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Old Man's Creek Reserve Profile Size: 187 .6 hectares 
Shoreline: 1,219 metres on Old Man's Creek

Habitat features: 

  • 3 waterfalls

  • mature forest

  • wetlands

  • significant fish habitat

  • deer wintering grounds

  • groundwater discharge and recharge sites

  • ephemeral streams


Over 70 plant species and 15 animal species have been identified, including three species at risk. 

The trails here were very carefully designed and built to welcome people like you to enjoy nature without accidentally harming nature. To keep the plants and animals thriving, we respectfully request that you stay on trails, keep pets on leashes, and take all waste with you when you leave. Some plants and sensitive soils can be easily harmed by footsteps or by being picked. Some animals will move out if people or pets come too close to their homes. By staying on trails, you and your pet will stay safe too. Off trail there may be porcupines and poison ivy, among other more serious hazards.


If you walk quietly, you may see or hear Wood Thrush, white-tailed deer, and Belted Kingfisher. And if you are observant, you may see old man's beard lichen hanging from some trees. Watch for the signs along the way to get more information on these and some of the other animals, plants, and habitat features you may encounter. 

  1. Take only pictures and leave only footprints.

  2. Stay on the trails.

Click on one of our four trail names to be taken to descriptions of some sights you'll find along each trail. Numbered dots can also be clicked on and reflect sign locations on the trails. Our online trail guide includes information to supplement these signs.

Come back again to see updated trail information and distances.

Highland Trail

Highland Trail

Black Knot

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Photo by Brianne Sing

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Black knot (Apiosporina morbosa) is a fungal disease that causes brown/black swelling on the stems of plum and cherry trees. 


Once established, black knot is identifiable by its hard, uneven, black galls that enwrap twigs and branches.


In its early stages the disease appears as a small, light-brown swelling usually found on the young stems on the tree. As the knot matures, the swelling turns olive green with a velvety texture. The growth will then look like an elongated black knot on the tree.

Trees that are commonly affected:

  • Wild Plum (Prunus Americana)

  • Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)

  • Pin Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)

  • Trees from the genus Prunus


Spores are released following periods of warm, wet weather and are spread by heavy rainfall, wind, birds, and insects. The spores germinate on stems beneath a thin layer of moisture, often at the point of a new leaf start.

Black knot causes reduced growth of the tree and deformations on branches. The tree usually does not die from the disease but can become stunted. The tree is also stressed by this fungal disease and as a result it is increasingly vulnerable to pests and other diseases.



Planet Natural. (2020). Black Knot Disease: Symptoms, Treatment and Control. Retrieved March 9, 2020, from

Strathcona County. (2019, May 13). Black knot. Retrieved March 9, 2020, from   

Black Knot

Glacial Erratics: Ice Age Dropouts

What are glacial erratics?

Glacial erratics are rocks, ranging in size from pebbles to boulders, that are transported by glaciers and dropped in locations where they do not belong when the glaciers melt and retreat. Glacial erratics differ from the local bedrock they are found on. The term erratic means deviating from the norm, which is a great description for glacial erratics. 

When rocks are displaced by glaciers, they are transported over long distances and are generally resistant to the shattering/grinding effects of glacial transport.


How are glacial erratics formed?

They are formed by glacial ice erosion. Erratics are moved along by glaciers and are eventually left miles from where they originated. 

The type of rock an erratic is depends on how it was originally formed. Igneous rocks form when magma or lava cool and solidify. Sedimentary rocks come from compressed and cemented sediments. Metamorphic rocks are formed from intense heat and pressure. 

How are erratics used in science?

They are indicators that mark the path of prehistoric glacier movement. Their origins can be traced back to their parent bedrock (what the erratic is made of), allowing us to determine the complete ice flow route. 

Erratics are also tourist attractions, which can help boost local economies and teach visitors about ice ages.


Wisconsin Glaciation

The erratics within the Magnetawan watershed are from the most recent glacial period called the Wisconsin glaciation. The Wisconsin Ice age occurred from 75,000 to 11,000 years ago, covering most of North America and Russia with ice. 

Glaciers are able to radically change the geography of the land they are moving on. Parts of land that are dislodged by moving glaciers are what we now see as erratics.

Once the glaciers melted and retreated, not only were erratics deposited, but, due to the eroding effects of the glaciers, the Great Lakes were formed as well. Low areas of land and increased erosion from glaciers created the Great Lakes, which caught and retained much of the fresh water from the melting glaciers.


