Ellice & Gads Hill Swamps
Covering approximately 856 hectares (2115 acres), Ellice Swamp is the largest woodlot in Perth County. The Swamp is located between Stratford and Milverton in the northeastern portion of the Thames River watershed, between the North Branch of the Thames River and the Nith River, which is a tributary of the Grand River.
The Swamp is drained by two Black Creeks, one of which flows north to the Nith and the other southwest through Sebringville to join the North Branch of the Thames. The area is largely owned by the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority.
The Swamp is also known as Ellice Huckleberry Swamp but the huckleberry for which the pioneers named this area seems to have been eliminated. The centre of the Swamp is covered with sphagnum moss and leatherleaf underlain with peat. However, drainage has severely altered the ecosystem and few remnants of the original bog vegetation exist. Woody vegetation has invaded the now drier soils at the expense of wet bog species. Yet, the degradation of this ecosystem contributes to the variability in the swamp communities, which offer exceptional species richness and diversity.
Poplar, black ash and silver maple forest dominate much of the area, with associated shrub species such as dogwood, willow, spiraea, chokeberry and some blueberry in the understory. Due to the Swamp’s size, dense vegetation and wet, unstable soils, species of fauna intolerant of human activities find protection here. Bird species are abundant and some, such as the Golden-winged Warbler, are found nowhere else in the County.
During the early 1950s, experimental tree planting projects were carried out on Conservation Authority-owned land in Ellice Township, and large areas of the Swamp were planted in coniferous species. Other disturbances which threaten the area include the construction of drains through the swamp, snowmobile trails, gravel roads and railway tracks which cut into the site.
Ellice Swamp is an important natural water storage/ recharge area in the Thames River watershed, helping to maintain streamflow and water table levels throughout the year. Moreover, the loss of natural areas, especially in southwestern Ontario, makes this relatively large site a significant natural area.
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