Essex Region Conservation owns or manages 19 publicly accessible properties totaling more than 1000 hectares (4000 acres) of land, as well as nearly 100 kilometers of trail. We protect some of the most important greenways, woodlands and wetlands in the Place for Life. As the most southern part of Canada, our region is home to rich Carolinian woodlands, lush cattail marshes, and unique prairie environments found in very few other Canadian settings. These natural areas provide habitat for a wide range of bird, plant and animal species.

Conservation Areas help people lead healthier lifestyles by providing places to be active while connecting with nature, which has proven mental, physical and spiritual health benefits. They also contribute to the local economy as tourist attractions, attracting visitors to our region to experience birding, hiking, cycling and swimming.

Conservation Areas


Andrew Murray O’Neil Woods

Address: 602 Mersea Road 5, Staples, ON N0P 2J0, Canada

Andrew Murray O’Neil Memorial Woods is a mixed Carolinian forest containing Oaks Hickories, Basswood, Pine, Elm and Black Walnut trees to name a few. This Conservation Area is a walking trail that combines a former section of rail way and an adjacent forest that makes for an enjoyable walk through a variety of habitats spot for swimming, sunbathing and relaxing. It is on Lake Erie at the mouth of Cedar Creek, and is a enjoyed by many fishermen. A leisurely canoe trip from Cedar Creek Conservation Area all the way to Cedar Beach takes about one hour and affords many spectacular views of wetlands, forests and wildlife along the way.

Amenities: none

Things to Do: cycling, bird-watching, hiking, photography, cross-country skiing

Back to the top of this list


Big Creek Conservation Area

Address: Big Creek, Amherstburg ON, Canada

Big Creek is located at the western tip of Lake Erie, only six kilometres from Holiday Beach. It is the largest wetland in the area and attracts masses of migrating birds as they cross the lake at its narrowest point. Big Creek Conservation Area and Holiday Beach were designated an Important Bird Area on September 16, 2000. The IBA designation recognizes the importance of Big Creek as an important natural area through which thousands of raptors migrate each fall. A wide variety of raptors and other birds can be seen in this area, particularly during the fall migration as they move south. As a shallow, wide expanse of water, Big Creek is also a popular place with waders such as herons and egrets.

There are no facilities specifically for Big Creek Conservation Area, but Holiday Beach Conservation Area is adjacent to Big Creek, where a 3 story viewing tower provides beautiful vistas. This is the location of our Heritage Forest site. A walking trail winds through the site, and signage is in place to identify how the program restores select tracts of land to a natural state while memorializing loved ones. People are respectfully requested to not mark trees, as the goal of the Heritage Forest is to become a true natural area. As well, marking tree can cause death or damage to the trees.

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Controlled waterfowl hunting is available in the fall.

Amenities: none

Things to Do: bird-watching, hiking, hunting, photography, cross-country skiing

Back to the top of this list


Cedar Beach Conservation Area

Address: 1031 Heritage Rd, Kingsville, ON N9Y 2E6, Canada

Cedar Beach is a popular sandy spot for swimming, sunbathing and relaxing. It is on Lake Erie at the mouth of Cedar Creek, and is a enjoyed by many fishermen. A leisurely canoe trip from Cedar Creek Conservation Area all the way to Cedar Beach takes about one hour and affords many spectacular views of wetlands, forests and wildlife along the way.

Amenities: washrooms

Things to Do: kayaking, fishing, photography, picnicking, swimming

Back to the top of this list


Cedar Creek Conservation Area

Address: Cedar Creek, Essex ON, N9Y 2E6, Canada

The Cedar Creek basin is probably the most significant, most extensive, and most beautiful natural area in the Place for Life. Experience the Carolinian woodlands, rolling landscapes, creeks, tributaries and abundant wildlife. Cedar Creek is a pristine natural area offering excellent bird watching opportunities.

