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Exploring Spencer Creek: The Beverly Swamp

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

From Knowing the Land is Resistance

knowingtheland.wordpress.com

The remaining wild spaces along the Spencer Creek show the marks of a patchwork history of land management and restoration practices that continue to affect the health of everyone in the watershed today. To gain a better understanding of the Spencer Creek, we begin in the headwaters at…

The Beverly Swamp. Looking South from a hill near Hwy 97 and Brock Rd in Flamborough, the swamplands seem a vast, dark patch of stillness on a landscape that is otherwise all fields and farms. It is one of the largest forested wetlands remaining in Southern Ontario, where more than 90% of the original wetlands have been destroyed.

Among those trees below us, the water from Valens reservoir joins with Fletcher Creek, flowing from the Paris-Galt moraine, to form the main branch of the Spencer Creek. In most of western Hamilton, a drop of rain that falls will end up in the Spencer Creek, meaning that this whole area is part of the Spencer Creek watershed. It is one of the most important water systems around here, and we have made it our goal to get to know it better.

We follow the LaFarge trail South, and when we descen into the swamp, we find the ground and water in it is frozen. A week later, we would return and realize how lucky we were, when, after heavy rains and with Spring thaw in full effect, any step could be the one that sends you up to your knee in mud. But the coming Spring will also reveal many wonders unique to a swamp that will draw us back again, like Sphagnum Moss and Pitcher Plants.

Today though, when we spot a tall Tamarack from the trail, we are happy to run out through the frozen swamp towards it.

Tamaracks are coniferous trees that love wet soil and shed all their needles each fall, contributing to an acidic soil environment. They kind of just look like dead spruce in this season, but the large nubs on their branches where their needles grow gives them away in silhouette. We decide to set our packs down by this tree while we explore the depths of the swamp, but we don’t get more than a few steps before we notice the other trees around us and are overcome with curiosity.

Many of the trees here seem unfamiliar, so we stop to look at them more carefully. To identify the trees and plants of a site is to begin to learn the language of that place, and it is one of the first things we try to do when exploring a new place. We call it forest literacy.

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