Impressions - Conroys Marsh

To access the Conroys Marsh you will need a boat, canoe or kayak. The marsh is over 2,000 hectares in size and is situated in a valley formed by rocky hills to the east and west of the shorelines of the Little Mississippi and York Rivers before they merge and empty into the Madawaska River at Negeek Lake. An MNR report said the following:

"The York and Little Mississippi Rivers meander through a broad valley, created by the surrounding rock ridges to the east and west. The meandering rivers are bounded by various open water marsh communities, floating sedge fen mats, with variable transition from shrub swamps to coniferous and mixed swamps, then mixed and deciduous forests. The complexity of the wetland vegetation types (marsh, fen, swamp) and the intricate mosaic nature of the communities result in good representation of wetland communities. The setting is further enhanced by various sheltered bays extending into valleys of the surrounding forested ridges, and long, narrow silver maple forested levees of alluvium along the York River.

The following description by Simpson (OMNR 1980) was found to be evident during field work in 2001: large pure stands of sedges, wild rice, pickerel weed, bulrush, reed grass and reed canary grass dominate the marsh. Mixed stands, such as cattail-iris-sedge, and horsetail-sedge-bulrush also occur here. Near the mainland, dryer islands of vegetation are dominated by sensitive and marsh fern, reed grass, iris, loosestrife, swamp milkweed and horsetail; or low shrubs of dogwood, meadow sweet and willow. Submerged aquatic plants are common in the quiet bays branching off the main channels.” Field work in 2001 found the surrounding forest lands showing a definite gradation reflecting the change in soil moisture. Extensive leatherleaf –sedge fens and willow swamps bordering the marsh are diverse, including tall shrubs, ericaceous shrubs, grasses and sedges, and sphagnum/feathermoss mats.grade into white cedar then cedar-silver/red maple, then mixed upland forest....

Most of the ecosites are extensive areas of submergent and emergent marsh, open and shrub fen, and swamp. Field work in 2001 identified at least 21 ecosites according to application of Ecological Land Classification for Southern Ontario (Lee, et al, 1998). Lewis and Tae (1994) identified 45 marsh, 14 fen, and 16 swamp communities during a wetland evaluation. The diversity of this reserve lies in the interspersion of many small areas of different ecosites. Among all these areas, shrub, herb and moss diversity is also high.

Other species reflecting the nature of these ecosites are: pitcher plant, bog buckbean, round-leaved sundew, cotton grass, small cranberry, large cranberry, bog laurel, goldthread, sweet gale, swamp candles, broadleaf meadow-sweet, labrador tea, bog-rosemary, three-leaved false solomons seal, fragrant water lily."

There are two entry points (boat launches): one from the north shore of the Madawaska River at the end of McPhee Bay Road; the other from Burnt Bridge Road south of Palmer Rapids.

To get to McPhee Bay Road, go east on Palmer Road from Combermere about 4.5 kilometres and turn right on McPhee. Follow around the east side of McPhee Bay. Follow the narrow road and hydro line to the boat launch. The entrance to the marsh and the York River is about 700 metres across the Madawaska to the southwest.

To get to the boat launch and access to the Little Mississippi River, continue east to Palmer rapids. Turn right at the Community Centre, go 800 metres and turn left on Burnt Bridge Road. Go 7 km. to the top of a hill, where there is a road (no name) you can take to the boat launch (2.7 km). It is recommended you have a high clearance vehicle as heavy rains can erode the road creating ruts and exposing rocks. This road runs through crown land, so exploration of the surrounding forest is public (the exception is a private lot down a bush road you will see on your left at about 1.6 km). As you near the boat launch, you will see an intriguing dark, wet, Eastern White Cedar forest on your left. There are a couple of fire pits at the boat launch and it seems used as a picnic site, possibly a canoe route campground. You can look north from here at the extensive wetlands. Boehmes Mountain will be the large hill on the east shore 4 km north. The distance from this boat launch to MacPhee Bay boat launch is about 10.5 km. If you don't have a high clearance vehicle, continue on Burnt Bridge Road for another 2.3 km to a bridge over the river. From here you can access the bottom end of Conroys Marsh by going 2 km west and north.

A wide variety of breeding birds and odonates were observed during the reconnaissance survey in 2001. An extensive network of deer trails as a result of long-term winter concentration use, was observed in the mixed and coniferous swamp on the west side of the marsh. Also, breeding bird surveys were conducted between 1981-1985 and 2001-2005. We offer the results of the latter in a .pdf document in the 'Birds' link above.

Above excerpt from the OVTA’s Ottawa Valley Naturalists Guide