The Maitland Woods
The southern portion (approx. 1/3 of the area) lies on private property. When the original owners, the Hindmarsh family, turned their property over to the Ontario Farmland Trust in 1999, the continued use of this section of the Maitland Woods Trail was granted in perpetuity on condition that it is properly looked after by the MTA.
The Old Oak
A massive red oak tree stands on the north side of the Sifto Loop Trail, halfway between the Menesetung Bridge and Lake Huron. At 200+ years old, it’s 30m high and 3m in circumference. When this tree was young, Tiger Dunlop hadn’t arrived in the area yet, and the area was still being frequented by Indians.
Not too far east of Saltford, on the north bank of the Maitland River, are the remains of a lime kiln. A lime kiln is a furnace made of stone or brick, used for heating limestone rocks. When the rocks are heated to about 1000° C, they break down and are used to make mortar for construction, and also to make quicklime for use in agriculture to improve crop production on acidic soils. The limestone bedrock of the Maitland River Valley was a great source of building stone when Huron County was being settled. Many local buildings were constructed with it, including the Huron Historic Gaol and the foundation of the CPR station in Goderich.
This is a very nice side route about halfway between Benmiller and Goderich. It takes you from the main trail on Road #31 down to the river. It’s a great place to rest and appreciate the scenery. In the 1860’s, it was the site of the first road across the river, along the top of Piper’s Dam. But in 1865, a major spring runoff swept the dam and the mill away. Today, the head race can still be seen and some machinery is reported to be buried in the area.
From the Falls Reserve Conservation Area to Lake Huron, the Maitland River flows through a small gorge cut through sedimentary rock. Over the centuries, the river has eroded through the limestone layers creating interesting rock formations. There are numerous ‘black holes’ – pools in the bedrock that are so deep that in the summer, they appear black. They are extremely deep for a river the size of the Maitland, with the deepest being over 6.3m.
In 1995, when it was discovered that this ecologically rich and environmentally sensitive area was in danger of being logged, local community groups and organizations (including the MTA) raised over $200,000 to help save it from this fate. The Nature Conservancy of Canada provided the rest of the funds ( a little over another $100,000) to complete the purchase and thus the Morris Tract was saved. It was thus purchased by the Nature Conservancy and is is now managed and regulated by Ontario Parks
This mature hardwood forest had a full, cathedral-like canopy of maple, oak, beech, ash and hickory, with a lush carpet of ferns and flowers and an abundance of fauna throughout. Then, the tornado of 2011 cut a swath through the area causing serious damage.
But nature is resilient. Today, this section of the trail provides a good opportunity to witness forest succession in action. Fallen trees are very slowly decomposing and returning nutrients to the soil.
Through this slow process they’re acting as nurse logs for new vegetation, and habitat for the myriad of insect species necessary for forest health. The abundance of insect life is itself a buffet for birds and other insect-eating fauna. Through the coming decades the hardwood forest will slowly regenerate. But in the process, the change from year to year will be very fast as the open canopy provides new opportunities for fast-growing, sun-loving species. Keep an eye on this special place through this interesting time.
This large reserve provides the public and trail users with an area to camp, fish, and explore the scenic surroundings. The Maitland Trail follows the river bank giving users the opportunity to swim during the warm season. Cross-country skiing is also excellent in this particular area. Members of MTA are allowed free walk-in admission for the day. You may park your car at the gate-house and leave your membership card on the dash. Or if you’re passing through on the trail from Benmiller or Black Hole, carry your membership card with you.
The Maitland Trail runs directly through the historical hamlet of Benmiller. Along side the trail is the beautifully restored Benmiller Inn. The Inn is a scenic spot to visit and enjoy exquisite accommodations and dining, along with many on-site amenities.
Built in 1885, this is an excellent – and now rare – example of a two-span Pratt design through truss, pin-connect wrought iron bridge. It’s construction shows attention to detail through the ‘v-lacing’ located at various points along the bridge. Built during the horse-and-carriage era, today it’s a designated cultural heritage resource in a pristine area of the Maitland River. Go for a walk, have a look, and maybe you’ll find a local who can share the romantic tale behind it’s construction.
This vast area of reforested trail extends east of the Heron Line to the Auburn Bridge. Along this section of the trail is a great mixture of hardwood and pine stands. The trail for the most part in this area follows the river bank, and fire lines cut through the forest. This section of the Trail is particularly attractive during the cross country ski season.