Be inspired by the sight of eagles soaring, herons and egrets wading, and turtles sun worshiping on logs. View the provincially rare American Lotus, Swamp Rose Mallow and other superb flora and fauna. Canoeing or kayaking can be a great way to explore this Conservation Area. Launch from the dock and head upstream for a magical journey meandering through the trees and Carolinian foliage, or head downstream to enjoy the widening expanse of water as you approach Cedar Beach Conservation Area.

Controlled waterfowl hunting is permitted seasonally

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Amenities: washrooms

Things to Do: bird-watching, kayaking, fishing, hunting, photography, picnicking

Back to the top of this list


Devonwood Conservation Area

Address: Division Rd & Cabana Rd East, Windsor ON, Canada

It’s hard to believe this unique woodland is located in an urban centre! Enter this natural area and feel the stresses of life melting away. Located in the City of Windsor, Devonwood features more than 4.5 kilometres of trails promote healthy and active living for people of all ages. Perhaps no other woodland in Canada supports a greater diversity of oak trees: eight species of oak are found in this urban forest! Can you identify all eight? Stay alert as you walk the extensive trail system winding through this 38 hectare forest. You may also see Eastern Screech Owls, Long Eared Owls and Little Brown Bats.

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Amenities: none

Things to Do: cycling, bird-watching, hiking, photography, picnicking, cross-country skiing

Back to the top of this list


Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

Address: 1826 Mersea Rd 2, Leamington, ON N8H 3V7, Canada

With 5 kilometres of trails around this precious marshland habitat, Hillman Marsh is adjacent to Lake Erie and features walking trails, a nature centre, washrooms and viewing towers. A birding trail borders 87 acres of unique Shorebird Habitat where water levels are actively managed to create mudflats, providing outstanding viewing opportunities. These amenities are all accessed from the main entrance.

Witnessing migration activity at the Shorebird Celebration in May is one of the highlights in the Place for LIfe. The diverse habitats of Hillman Marsh attract and support marsh, shore and field birds such as herons, egrets, terns, songbirds and ducks as well as a nesting pair of Bald Eagles. Over one hundred species of birds use Hillman as a migration stopover which draws sandpipers, ducks, warblers and frequently spotted annual rarities such as the Yellow-headed Blackbird, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Eurasian Wigeon, Glossy Ibis and Eastern Kingbird.

The nature centre is open at limited times during the spring with excellent educational displays about flora and fauna typical to the area.

This is one of the Conservation Areas used to educate students from across the region about conserving our environment through ERCA’s Outdoor Education Program. Entry fee to Hillman Marsh Conservation Area is $6 per car payable at the self-serve entry gate to help offset the costs of conservation.

Controlled waterfowl hunting is permitted seasonally

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Amenities: washrooms

Things to Do: bird-watching, kayaking, fishing, hiking, hunting, photography, picnicking, cross-country skiing

Back to the top of this list


Holiday Beach Conservation Area

Address: 6952 50 Cr, Amherstburg, ON N0R 1G0, Canada

With 5 kilometres of trails around this precious marshland habitat, Hillman Marsh is adjacent to Lake Erie and features walking trails, a nature centre, washrooms and viewing towers. A birding trail borders 87 acres of unique Shorebird Habitat where water levels are actively managed to create mudflats, providing outstanding viewing opportunities. These amenities are all accessed from the main entrance.

Holiday Beach offers a long sandy beach on the Lake Erie shoreline, plus many other amenities. It is ideal for a day at the beach, a beautiful picnic, or a vacation getaway.  Holiday Beach Conservation Area has serviced seasonal campsites, a stunning rental cottage, new showers and washrooms, large shady picnic areas, a playground, nature trails, a boardwalk, and a three storey observation tower. It is also one of the sites at which Conservation Education Field Studies are conducted.

Entry cost is $10/car collected by a credit-card friendly automated gate. The park is open for day use from 6am – 8pm daily, from mid-April – Thanksgiving annually.

Holiday Beach and Big Creek Conservation Areas received international recognition in 2000 as a globally significant Important Bird Area (IBA), joining BirdLife International’s global network of IBA sites. The designation is as a result of the significance of the area for raptor migration and as a known breeding area for Prothonotary Warblers (a nationally endangered species). Visit the world renowned Festival of Hawks each September to witness the migration celebration as thousands of hawks, vultures, eagles, falcons and other birds of prey concentrate in the area before heading across the Detroit River towards warmer, more southerly destinations for the winter.

