Set within the breathtaking Twenty Valley, Ball’s Falls Conservation Area offers spectacular scenery and natural beauty of the Twenty Mile Creek and Niagara Escarpment. While the conservation area has been open to the public since 1964, the modern Centre for Conservation was opened in 2008, designed and built to have a limited impact on natural resources, this award winning LEED Gold certified facility features permanent and temporary galleries. Visitors will take pleasure in the interactive exhibits and displays focusing on nature, conservation, and culture in the context of the area’s history, the Niagara Escarpment, and the watershed. Ball’s Falls also offers a variety of educational programs and special events throughout the year. The village of Glen Elgin as been maintained to the mid-19th century industrial hamlet atmosphere of early settlement, featuring the original Ball family home built in 1846, an operating grist mill, a lime kiln, church, black smith shop, carriage shed, and more.
Prior to colonization and settlement, the Twenty Mile Creek was a wetland-fed watercourse, originating south of Ancaster, Ontario, and flowing east above the Escarpment where, at Ball’s Falls, the creek plummets over two cataracts, or waterfalls, as it diverts north, draining into Lake Ontario. This would have been a steady, consistent and powerful water system, fed by hundreds of wetlands found along its course, in what is now part of the Ontario Greenbelt and prime agricultural land. Due to the clearing of forests, and draining of wetlands for development and agricultural purposes, the Twenty Mile Creek, like many other watercourses in southern Ontario, saw diminished water sources and flows. Today, the Twenty Mile Creek is a rain-fed watercourse, which means that the flow and volume of water in this system is determined by precipitation and goes through periods of drought in the summer and early fall. During this time of year, there is often little water flowing over the falls, revealing the delicate balance between land use and water systems. These dry periods also reveal the incredibly distinct layers of sedimentary rock which form the Niagara Escarpment and represent millions of years of geologic time.
Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys Volans): These small, nocturnal mammals call Ball’s Falls home! Southern Flying Squirrels have grey-brown fur on top with darker flanks and a cream color underneath, large dark eyes, a flattened furry tail and a skin membrane between the fore- and hind legs which are used to glide through the air moving from tree to tree. These squirrels do not hibernate in winter, but nest together in groups to stay warm through the season. In Ontario, the southern flying squirrel is considered ‘vulnerable’, as a native species of concern due to limited habitat.
Indigenous History & Cultural Facts
The area including Ball’s Falls was first settled in 1807 by brothers George and John Ball, who were United Empire Loyalists come to settle in Upper Canada. The Ball’s were intent on industrial development, and opened their first operation, a three-storey wooden gristmill on the Twenty Mile Creek, aside the Lower Falls, which stand approximately 90 ft high. The area quickly became a busy industrial settlement, with a sawmill, tanner, blacksmith, and a five-storey woollen mill, powered by the 23 foot Upper Falls. The area, known as the village of Glen Elgin, was never incorporated, but reached it’s peak operations by the 1840s.
By the turn of the century, the area declined as waterpower of the Twenty Mile Creek had greatly diminished, and major routes of transportation such as road and rail remained below the escarpment. The Ball family resided on the property until the 1960’s and has been operated as a historic village and natural area by the NPCA since.
Louth Conservation Area is located along Sixteen Mile Creek in Lincoln. This 36-hectare area has been managed by the NPCA since 1973 and conserves a portion of the Niagara Escarpment while providing access to the Bruce Trail. Visitors experience the scenic beauty of the Sixteen Mile Creek valley and historic rock formations as you wind your way through the escarpment, and forest and see and hear the unique forest songbirds. Stunning scenery can be seen from this trail, which features two magnificent waterfalls. This area is used for passive recreational day use only.
Louth Conservation Area is home to the American Bladdernut (Staphylea trifoli), a large deciduous shrub (8-15’) found in the forest understorey with a distinctive fruit of 3 chambered bladder-like seed pods in the fall; dark green trifoliate leaves, and drooping cluster of cream bell-shaped flowers in spring. This plant is found in deep, rich forests, like those in the Carolinian Forest zone along the Niagara Escarpment.
Red fox (Vulpes vulpes): Watch out for tracks in the snow left behind by these shy, small, dog-like mammals. Red foxes are known to make their dens in rocky crevices and forested areas along the Escarpment, and occupy territories, or ranges of up to 8 km squared. Through the winter months, foxes will spend much time in their dens in preparation for their pups to be born. It is important that visitors to natural spaces respect native wildlife by remaining on trail, and keeping pets on a leash at all times.
Rockway Conservation Area is set along the Niagara Escarpment and offers scenic beauty in a natural and rugged landscape. Visitors can hike along the conservation area trail located off of Ninth Avenue into the Fifteen Mile Creek valley, made up of mature Basswood, Sugar Maple, Black Walnut and Sycamore trees. Two spectacular waterfalls plunge from heights of 19.5 meters and 12.2 meters along the way. The watercourse continues downriver, surging over a series of rapids, ultimately emptying into Lake Ontario.
Rockway Conservation Area is the location of the first salt well in Upper Canada, dating back to 1792. The salt works along the Fifteen Mile Creek were noted in several municipal documents as significant to Louth Township and the prosperity of the community. Salt was used during early settlement to cure meats and hides, and for household use.
While, you will not see them out and about in winter, the Northern Water snake calls Rockway home, with the perfect habitat conditions! This reptile is dark brown with faint alternating horizontal squares or banding on its back and sides. The northern water snake eats fish and amphibians primarily, and is an excellent swimmer, spending most of its time along the shores of lakes, rivers, wetlands and creeks. Like all cold-blooded creatures do, this snake hibernates in the winter, finding cozy places between rock crevices at Rockway.
Indigenous History & Cultural Facts
Prior to colonization and settlement, the salt springs located along what is now called the Fifteen Mile Creek were of significance and use to Indigenous peoples who would harvest salt there. Following the Revolutionary War, the salt well at Rockway was an important resource to the early Loyalist settlers in Upper Canada, as previously there were no local salt sources, and this commodity was costly to import. Salt production began in 1793, and by 1796 over 450 bushels of salt had been produced.