I have something to confess… I’m a waterfall addict. No matter how big or how small, if I find one I haven’t visited yet, I have to stop and explore. Being en route to our girls getaway at Hockley Valley was no exception. Lucky for me my partner in crime was game for a little adventure! We made a slight detour to the Rockwood Conservation Area in… you guessed it, Rockwood, Ontario.
Chalk this post up to a lack of research on my part or that I just have tunnel vision when it comes to waterfalls, but this area surprised me so much! I guarantee you’ll want to visit after reading all it has to offer.
As I mentioned, our reason for visiting this Grand River Conservation Authority area was to feast our eyes on Rockwood Falls. While it’s no majestic beast like Borer’s Falls or Tiffany Falls, she is still beautiful in her own way. The main reason I love chasing winter waterfalls is the gorgeous ice formations that come with the freezing temperatures. It’s as if every waterfall turns into a beautiful ice sculpture from Elsa’s ice castle. I like to assume Elsa has some sweet ice art in her castle, okay?
The ice formations are beautiful, but what surprised me were the gorgeous limestone cliffs. Hugged by snow, I was reminded of Alberta’s rugged landscapes. Upon later research, I have discovered that you can kayak in the warmer months. Head up the Eramosa River and you can admire the beauty up close as well as enjoy a splash from Rockwood Falls to cool off. It sounds like the perfect summer day!
Although I have to backtrack a little. Along the way to Rockwood Falls, you’ll pass by remnants of the Rockwood Woolen Mills. Owned by Irish immigrant John Harris, he was one of the Rockwood area’s first settlers, arriving in 1820. Dating back to the year of Confederation, the mill became the town’s heartbeat. Known from Guelph to Georgetown (a large distance back in the day), they supplied quality artisan goods as well as Canadian army blankets during World War I. It was also a marketplace of sorts as shepherds would bring their wool and in turn buy tweeds, sheets, flannelettes and more all for an honest deal. “Full weight and fair inspection” was their motto!
As business boomed, the Harris family expanded to create quite the development – all powered by the Eramosa River. Unfortunately disaster struck in the early 1880s as a major fire damaged the mill. In 1884, it was replaced by the robust stone structure you see remnants of today. As you wander through the ruins, you may be reminded of the beautiful stonework you’d see in Ireland. Not a stretch considering the Harris family heritage! It’s not hard to see why this spot is popular for outdoor gatherings. The beautiful walls are so picturesque, it’s no wonder there are often weddings held amidst the history!
If you’re an art history buff, the area may seem a little familiar. Although would you think it was an inspiration for the Group of Seven? While normally synonymous with the untouched beauty of northern Ontario, A.J. Casson immortalized the area for generations to come. The small frame houses along Valley Road in the town of Rockwood became the subject of his Mill Houses painting in 1928. Almost 70 years later, it became a speciality 43-cent Canadian collector stamp!
Once you’ve had your fair share of history, head north along the Eramosa River. You might just spot an intriguing sign as you follow the Cedar Ridge Trail. Walk about 500m and you’ll come upon the entrance to one of the most extensive cave networks in Ontario. I was too much of a chicken to go very far but there’s lots to explore in this series of 12 caves. You’ll want to bring a headlamp though, your iPhone flashlight will only get you so far!
While this was as far as we got, the Rockwood Conservation Area offers even more in the warmer months. Spend the night at one of their four campsites as you take advantage of the picturesque landscape. I plan on returning to catch some rays at the beach and explore the limestone cliffs by kayak. If you’re like me and don’t have your own, you can rent one on site! There’s also the pothole trail in this area, aptly named for the large cavities found in the area. Varying in size, these giant’s kettles drilled into the earth via flowing water that carried stones and gravel.
After reading all of this, it’s understandable that the Rockwood Conservation Area sees 75,000+ visitors yearly. However despite this incredible number, the park was dead. It may have been because we visited midweek on a cold January day but we were the only people there, I kid you not! It’s not too often you get an entire conservation area to yourself, so I enjoyed every minute of my one on one time in nature.
There you have it! Would you expect to find so much adventure in a town of less than 5000 people? I couldn’t believe how much the Rockwood Conservation Area has to offer. While I was only there for a couple of hours, I definitely would love to return and spend a full day at least exploring. I think a summer adventure is in order and I’ll have to update this post when I do!
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