Controlled waterfowl hunting is permitted seasonally

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Amenities: washrooms

Things to Do: cycling, bird-watching, kayaking, fishing, hiking, hunting, photography, picnicking, swimming, cross-country skiing

Back to the top of this list


The John R. Park Homestead

Address: 915 Essex County Rd 50, Essex, ON N0R 1G0, Canada

A visit to the John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area will take you back in time to the 1850s. The house and farm buildings of John and Amelia Park are restored to bring the nineteenth century to life. Explore the Parks’ magnificent Classical Revival home, built in 1842, taste baking from the kitchen fireplace or play with a wooden toy in the children’s bedrooms. See the workings of an 1885 steam engine-powered sawmill and stop by the blacksmith shop to witness the making of small hardware and repairing of farm tools at the coal-fired forge. Don’t miss the working smoke house, ice house and barn. For a breath of fresh air, take a scenic walk on the lakeshore boardwalk.  Be sure to check out the gift shop and exhibit area. You can also take in the theatre where an audio-visual presentation will transport you back in time to John Park’s day.

Listen to a collection of audio shorts about the John R. Park Homestead

And there’s more! Each spring we plant the garden with heirloom crops, flowers and vegetables. In the summer, livestock are a popular addition. Thousands of school children attend field trips here each year for hands-on learning opportunities about pioneer life and the importance of preserving our heritage.

Many special events are held each year, so be sure to check out the events calendar to learn more. The new Heritage & Conservation Centre provides enhanced exhibit opportunities, features the Town of Essex Tourism Hub, and includes a gift shop with unique items crafted by local artisans. The Homestead is also available to rent for meetings, special events, weddings and showers.

The John R. Park Homestead is open Tuesday – Friday 11am – 7pm, and Saturday/Sunday 11am – 6pm. Group bookings available anytime by advance appointment. Contact Kristen Ives, JRPH Curator, at (519) 738-2029 or kives@erca.org

Amenities: washrooms

Things to Do: museum activities, photography, picnicking

Back to the top of this list


Kopegaron Woods

Address: Talbot Rd, Wheatley, ON N0P 2P0, Canada

Take a hike along one of the most beautiful forest boardwalk trails in the region. While exploring this 19 hectare Carolinian woodland, you’ll see Tulip-tree, Sassafras, Black Gum, Sycamore and Flowering Dogwood trees, as well as wildflowers such as Trillium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, May Apple, Spring Beauty and Columbine, to mention just a few.   Kopegaron Woods Conservation Area is renowned for its spring wildflowers, and is a great place for photographers to hone their skills in the brilliant sea of colour that lines the trails. Boardwalk trails meander through this conservation area, and beautiful spring warblers can be often be spotted resting before continuing their flight north in spring.

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Amenities: washrooms

Things to Do: bird-watching, hiking, photography, picnicking

Back to the top of this list


Maidstone Woods

Address: Lakeshore, ON, N0R 1K0, Canada

This 20 hectare site is perfect for an afternoon trip to the country. The area includes a winding 1.5 kilometre trail through an oak-hickory woodland. Walk the trail through this classic Carolinian Forest and and pass along the upper meandering reaches of the Puce River. Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch in a restful setting. Great for family get-togethers. With well managed trails and boardwalks, Maidstone Conservation Area is very accessible and makes a pleasant excursion.

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Amenities: washrooms

Things to Do: cycling, bird-watching, hiking, photography, picnicking, cross-country skiing

Back to the top of this list


McAuliffe Woods

Address: Lessard Rd, Tecumseh, ON N8N 2W7, Canada

A perfect surprise! This Conservation Area is 9 hectares with an attractive network of trails. Located in the Town of Tecumseh, the 1 kilometre trail through wooded area and thicket is not only pleasant, but offers a short enough walk for even the youngest naturalist. Most of the trail is paved, offering easy accessibility for walkers, wheelchairs and strollers. The adjacent grounds, operated by the Town, include soccer pitches, tennis courts, and playground facilities.