Li, J., & Zhang, L. (2019, November 4). Glacial Erratics. Retrieved March 9, 2020, from

Wikipedia. (2020, February 25). Wisconsin glaciation. Retrieved March 13, 2020, from


Photo by Brianne Sing

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Glacial Erratics: Ice Age Dropouts

Cube Rot


Photo by Brianne Sing


Photo by Brianne Sing

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Photo by Brianne Sing

White Rot

There are two different types of Cube Rot that occur in Ontario, the White Rot and the Brown Rot. These diseases are caused by fungus occurring in three different stages. The first stage is the decay stage, also known as the incipient decay stage, in which the tree is starting to break down its cell walls and the tree loses a little bit of strength. The second stage is the intermediate decay stage, in which the wood begins to discolour and lose more strength. The third stage is the advanced decay stage, when all the tree's cell structure and strength is gone. 

Brown Rot / Cube Rot

Cube Rot is also known as Brown Rot. This disease is found in trees affected by a fungus called Basidiomycotina. This tree in the image is an example of Cube Rot/Brown Rot almost in its last stages of decay (advanced decay). There are three different stages, as explained above. Brown Rot is commonly found in coniferous tree species.

Brown Rot breaks down the cellulose and hemicellulose, while leaving the cell structure intact. After the tree has been attacked by this fungus the tree is left weak and dark brown because of the lack of cellulose left in the tree and the diminished oxidation process occurring in the tree. As a result of this, the tree will start to dry and show decay happening by breaking down the wood into cubes. Brown Rot is more serious than White Rot because it reduces a tree’s flexibility, making it susceptible to falling in strong winds.



Wood Decay, Forest Pathology. (2020). Wood Decay. Retrieved 03 12, 2020, from Wood Decay | Forest Pathology:

Cube Rot

Tree Age


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Tree age can be determined using a variety of methods, depending on the condition of the tree and whether it is standing or a stump. When forest inventories are needed, tree age can be an important factor for determining forest health and which trees are prime wildlife habitat and which are okay to harvest. A borer, such as the one pictured here, is commonly used to extract a sample of a standing tree’s core so the growth lines can be counted to determine the tree’s age. 


When looking at a stump, a lot of information about the tree’s history can be seen. Each line, or growth ring, represents a year that the tree was alive. Some lines may be closer together than others, which can tell us a lot about what happened that year. For example, they can tell us how the tree was growing, if a year had only a little amount of rain, or even where an injury to the tree occurred. Growth rings that are far apart from each other represent years in which the tree had the most success growing. 


If you would like to figure out the age of your own living tree, please use the link below for a detailed, step-by-step process of how to determine its approximate age.


Tree age lines can also indicate peculiarities in how a tree has grown. For example, the image on the right shows a cross section of an oak tree that grew at an angle. This can be determined because the growth rings are tightly spaced together on one side of the tree but are far apart on the other side. 



Do Tree Rings Really Indicate Age? (2018, July 5). Retrieved March 13, 2020, from

Harvey, I. (2018, September 10). Tree Rings are Used to Accurately Date Cataclysmic Prehistoric Events. Retrieved March 13, 2020, from

Meditation Area

Meditation Area

Importance of Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku)

Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest. Sit down, relax, and contemplate in this peaceful meditation area. Conclude your relaxation by giving thanks for the natural beauty that surrounds us and make a commitment to perform an act of stewardship to protect it.

Meditation and forest bathing areas are important for many reasons, including:

  1. Reducing stress

  2. Improving your mood

  3. Encouraging creativity

  4. Boosting your immune system

  5. Reducing high blood pressure

  6. Accelerating recovery

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Photo by Brianne Sing

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Photo by Brianne Sing

Portage Trail

Portage Trail
Second Waterfal and Deer Run

Second Waterfall and Deer Run

Waterfalls contribute to healthy river systems and support the growth of trees and plants along the riverbanks. The flow of nutrients can have a positive effect on the surrounding habitat. In particular, they add to the diversity of life in and around a river. Some species, such as the polypody fern, may live only in the moist environment close to a waterfall.

Falling water also helps to break down waste into nutrients, which can help streambank plants grow. 

Waterfalls also add oxygen to the water. The increased oxygen concentrations downstream are particularly important for the development of fish and aquatic insect eggs. 

Different conditions exist immediately above and below a waterfall. Each will contain different organisms. Sediment gets swept away and oxygen levels are lower above a waterfall than below. Some species, such as the caddisfly, are adapted to the rocky terrain and high-water flow above a waterfall. Immediately below a waterfall there is a higher sediment load and a greater concentration of oxygen. Here you will find organisms like crayfish and mayfly larvae. 

Plants near waterfalls can affect the health of the waterfalls and water ecosystems through woody debris, cooler temperatures, and improvements to water chemistry. Woody debris provides habitat for many species and food for small aquatic insects, which can break down the cellulose into food. Shade from shoreline trees and shrubs also keeps the water cooler.

During the winter season, when much of the stream has frozen over, this area can provide a crossover point for many animal species within the area, particularly deer, while at the same time providing an opening in the ice for otters.




Why WaterFalls Are Important. (2019, December 3). Retrieved March 12, 2020, from


Photo by Sarah Fleming

Wetlands and Seeps

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In 1990 there were approximately 49.9 million acres of wetlands in Canada. Since then we have lost approximately 20 million acres of those wetlands due to development and destruction. Because of these extreme losses, the need for wetland conservation and management has become critical. 

