DIY Homemade/All-Natural Bug Spray!

Written by: Erin Worgan

Our hiking trails are beautiful to us, and the mosquitos!

Our hiking trails are beautiful to us, and the mosquitos!

We at Conservation Halton know that venturing into our beautiful parks can often mean leaving with a few bug bites. During certain seasons, especially by the water, the skeeters can really be pests and distract from your enjoyment of the day. So we can understand the desire to douse yourself in the strongest repellent you can get your hands on. But you should consider the host of harsh chemicals and toxins that are being sprayed onto your skin and into the atmosphere with each application. The chemical DEET, which is present in most bug repellents, is a strong eye irritant that the U.S. EPA regards as “slightly toxic” to fish, birds, and aquatic invertebrates. So before you grab the store bought stuff of the shelf why not try to make your own natural and organic bug spray for you and your family?

This DIY recipe will produce a spray that is chemical free and much better for the environment as well as for your health. You will need natural witch hazel, distilled water, your choice of essential oils, as well as a glass spray bottle to eliminate the potential for leeching. There are several essential oils that are able to repel insects naturally, such as tea tree oil, eucalyptus, cedar, and mint and you can choose the oils that you would prefer. If you have your own home grown herb garden, plants such as mint and basil can work to repel bugs simply by rubbing them directly onto your skin! For more information on how to get started with growing your own herb garden check out our previous post.

For our DIY Bug Spray we chose to use Citronella, Lemongrass and Tea Tree. First take your glass spray bottle and fill it half full of distilled water. You then fill the bottle to the ¾ marker with the Witch Hazel. You then add your desired amount and combination of essential oils. In our batch of repellent we used various amounts of each oil totaling 50 drops, (20 drops of tea tree, 20 drops of citronella, and 10 drops of lemongrass). After dropping the oils into the mix you simply seal the bottle, shake and spray! It’s so simple and fairly inexpensive in comparison to the store brand bug spray and far better for you! Now you’re ready to #getoutside and visit our parks without fear of being bitten. Let us know in the comments how effective your DIY spray has been and what oils you chose, we’d love to hear from you.



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What’s S.U.P?

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Written by: Erin Worgan

So what’s S.U.P? Well, S.U.P stands for Stand-Up-Paddle-Boarding, which is a fun water sport activity that’s really making waves these days. It’s an easy to learn pastime that lets you get outdoors and it has been enjoyed on the waters at Kelso for the past few years.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding began in Hawaii as an activity for surfers to keep physically fit and athletically strong during the winter season when the water and the waves weren’t choice. They realized that it was a good method of conditioning and kept them balanced. Not to mention it’s fun!

people stand up paddle boarding

One of the biggest aspects of SUPPING is the first moments where you stand yourself on the board and attempt to stay dry. Though it may not seem like it in the beginning, these boards are actually quite steady and allow you to balance. The ones available for rent at Kelso are beginner level boards meaning they are especially stabilized for easy balancing when getting on and off the board. One of the things I learned pretty quick when taking out the paddle board this week was to know your current! You should always try to travel against the current during the first half of your journey, and when you reach what you feel is your halfway point it makes things a lot easier to turn around and travel with the current on your way back to your starting point letting the water help take you there.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my favourite kind of workout is the kind where I don’t even realize I’m doing one! The scenic views of Kelso Lake definitely distracted me from any physical exertion I may have been doing, and it wasn’t until much later that I even noticed what a good exercise I had gotten (along with two tired arms). This activity has a very low impact on joints including the knees, hips, shoulders and other ligaments. You will get a workout without putting stress on your body making this an ideal experience for explorers of all ages!

stand up paddle boarding

Nearly every muscle of the body is used when SUPPING. This activity allows for a constant core workout as your back, abdominals and leg muscles will be working to stabilize the board, while your shoulders, arms, and back muscles will be hard at work paddling and propelling you through the water. It’s surprising how tiring it can be! Stand up paddle boarding is a moderate aerobic exercise, which therefore improves cardiovascular health over time. Although paddle boarding has a certain level of physical exertion it is still a very calming experience. Much like the laid-back Hawaiian lifestyle this activity was born out of, SUPPING is very relaxed and allows for some much needed serenity. It has been said that paddle boarding is a great stress reliever and on the peaceful waters of Kelso Lake it’s sure to relieve all the stresses of the day.

A recent trend in the paddle boarding world is to practice yoga on the water. Yogis have been taking their flows to the paddle board and are now practicing while balancing, which adds an additional challenge to their workout, while taking in the beautiful views of the lake.

If you’d like to give SUPPING a try you can rent one of Conservation Halton’s Stand-Up-Paddle-Boards at Kelso Lake for an hour or two and see if it’s for you! Rental costs just $20 for one hour or $35 for two. For more information you can visit Boats are on a first come, first serve basis.
If you have any photos of you or your loved ones paddle boarding at Kelso just tag us on Instagram, or Facebook, or tweet at us using the handle @CH_Comm, because we’d love to see you on the water this summer!

