Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

NOTE NEW DATE: Fall colours hike in Shaw Woods


“Along the lines of smoky hills there will be a crimson forest stand, and no doubt the blue jay will call throughout the woodlands. It is possible we may see a crimson maple leaning over a brook, and of course the sumacs on the hillsides will have turned red from their summer green. There may be a mist over a marsh, but there’s no river nearby. The birds will be collecting to fly southward as we quietly walk this autumn day.”  ~With thanks to Wilfred Campbell

Please join me, and others as we re-visit this woodland at a different time of year. This time we’ll walk the trails from finish to start, to see what it looks like going the OTHER way!!   If you weren’t with us in the spring, please come along for an enjoyable day out!

Details: Allan Goddard will be our guide hiking the trails of Shaw Woods. We will walk for about an hour, before a break for a bagged lunch, and then continue after lunch for an additional hour. The hike will go along Johnny’s Lookout and the Old Growth Loop. Lunch will be at the Pine Pavilion. Level of difficulty: Old Growth Loop: easy; Johnny’s Lookout: moderate. Arrival back in Almonte should be between 3:30 and 4 pm.

Shaw Woods is located at 2065 Bulger Road, North Algona Wilberforce Township. See details at

Car-pooling: From Almonte area: meet at the Almonte Arena (160 Bridge St.) parking lot at 9:15 am. for departure at 9:30 am. From Pakenham area: departure from Pakenham Public School at approximately 9:40 am.

Bring: binoculars, field guides, hat, sunglasses, insect repellent, sun protection, lunch and water.

NOTE: Entry to Shaw Woods is free, but there are donation boxes for those who wish to contribute.

Registration: You must pre-register for this event. To register, please email Gretta Bradley at  and provide the following information:

1. Names of participants and where you intend to meet the group (Almonte or Pakenham).

2. If you plan to meet the group at a different location, please indicate the place and time. It must be a clearly identifiable, safe location for meeting.

The event will go ahead rain or shine. Please dress appropriately. Should cancellation be necessary, registrants will be contacted by email. If in doubt call 613-256-4202 before 9 am the day of the outing to confirm.



Continue reading...

MVFN enjoys hike to Shaw Woods, a gem of a woodland

On May 28th a group of MVFN members took part in a morning visit to Shaw Woods, hiking around some of the trails and having lunch there. Below is an account of the day by trip leader Allan Goddard, and following the account, some of the excellent  photos, taken during the visit by Howard Robinson. Also included is a list, provided by Mary Robinson, of all the birds seen or heard during the visit.

NOTE: Shaw Woods is off Hwy 9 near Eganville and Golden Lake, about an hour or so drive from the Almonte area. For directions and other details, visit the Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre website at 

MVFN Shaw Woods Hike Spring 2016

I don’t recall that any one of us had been to this gem of a woodland.  Our first hike was into the old growth forest, and we were in awe as to what we had entered. Huge towering trees, sugar maples, eastern hemlock, American beech, created a cathedral -like canopy over our heads, and under – canopy trees and shrubs such as striped maple, Canada yew, and various species of dogwood, and of course the many ferns and mosses at eye level as we meandered along the trail. It was quiet. The silence being beautifully interrupted by the musical voices of the wood thrush, veerie, hermit thrush, ovenbird, red eyed vireo, various warblers, and even the robin. We were in THEIR element. And on what was a muggy buggy day elsewhere, we were in a different world.

After Grant had shown us the eagles’ eerie which was plainly in view from the roadside, and after we all lined the road shoulder to view it and take many photos of this year’s family, we lunched at the shelter and boardroom table of the center, all the while being entertained by a red squirrel, which was clearly intent on a luncheon with us. He or she was not disappointed! Grant also stayed with us and answered queries about this and that, and then very much needed to get to his greenhouse to water crops in need!

Our second hike took us on to an upland trail, more open, sunny and crispy dry. Fire wouldn’t have waited a second. This trail was very different in vegetation with a mixed, open forest canopy typical of granite uplands, with plenty of ironwood, chokecherry, shrub juniper, and numerous lower shrub species. Birds were quiet –it was hot. It was much more of an up-and-down trail and when we arrived back to the lake on the loop, we could see the eagles again, and briefly watched them for a bit. Also saw the fringed polygala, a beautiful and small pink spring flower typical of this forest, which very much had a boreal character at times.

