Woodend Conservation Area is one of the wonderful convergence points in Niagara. It sits on the ridge of the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s just past the limits of the city of Niagara Falls, with St. Catharines on the horizon. It’s one of the last vestiges of rare Carolinian forest in Canada yet one of the country’s major highways cuts past its lower slope. Each and every traveller on this bustling artery has seen Woodend, even if they didn’t realize it.
The conservation area itself covers some 45 hectares of hilltop, all maintained by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. Families of United Empire Loyalists settled the area in the 1790s, with the Van Every family being the prominent landowners in Woodend. During the War of 1812 a three gun battery was said to occupy the heights and take full advantage of its superior view of the surrounding land.
There are four prominent trails in the area, the most famous of course being the Bruce. If you’re travelling the 800 kilometers from Queenston to Tomerbory you’ll pass into Woodend shortly after crossing the QEW. The trail enters and exits the Conservation Area at two nearly adjacent points, taking a crescent shaped detour along the ridge between them.
There are two self-guided trails which start and end in the park, the Hardwood Trail and the Silurian Adventure Trail. Each are no longer than a kilometer and a half and provide excellent short excursions for day hiking or bird watching. The Wetland Ridge side trail runs along the base of the Escarpment and explores some of the marshes that sit adjacent to the vineyards of the Niagara College Teaching Winery.
The center of Woodend features a cut meadow and several buildings. The house on the site, built in the 1800s and retrofitted in the 1930s, is now owned by the District School Board of Niagara and used for outdoor education programs.
The forests of Woodend mainly contain broad leafed hardwood species, including sugar maple, beech, red oak, shagbark, hickory, and rock elm. The site is also home some of Canada’s remaining Carolinian forest species, including black cherry, black oak, and paw paw.