Looking for Natural Beauty?

by Chris Michener (from PAFN, The Swallow, Vol. 24, #2 Spring/Summer 2007)

Am I one to say where this natural beauty can be found? Well, perhaps. One can’t deny that a view is one criteria for determining the allure of a place. With a beautiful view, can one say, “How ugly?” A talking, cascading stream certainly lends to the audible feature of such a place. With such a sound, could one reach for ear plugs? Even better is one that is easy to reach, has a good lunch spot and allows the chance to sit and dream as the world turns. Eureka, I have it!

The top of the Tramore Cliffs, in the Deacon Escarpment Conservation Reserve, surely comes a close second to the Grand Canyon or Cape Breton? And it’s close by, can be visited in a couple of hours and is Crown Land, which makes it accessible for all. The escarpment is over 100 m. high, and faces southwest, overlooking the Bonnechere River and Golden Lake. The conservation reserve includes the escarpment, the talus slopes below, and undulating, bedrock-controlled land above. The area of the reserve covers over 5,300 acres.

Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), rare in Renfrew County and at or near its northern range limit in North America, grows on the cliff face and terraces, in places forming the dominant cover among Red Oak, Large-toothed Aspen and White Pine. This habitat has almost yearly visits from the rare Prairie Warbler in June. Understorey species such as Fragrant Sumac and the sedge Carex umbellata are also uncommon in the area. Also seen or heard are Song Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Turkey Vulture, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Pine Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Veery, Nashville Warbler, Northern Flicker, Cedar Waxwing, Downy Woodpecker and Common Raven, which occasionally nests on the cliff face. Dark-eyed Junco nests on top of the escarpment as well as Hermit Thrush and Red-eyed Vireo. Eastern Towhee nested here in the past and could surprise again.

Talus slopes with occasional spring seeps and streams provide an environment for a rich and diverse mixed forest. The well worn path to the top of the cliffs touchs such a stream, adding to the beauty of the hill climb. On the trail, watch for Common Speadwell, Canada Hawkweed, Barren Ground Strawberry, Tiger Lily, Northern Bugleweed and Northern Water-horehound. The trail is steep only for a short distance but does go uphill throughout its length. Access the trail on Tramore Road, right behind the Kilby Road sign. Kilby Road is 2.3 km north of Hwy. 60. Park on Kilby Road on the shoulder.

Take water in warm weather.

The top of the escarpment holds extensive areas of dry, scrubby open-canopy woodlands, dominated by bedrock exposure and

scrubby Red Oak and White Pine on shallow sandy to coarse loamy till. Grasses and shrubs dominate in the understorey, with areas of feathermoss and lichen growing on shallow areas. Ponds and wetlands with marshy or boggy edges occur frequently on the escarpment tableland among the mixed forests.

But, the main feature of the escarpment is the spectacular view of Golden Lake, the Bonnechere River, the Wilno Hills, the forests and farmland. Hawks and Turkey Vultures frequently use the updrafts created by the southwest-facing cliffs to soar lazily on the thermals and if you drift into a dream, it could be a flying dream.

An Ottawa River Institute led excursion May 2011

Hikers at the Kilby and Tramore Road intersection prepare for a walk to the top of the escarpment (Click on photo for video)

Rick Cavasin's comments - June 7, 2012

Hi All,

I've been meaning to hike the Deacon Escarpment for a while now - not only for the views, but because of rumours of Red Cedar and New Jersey Tea growing up there.

There is some Red Cedar, but I saw no New Jersey Tea. Perhaps I wasn't looking in the right spots.

There is a trail, but only just. It's quite steep ( think Luskville Falls ) and not for the faint of heart or lungs. I would not want to descend it after a rain. I can imagine the dirt turning to treacherous mud. The trail branches a few times. The more traveled central branch leads to an open rocky outcrop that's perhaps 2/3 from the top. Views are not bad from here. I found some interesting looking (smooth bodied) pinkish caterpillars here feeding on a flower that looks a bit like Hairy Beard-Tongue, but I'm not sure of that ID. I'll post pictures.

There wasn't a whole lot of activity in spite of the nice weather - just a few butterflies here and there. I feel it would be a very interesting place to visit a bit earlier in the season, like when the abundant blueberry is in bloom. Today, there wasn't much in the way of nectar sources that I could see. There is a lot of sweetfern up there, and a lot of oak. Now that I think of it, I have the impression that it was mostly Red oak. I don't recall seeing much of the round-lobed-leaved ( white ?) oaks you get on the Luskville falls escarpment. Might be interesting for Hairstreaks later in the season.

Getting up to (what I believe was) the very top was a bit more challenging. It doesn't look like that trail is very well traveled, and it's hard to follow it in some spots. Easy to lose it on the way down, which I did. But the views were better up there, and I found a few more butterflies there, including a worn Gray Hairstreak:

Northern Cloudywing - 4

Indian Skipper - 3

Hobomok Skipper- 2

Common Roadside Skipper - 1

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail - 5

Gray Hairstreak - 1 (worn)

Northern Crescent - 2

crescent spp. - 2

Gray Comma - 1

American Lady - 1

Red Admiral - 1

White Admiral - 2

Little Wood Satyr - 15+

Monarch - 1

From there, I drove up to Foy PP, where I started seeing a fair amount of NJ Tea along the side of the road. I stopped at several points along about 2km of Red Rock Road starting around the south boundary of the Park:

Silver Spotted Skipper - 1 ( FOY - nectaring on New Jersey Tea )

Northern Cloudywing - 3 ( on NJ Tea )

Juvenal's Duskywing - 1 (worn)

Hobomok Skipper - 1

Pepper and Salt Skipper -1 ( on NJ tea )

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail - 4

Eastern Pine Elfin - 1 ( on NJ Tea )

Eastern Tailed Blue - 1

Silvery Blue - 1

Northern Crescent - 1

Question Mark - 1

American Lady - 1

Red Admiral - 1

Little Wood Satyr- 5

Common Ringlet - 1

Monarch - 1

I didn't see any trails in Foy PP. On the way back down Red Rock Road, I stopped and walked John Foy Lane:

European Skipper - 1 (FOY)

Long Dash - 1

Tawny Edged Skipper - 1

Question Mark - 2

Northern Crescent - 1

Common Ringlet - 1

Cheers, Rick

Ottawa River Institute's Ole Hendrickson and John Almstedt

Slideshow of a September 30, 2013 hike along the escarpment from Kilby Road to Goose Lake Road.