There is roadside parking.

Bring:  mosquito repellent, binoculars and a camera. Rubber boots are strongly recommended as parts of the alvar can be flooded a few inches deep early in the year and there are patches of poison ivy.

NOTE: You must pre-register for this event. 

To register, please contact Gretta Bradley at  or 613-256-4202.  Please remember to give your name and the event/s you are registering for.

NOTE: If you wish to become an MVFN member or renew, please complete a Membership Form. Memberships dues are very reasonable and include all MVFN events and lectures, as well as supporting MVFN’s many  local conservation and education initiatives.

Photos below are from a May 2009 Burnt Lands Alvar Tour led by Paul Catling (orange shirt). In spite of the nearly constant rain that day, the wonder of the alvar in springtime kept everyone so mesmerized that no one noticed the rain!

May 2009-1 Alvar Walk. photo Pauline Donaldson

May 2009-1 Alvar Walk. photo Pauline Donaldson

May 2009-2 Alvar Walk led by Paul Catling (orange shirt). Photo Pauline Donaldson

May 2009-2 Alvar Walk led by Paul Catling (orange shirt). Photo Pauline Donaldson

May 2009-3 Alvar Walk. Photo Pauline Donaldson

May 2009-3 Alvar Walk. Photo Pauline Donaldson

Field naturalists enjoy nature outing in Pakenham wilderness

Saturday, February 7th was a perfect winter day for a large group of members from the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) enjoying the club’s annual winter outing.  With medium-cold temperatures and softly falling snow, the group wandered a trail in a deeply wooded area of the Pakenham uplands, enjoying the solitude, searching for animal tracks and listening for bird sounds.

The trek ended at the camp of noted conservationist Gerry Lee, who graciously hosted the group and provided a warm interior around a wood fire and also a pot of delicious mulled cider. Lee then gave a learned dissertation on the trapping industry and how traps are studied and constructed to have the minimum negative effect on the welfare of the animals sought. In addressing a question about the trapper as a conservationist, Gerry pointed out that it is always in the trappers’ economic interest not to rid the area of entire populations. Trapping is regulated and controlled by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and all trappers must be licensed.

Gerry Lee, (far right) noted local conservationist, greets the MVFN group at his camp in the Pakenham highlands and explains the setting. Photo by Howard Robinson

Gerry Lee, (far right) noted local conservationist, greets the MVFN group at his camp in the Pakenham highlands and explains the setting. Photo by Howard Robinson


Outside, the group watched the bird activity at one of Gerry’s bird feeders and sought out eagles at a carcass feeding area on a rock across a stream from the cabin. Only one bald eagle was sighted but other birds at the feeders included over a dozen chickadees, both hairy and downy woodpeckers, white breasted nuthatches and blue jays. A ruffed grouse was seen earlier, budding in a tree along the trail.

MVFN President and local bird columnist Cliff Bennett (centre), leads the nature ramble group in identifying birds coming in to feed. Photo by Howard Robinson

MVFN President and local bird columnist Cliff Bennett (centre), leads the nature ramble group in identifying birds coming in to feed. Photo by Howard Robinson

Warm thanks were presented to the host Gerry Lee, noting especially his great humour and generous hospitality. Leader of the group was MVFN President Cliff Bennett, who announced that the next MVFN outing will be April 25 and the theme will be nature photography. For more information on MVFN membership and programming, go to the website at MVFN is a local naturalist group and member of the Ontario Nature Network.


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MVFN's natural history talks take place on 3rd Thursdays, Jan-April and Sept-November, at  Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte, ON. All welcome!

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