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Amenities: none

Things to Do: cycling, bird-watching, hiking, photography, cross-country skiing

Back to the top of this list


Petite Côte

Address: Front Rd & Vista Ave, Windsor, ON N9J 2N7, Canada

Petite Côte Conservation Area was created in 2007 alongside the Detroit River, south of LaSalle. The environmentally friendly boardwalk trail measures about 300 metres and is constructed from recycled plastics instead of traditional wood. Petite Côte is an important marsh habitat.  The Detroit River – A Canadian Heritage River, and Fighting Island – an International Wildlife Refuge, can be viewed from the viewing tower located at the end of the trail.

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Amenities: none

Things to Do: bird-watching, hiking, photography

Back to the top of this list


Ruscom Shores

Address: Pointe aux Roches, Lakeshore, ON N0R 1S0, Canada

Situated alongside Lake St. Clair, Ruscom Shores Conservation Area is an attractive natural marshland area with a well-managed trail ideal for some outdoor enjoyment and tranquility.   Ruscom Shores represents one of only two marshes still in existence on Essex County’s north shoreline. This area also supports a habitat restoration area. This quaint 120 acre Conservation Area, designated an Environmentally Significant Area, is great for peaceful walks and nature viewing. Ruscom Shores is perfect for spotting shorebirds, waterfowl and other spring migrants, as well as many prairie plants.

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Amenities: washrooms

Things to Do: cycling, bird-watching, cross-country skiing, photography, picnicking, hiking

Back to the top of this list


Stone Road Alvar

Address: Stone Rd, Pelee, ON N0R 1M0, Canada

Located a boat ride away on Pelee Island, the alvar is an area of thin topsoil over limestone bedrock, a very unique ecosystem and one of the region’s most biologically diverse.  It  supports  55 native alvar plants, and is prime habitat for the endangered Blue Racer snake. As well, five rare butterflies occur quite commonly at Stone Road – the spectacular Giant Swallowtail, the Tawny Emperor, Acadian hairstreak, Hackberry Butterfly, and Sachem Skipper. Carolinian bird species such as the Yellow-breasted Chat and the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher like the property’s dense thickets. There is no formal trail but the area is yours to explore and there is much to see. From late July to early September, all the open areas are masterfully coloured with the yellow of gray-headed coneflower, the purple of nodding wild onion and clusters of the white of whorled milkweed. Chinquapin oaks are scattered throughout the unique alvar habitat and can often be over 100 years old. In the open savannahs, visitors can find the provincially rare Hop Tree as well as Blue Ash. Of special note is the local abundance of Downy Wood Mint, a plant that in Canada is confined to Pelee Island. Management efforts include periodic prescribed burns to prevent the natural succession of shrubs from closing in on the savannah communities.

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Amenities: none

Things to Do: bird-watching, hiking, swimming

Back to the top of this list


Tremblay Beach

Address: 10065 St Clair Rd, Pointe aux Roches, ON N0R 1N0, Canada

Tremblay Beach Conservation Area is situated on the shore of beautiful Lake St. Clair and is bordered on the east side by Little Creek. Trails can be enjoyed along the shoreline as well as alongside the Creek. The lake here is shallow and the bottom is sandy but not suitable for swimming due to aquatic vegetation. Tremblay Beach Conservation Area is one of only two marshes remaining on Essex County’s Lake St. Clair Shoreline, along with Ruscom Shores Conservation Area. A viewing tower will give you a bird’s eye perspective of the abundant and interesting wildlife in the marsh, and the shoreline and extensive marsh make it ideal for spring birding, or just a quiet walk by the water.

Be a friend to nature and other visitors – follow trail etiquette while visiting this area.

Amenities: washrooms

Things to Do: bird-watching, fishing, hiking, picnicking, photography

Back to the top of this list


Please see this page for Conservation Etiquette