In order to better protect wetlands in our province, the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES) was developed. The OWES enables certified professionals to classify the importance of individual wetlands, with ‘provincially significant’ wetlands being granted protection. 

Once the boundary of a wetland has been determined, a suite of variables is measured, including the presence of specific plant and animal species, the hydrology of the area, soil type, as well as social values, and other special features. 

One characteristic of wetlands, especially riparian (riverbank) wetlands, are groundwater seeps. These are natural occurrences wherein rainwater soaks into the soil until it is saturated and then the excess water flows downhill through the soil. Here and there the water reaches the surface to form muddy areas, puddles, and even small flows of water. These groundwater seeps are excellent indicators of wetlands and provide an ideal habitat for animals, such as frogs and salamanders, to live and lay their eggs. The water coming from seeps is often orange in colour because nutrients, such as iron, phosphorus, and nitrogen, are leaching from the soil.  

There is a study being done in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to assess groundwater seeps to evaluate their influence on river and stream water quality relating to issues with contamination. In the study, seeps have been evaluated to determine if they should be protected as part of the Clean Water Act.



Kraus, D. (2019). A world without wetlands. Retrieved March 13, 2020, from

New Zealand Government. (2019). Groundwater or seepage - Retrieved March 13, 2020, from

O’Driscoll, M., DeWalle, D., Humphrey, C., & Iverson, G. (2019, May 7). Groundwater Seeps: Portholes to Evaluate Groundwater's Influence on Stream Water Quality. Retrieved March 13, 2020, from

Wetlands and Seeps
Ephemeral Stream

Ephemeral Stream

The word intermittent best describes ephemeral streams, which are streams, or portions of streams, that flow only for a short time in response to rainfall or snow melt in their immediate vicinity. They are easy to spot when flowing, but when they are dry you have to direct your eyes to the ground and look for trails of leaves on the forest floor that are darker than their surroundings. This is a sign of an ephemeral stream when it is not running. They are not fed by groundwater, only by rainfall and snowmelt. Given that these streams lack permanent sources of water, they experience extreme and rapid changes in flow which can affect their surrounding habitat.

Ephemeral stream channels are often the smallest in the watershed, but they can have a big effect on watershed health. They are important sources of sediment, water, nutrients, debris, and organic matter that enrich downstream habitats for many species with specific environmental needs. 


Ephemeral streams and ponds are particularly important to salamander populations. Salamander eggs need gradual warming for proper development. The gradual drying and warming of ephemeral streams provides this environment. They also provide safety, due to a lack of predatory fish and other creatures in these temporary environments. 


When damaged by chemical, biological, or physical means, the effects of this damage flow downstream, affecting other parts of the watershed. 



The Ecological and Hydrological Significance of Ephemeral Streams. (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2020, from

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The Hemlock Forest: Nature’s Air Conditioner

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Photo by Kristen Callow

Hemlock forests play a critical role in the environment by providing a habitat for many animals, both terrestrial and aquatic. To identify a hemlock tree, look for bark that is flaky and needles that are the length of your finger width. Typically, hemlock trees are found in the Canadian Shield, as they thrive in more acidic soil and are well suited to growing in rocky outcroppings and bluffs.  

The dense shade created by the eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) can create its own microclimate of cool, moist air. The ground stays cooler under hemlock trees, the snow takes longer to melt, and springtime ponds and streams take longer to dry out. This leads to cooler stream temperatures that are suitable for trout, which have a preference for water temperatures ranging from 7-17°C. 

Along with other types of riparian vegetation (plants that grow along riverbanks), the hemlock tree’s roots help stabilize riverbanks by preventing erosion. This is done by root systems that provide a lot of structure to the soil, thus strengthening it. Hemlock trees can also help mitigate flooding by absorbing significant amounts of water during spring melts and peak flooding seasons. They also help filter water as it seeps into streams.


You Know Tree Roots Prevent Soil Erosion. (2018, July 5). Retrieved from


Part of Fly Fishing For Dummies Cheat Sheet. (n.d.). Optimum Water Temperatures for Fly Fishing. Retrieved March 13, 2020, from


The Importance of Hemlocks. (2017). Retrieved March 13, 2020, from

Hemlock Forest

Waterfall Trail & Watermill Trail

Water Fall Trail & Watermill Trail


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Photo by Sarah Fleming

The Old Man's Creek waterfall has a calming influence on the mind and a positive effect on the local environment. 

The turbulent water adds oxygen to the creek and helps to purify it. Fish and other aquatic organisms thrive in these 
oxygen-rich waters.

The mist and splashing water add dampness to the nearby land,  encouraging unique species of plants to thrive here. 

  • Old Man's Beard lichen

  • Royal fern

  • Polypody fern

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