Farmland accounts for over 78 percent of the 6965 km2 Grand watershed, which is the largest in southern Ontario. The Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) has worked since 1948 to manage the watershed, protecting its natural and recreational resources.
Although the river is not designated for its natural values, the Luther and Grand River Marshes are havens for wildlife, providing critical nesting habitat and spawning sites. Species such as the great blue heron, least bittern, Wilson’s phalarope, osprey, largemouth bass, northern pike, and yellow perch rely on these marshes. The Grand River Forest is one of the few remaining Carolinian forests in Canada, containing species such as sycamore, sassafras, pignut hickory, and chinquapin oak.
Over 800 archeological sites tell the story of 11,000 years of human history within the Grand watershed. When Europeans arrived, the Neutral people controlled the territory of the Grand. Following the American Revolution, members of the Iroquois Confederacy were granted land in the watershed as a reward for their loyalty to the British Crown. Loyalist settlers soon followed, along with Mennonites from Pennsylvania as well as Scottish immigrants. The Mohawk Chapel in Brantford and the Pioneer Memorial Tower in Kitchener are two national historic sites that recognize these settlers.
The historical buildings and industries of the past are still visible in the communities found along the Grand. This built heritage has been preserved and converted into markets and restaurants in the towns of Elora, Fergus, Cambridge and Brantford.
Canada’s first dam built for water conservation purposes, the Shand Dam, was constructed in Fergus in 1942. The dam created Belwood Lake, which now a popular all-season recreation spot.
Many opportunities for camping, fishing, boating, picnicking, hiking, swimming, nature appreciation and environmental education are found in the GRCA’S 37 Conservation Areas, and along the extensive hiking and cycling trail network. The GRCA is an excellent source of information on recreational and cultural activities within the watershed, including trails and paddling routes.
Who Manages the River?
The Grand River Conservation Authority is responsible for the management of this heritage river.
At five to six metres wide and more that 13 metres deep, Devil’s Well, found within the Rockwood Conservation Area on the Eramosa River, may be the world’s largest glacial pothole.Learn about the Grand, including how the GRCA won the International Thiess Riverprize for its management of this Canadian Heritage River in our Success Stories.