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Goldenrod is wrongfully blamed for seasonal allergies

Goldenrod in milton

Written by: Brenda Van Ryswyck, Natural Heritage Ecologist

Goldenrod can make a wonderful garden and wildlife plant! Sadly it has been branded negatively for many years now. One main negative concern is people believe goldenrods cause pollen allergies but this is a false assumption. Goldenrod pollen is sticky so it cannot cause allergies however it is often seen as the cause of allergies simply because it is the big showy flower we see when we are having the allergy symptoms. In reality it is the flower you DON’T see that you need to worry about.

The myth that goldenrod is responsible for seasonal allergies comes from the fact it blooms at the same time as ragweed. Ragweed is the cause of seasonal allergies in many people because it is wind pollinated. The pollen of ragweed is very light and becomes airborne easily, while the pollen of goldenrod is very sticky and cannot become airborne.

Goldenrod has its impressive, showy, bright flowers because it needs to attract pollinators (like bees and butterflies) to carry its pollen between flowers for pollination. Ragweed on the other hand does not need to attract pollinators so it has inconspicuous green flowers which most people do not even notice (and don’t really look like flowers at all); ragweed only needs a light wind for its pollen to become airborne and be blown to the next ragweed flower for pollination. Goldenrod on the other hand you can grab and shake and you will not see any pollen become airborne (and if you did happen to shake any loose it would fall straight to the ground).

Another thing some people find negative about goldenrod is its ability to spread rapidly and colonize new areas quickly. In the plant world this is a wonderful thing, giving the goldenrod a slight advantage in the ‘grow or die’ natural world. This is a benefit for wildlife though as these quickly colonizing plants will quickly stabilize the soil and its flowers provide essential nectar food for pollinators. In fact goldenrods (along with asters and other fall flowers) are essential for the Monarch butterfly as it makes its long migration. Patches of goldenrod and aster patches along their migration route provide lifesaving food to continue the journey. If you would like to provide nectar for pollinators in your garden, but do not want a plant that will aggressively spread, then try some of the more “well behaved” goldenrod species such as Blue-stemmed Goldenrod Solidago caesia, Zig-zag Goldenrod Solidago flexicaulis or Silverrod Solidago bicolor.

So don’t mow down that goldenrod patch! If you have ragweed allergies you may actually be making the situation worse as removing plants like goldenrod may open up the soil for fast growing ragweed to grow. Instead learn how to recognize ragweed and remove only it, leave the wonderful nectar of the goldenrod there for the Monarch and other pollinators. Enjoy the beauty of its golden blooms with the knowledge it is not contributing to your allergies, it is only contributing to biodiversity!

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A Tribute to Bean the American Kestrel

Written by: Sandra Davey, Mountsberg Raptor Centre Lead

On January 29, 2010, a 10 month old male American Kestrel joined the education team at the Mountsberg Raptor Centre. At the time, nobody had any idea just how truly special this bird would turn out to be. This special bird left our team unexpectedly on July 31, 2015 after contracting an infection that he could not recover from. Bean the American Kestrel was a well-known and much loved Mountsberg educator during his five and a half years with us.

Despite being captive-bred, Bean had never been handled or trained prior to his arrival at the Raptor Centre. During his early days of training, the Raptor Centre staff started to get an inkling of what an amazing bird Bean was. On only his second day with us he was eating food off of our gloves, by day 3 he stepped up for food, and after only one week he appeared briefly in his very first public presentation. Other birds can take months of training to be ready to make their first public appearance!

While Raptor Centre staff strive to ensure the comfort of all of our education birds during their daily lives and public appearances, Bean seemed to thrive on interacting with staff, volunteers and the public. We would often joke that Bean never read the manual that says that raptors aren’t social! Anyone who ever had the pleasure of meeting Bean during a behind-the-scenes tour had the experience of watching him hop excitedly to the front of his enclosure to greet them. It truly seemed like he wanted to come say hello! In fact, we had to devise a special perch for the front window of Bean’s enclosure so that he could sit in the window and watch us come and go. Without this special perch, he would hang onto the front window when we walked by, causing him to mess up his tail feathers.

Bean was always happy to engage with people and took part in all of our various programs. He helped teach school programs, travelled offsite, was a genuine model during our photography sessions, and was willing to hop onto the glove of anyone he met, including hundreds of children who took part in our Raptor Camp program. He was often the bird that helped us train our Raptor Centre volunteers how to handle a bird. Bean helped to inspire a love of and respect for raptors in literally thousands of people. As one park visitor expressed on our Facebook page after Bean’s passing, “I didn’t even know what an American Kestrel was until I met and fell in love with Bean.” Talk about a tremendous impact from a tiny little bird!

On behalf of the Raptor Centre staff and the thousands of people who met Bean over the years, I want to say a very big heart-felt thank you to Bean for sharing his life with us. While we love all of our feathered educators, Bean held a special place in our hearts and his loss will be felt for a long time to come. My thanks go out as well to everyone who took the time to comment on our Facebook page about their interactions with Bean over the years. The Raptor Centre team loved hearing how special Bean was to all of you as well.