Haven’t been there?  Strongly suggested. Grant and his supporters have created a very special place. We all agreed that a fall hike would be another enjoyable outing.

 Allan Goddard

Admiring a yellow birch. Photo Howard Robinson

Admiring a yellow birch. Photo Howard Robinson

Group of twelve assemble and talk before walk. photo Howard Robinson

Group of twelve assemble and talk before walk. photo Howard Robinson


Nesting Bald Eagle. photo Howard Robinson

Nesting Bald Eagle. photo Howard Robinson


Fringed Polygala. photo Howard Robinson

Fringed Polygala. photo Howard Robinson

Eastern red-backed salamander. photo Howard Robinsion

Eastern red-backed salamander. photo Howard Robinsion

Check out these dragonfly exuviae. photo Howard Robinson

Check out these dragonfly exuviae. photo Howard Robinson


List of Birds during Shaw Woods Hike 2016, compiled by Mary Robinson

  1.  American Woodcock
  2. Ovenbird
  3. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  4. Wood Thrush
  5. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  6. American Redstart
  7. Pileated Woodpecker
  8. Red-eyed Vireo
  9. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  10. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  11. Blue Jay
  12. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  13. Veery
  14. Great Crested Flycatcher
  15. Hermit Thrush
  16. Black-capped Chickadee
  17. Bald Eagle
  18. Pine Warbler
  19. American Robin
Continue reading...

Exploring the remarkable Shaw Woods

by Cheryl Morris

On March 17, 2016, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists will once again host a presentation describing a uniquely special place in our natural world. This will be the sixth event of the current season and will take place in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte Ontario at 7:30 pm.

The guest speaker for the evening will be Grant Dobson and his presentation is entitled “Shaw Woods: A Diverse Ecological Gem.”  Grant is the Chair of Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre.

The Woods first opened to the public in the 1970’s. More recently, it has become a not-for-profit charitable organization involving local volunteers including Mr. Dobson. Together they have expanded the 13-kilometre trail network, built boardwalks over sensitive areas and developed a self-guided interpretive program. A lookout perches high above Shaw Pond along the Dore Scarp. In his own words Grant describes this exceptional venture thus: “The mandate of the Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre is to foster an ethic of responsible environmental stewardship and sustainable forestry management through experiential education aimed at school-age children and the public at large. . . Shaw Woods is indeed a ‘Special Place’. Within these woods you will find one of eastern Canada’s premier examples of an old-growth maple/beech/hemlock forest. It supports a wide variety of ecological communities and has been carefully protected for generations. In addition, the property features a variety of managed forests, plantations, and wetlands.” Some of the trees in the forest are over 200 years of age!

This magnificent forested area near Lake Dore is named for the Shaw family that has lived here for many years. It spans some 124 acres of old-growth forest as well as 395 acres of wetlands and mixed forests. In 1847, John Shaw, a Scottish miller, and his wife Barbara Thompson arrived with their 2-year old son, having canoed from Bytown (the former name for Ottawa). They built a dam on the Snake River and developed a three-story grist mill to serve the early settlers who would often walk up to 12 miles carrying a 66-pound bag of grain on their back. By nightfall they would be able to return home carrying a sack of flour. For thousands of years before that, people of the Algonquin nation inhabited the shores of Lake Dore and traveled along the Snake River to the Ottawa River watershed. They accessed the wetlands in search of food—animals that could be hunted and plants that could be gathered. Plants such as the American elder were also sources of vital medicine.

The presentation, featuring examples of Grant’s stunning photography, will examine the physical environment of Shaw Woods, from the Paleozoic era to the present, as well as the range of flora and fauna which has evolved there. The 240 hectare property includes a great diversity of biological communities and is the perfect outdoor classroom for inquiry-based learning programs developed on site. In his words, Grant will “highlight some of the recent drivers of change in the forest environment, a citizen science initiative developed to track some of these changes, and the importance of small steps when it comes to environmental stewardship.”

Please join us for this fascinating presentation. Refreshments and discussion will follow the talk. There is a non-member fee of $5. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at

Continue reading...