Heritage in Your Backyard

Heritage in Your Backyard

Learn about the river that has been shaping humanity for 11,000 years!

In Blair and West Galt, we are fortunate to live and work next to one of Canada’s great historic waterways, the Grand River. In 1994, the Grand and its major tributaries, including the Speed, were designated a Canadian Heritage River — recognizing the contribution of the waterway to humanity dating back approximately 11,000 years. There are 42 Heritage Rivers across the country, designated by the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.

In addition to long human presence in the area, beginning with Indigenous Paleo Hunters, the Grand River basin also has tremendous natural heritage significance. There is geological evidence of previous river systems in the area, but since the most recent deglaciation carved a meltwater spillway that forms the general course of the Grand, the river has drained this portion of southern Ontario, carrying water south to Long Point on Lake Erie.

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The beauty of Blair Flats at rare.

Erin Sonser

Our local topography and habitats are a legacy of the end of the last ice age, as the river cut through glacial deposits and in places exposed the bedrock — such as the 420 million year old limestone cliffs on the rare reserve.

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Cliffs along the Grand River

Norman Lightfoot

The rare Charitable Research Reserve stewards over 6,400 meters of Grand River shoreline and approximately 7.4 hectares of islands within the channel, plus a further 750m of the Speed River shoreline. The confluence of the two rivers is largely surrounded by rare, providing a haven from urban stressors for wildlife — notably a high diversity of migratory birds. These areas are mostly inaccessible to public traffic to protect ecological function and for safety reasons, but can be viewed from the Bob McMullen Linear Trail in Preston.

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Bluejay at rare.

Norman Lightfoot

Over the years, rare has conducted many stewardship projects in this area, including: removing invasive species, cleaning up litter, and establishing buffers of native vegetation to improve water quality as it passes through the reserve. The rare team works to restore streams that enter the Grand from the reserve. We also encourage scientific research in and around the Grand River, answering questions about hydrology, wildlife, and pollution and hope to engage and learn from the Indigenous communities downstream, such as Six Nations, to inform joint stewardship interests.

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Flooding in Preston Flats, adjacent to Blair Road.

Alissa Fraser

Over the past year there have been several extreme weather events that have resulted in flooding at rare and other areas adjacent to the Grand River. It is expected that these types of events will become more frequent with a rapidly changing climate, and more pressure will be put on floodplains to mitigate damage to property. Wetland and floodplain stewardship will become increasingly important, and conservation must play a greater role in our planning process.