Wildlife, Carolinian Forest, Wetlands
The Twenty Mile Creek Valley eco-system contains rare species such as ancient cedars and old growth trees. It is one of the few remaining natural valley systems connecting the Niagara Escarpment to Lake Ontario. The ancient forests of jack and white pine in the valley system had turned to hardwood forests by the time European settlers came to the Twenty Mile Creek. Early historical surveys of Louth Township reveal that much of the forest cover was pine and oak, with walnut as another dominant species.
Provincial Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI)
Today, the Twenty Valley’s Carolinian forest is a Provincial Life Science ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest), and its once active harbour is a provincially significant wetland, as designated by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Ball’s Falls Conservation Area strides the junction of two dominant landscape features—the Twenty Mile Creek valley and the Niagara Escarpment. The deeply incised gorge and two spectacular waterfalls—the upper and lower falls—reveal evidence of several phases of dynamic gorge cutting and various forms of waterfalls, altered through numerous landslides over the decades. The Twenty Mile Creek gorge is the second largest escarpment cut in the Niagara Peninsula, second only to the Niagara Gorge. The lower falls is designated an Earth Science ANSI and reveals many of the rock strata making up the Niagara Escarpment.
- Plant species — Ball’s Falls Conservation Area is home to 471 species of vascular plants including Wild Sarsaparilla, Green and White Trilliums, Wild Ginger, Wild Geranium, Virginia Bluebells, Canada Yew, Arrowhead, Wild Leak, Asparagus, Wild Yam, Red Mulberry, Wild Columbine, Canada Anemone, Chokecherry, Virginian Creeper, St. John’s Wort.
- Tree species — Ball’s Falls lies within what is known as the deciduous forest zone. Hardwoods mixed with coniferous trees predominately characterize this area. Species include Eastern Cotton Wood, Butternut, Black Walnut, Shagbark, Hickory, White Oak, Tulip Tree and Slippery Elm.
- Animal species — Ball’s Falls is a provincially significant warm water fishery. Twenty Mile Creek has a variety of species such as Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch, Grass Pickerel, Rock Bass, Green Sunfish, Creek Chub and Pumpkinseed. Within the Ball’s Falls area there is also a presence of wildlife including birds and waterfowl such as Eastern Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, House Sparrows, Cardinals, Mallards, and Killdeer to mention a few.
- Rare species — Ball’s Falls is a habitat for rare tree species including Sycamore, Sassafras and Pignut Hickory.
The Cataract Trail
The Cataract Trail runs along the path of the Twenty Mile Creek, a waterway that once powered the milling operations at Glen Elgin. Featuring both the upper and lower falls, the trail takes you on an experience from the rock formations of the Niagara Escarpment to the restored buildings of the once active 19th Century hamlet.
When visiting late June and early July, expect to see plenty of patches of raspberries on the way back from the upper falls; they are a tasty reason to visit the trail while the falls are dry. Bring your hiking boots in the fall and spring to the trail to appreciate the beauty and power of the upper and lower falls.
Nature enthusiasts may catch a glimpse of the many migratory and nesting birds, reptiles, and other animals that can be found in the Ball’s Falls Conservation Area. The Cataract Trail will also connect you with the Bruce Trail and the Twenty Valley Trail for a longer hiking option. Mid-way through the Cataract Trail, there is an option to detour on the Forest Frolic Trail.