The variety of habitats in Pinery help make the park a unique place. The protection of these habitats is just one example of how Ontario Parks helps to preserve Ontario's ecological diversity through its system of provincial parks. One of the unique habitats in Pinery is the Old Ausable River Channel.
The Old Ausable Channel possesses all of the qualities that once characterized the watersheds of Southwestern Ontario. Today, clean, clear water still flows through this channel.
The First Ausable River Cut - Port Franks
A major influence on the water quality of the Old Ausable Channel was the development of agriculture outside of the park boundaries. In 1876, as the need for prime agricultural land increased, farmers began draining the nearby Lakes Burwell and George. This was accomplished by cutting a channel, just south of the park, from the mouth of the river to another section of the Ausable River, through Lake Burwell. Sand deposited as a result of the "cut" and quickly destroyed the Port Franks harbour.
The Second Ausable River Cut - Grand Bend
In 1892, a 400-yard trench was dug to the north of the park to link Grand Bend to Lake Huron. This second cut created the harbour in Grand Bend, but reduced the discharge of water that flowed through the park. This diverted flow protects the Old Ausable Channel by diverting the agricultural run-off and pollutants away from the channel, directly into Lake Huron.
Narrow Watershed Area
The second major influence on the water quality of the Old Ausable Channel is the topography of the park. On the East side of the park, there is a ridge of dunes. The ridge and its underlying bedrock contain precipitation and ground water flow within the park. Another parallel ridge of freshwater dunes adjacent to the beach directs water flow into Lake Huron. The Old Ausable Channel is located between both of these ridges and the park's topography helps to funnel precipitation and groundwater into the channel.
Old Ausable Channel Springs
The third major influence on the quality of the Old Ausable Channel is the source of its water. Freshwater springs located beneath the river supply a clean source of water for the park. The cuts divert pollutants, the slope of the land stops pollutants from entering the park and the springs continually supply the river with clean water. The hydrology of the channel results in a unique aquatic ecosystem that boasts several rare fish species.
To explore the river, paddle a canoe along the water, hike the Riverside, Bittersweet, Hickory and Heritage Trails or bike along the river on the Bicycle Trail. More information about the river can be found in the numerous trail guides available at the head of each trail or for sale in The Friends of Pinery Nature Gift Shop .
In addition, during the summer months, park visitors may wish to join a Park Naturalist at an evening program, Ooze n' Gooze, or for one of our Canoe Hikes. All of these programs are part of our well-known Summer Interpretive Program.
School and youth groups may wish to learn more about Pinery's river by booking a program such as the Old Ausable Channel Aquatic Study or Canoe Excursion. This, and other programs, can be booked through our Group Education Program.