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Star Gazing on the Escarpment

Host a stargazing party tonight!

Host a stargazing party tonight!

Written by: Erin Worgan

Stargazing is a natural activity that has been slowly lost from our daily lives, especially in large cities where the stars are slowly being lost from view. It seems we as a society are beginning to look down at our screens rather than up at the wild blue yonder overhead. A reconnection with the beauty of our night sky is a wonderful and humbling experience as you take in the vast beauty that is always above us but rarely observed. Stargazing is ideal at the Conservation Halton parks. Being located along the Escarpment in conservation areas the amount of light pollution from the bustling cities is muted and the elevation offered in areas, such as Rattlesnake Point, can really allow for a better view of the stars.

The Niagara Escarpment remains one of the few places in Southern Ontario where the night sky can still be viewed in all its glory. There are countless references available to you to enrich your experience, and guide you in your galactic gazing! There are various sources of constellation maps that are dependent on your location, season, time zone, etc. There are tons of free apps you can download for more informed star viewing. The most popular ones are Starwalk, Aurora Forecast, and Sputnik. These applications can help point out to you the exact location of constellations, locate the core of the Milky Way and you can even find your star-sign in the stars!

Have you ever wanted to photograph the night sky? Photographing the stars in the night sky is called Astrophotography and it involves a little more skill and knowledge than average point and shoot picture taking. With a little bit of understanding photographing the stars can be a fairly simple process once you get to know your camera. There are a few tricks photographers use. Generally the key is to have your aperture (the hole in the lens that lets in light) open wider and the shutter speed at longer increments to gain a longer exposure. However this extended time frame for taking the picture makes the image susceptible to blurriness and movement so a tripod is often required for this kind of shot. You will need a wide aperture or fish eye lens (optional), tripod, a DSLR Camera is preferred but any camera that has manual settings so you can change your ISO and shutter speed will work. The right combination of settings across your ISO, Shutter speed, and aperture will require some practice shots and playing around. However, an aperture setting of f/2.8 seems to be ideal for astrophotography most often. You can try to create star trails with longer exposure/shutter speed settings, where the longer the picture is open for (greater than 45 seconds) you will begin to see the movement of the stars across the sky as the earth rotates. For more helpful photography tips check out this link.

So why not have a star party? Read our blog post on how to spot constellations in the sky. Get together with friends to camp out and attempt some astrophotography! Camping is available at Rattlesnake and Kelso Park, or for day pass holders all the Conservation Halton parks are open until 9pm during summer hours. Each year in the fall, the Mountsberg Conservation Area hosts an annual “Explore the Night Sky” event, which includes a fun and educational presentation from a planetary expert as well as hands on experience with telescopes! So keep an eye out for information on how to get involved in this cosmic occasion.

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A look back at the August 4, 2014 Burlington flood

By Cory Harris and Norm Miller

The QEW and Walkers - August 4, 2014

One year ago, on a sunny, holiday Monday (for most of Southern Ontario), Burlington was hit by a storm which dropped large amounts of rain in a short period of time. This storm delivered up to 192 mm of rain in total according to one rain gauge on Palmer Avenue (near Walker’s Line), while just minutes away in the Tyandaga area (near Brant Street and Dundas Street), rain gauges recorded 48 to 54 mm of rain.

Affected Areas of Burlington from the August 4th, 2014 Flood

Affected Areas of Burlington from the August 4th, 2014 Flood

The August 4, 2014 storm rolled through in two waves, the first just before 2 p.m. with the rain lasting for only a few minutes, and the second saw rain fall in varying amounts between 3 and 7 p.m. The storm extended from roughly Mountsberg Road in the north to Lake Ontario in the south, Burloak Drive in the east, and Brant Street in the west. The elliptically shaped area had a length of approximately 25 km and a width of approximately 9 km, with the storm area being approximately 200 km². The watercourses most impacted were Tuck Creek, Shoreacres Creek, and Appleby Creek.

Due to the intensity, the storm generated significant runoff in a short period of time (flash flood) which flooded homes, businesses, parks, overtopped watercourse crossings, closed roads, and flooded motor vehicles.

Itabashi Bridge

                         Itabashi Bridge

The August 4, 2014 storm was a severe weather event and is typical of the storms we are beginning to see more of recently. These storms can pop up quickly and are shorter in duration and more intense in terms of rainfall. They can also be highly localized as evidenced by our rain gauge data.

North Service Road, QEW, August 4th, 2014, Burlington

North Service Road, QEW, August 4th, 2014, Burlington

As part of our flood forecasting and warning service, Conservation Halton issued flood warning messages, monitored weather and river conditions, and issued updates as necessary to the City of Burlington, emergency services and the media. These organizations then take the necessary action to protect the public, for example closing roads which are flooding or alerting people in their homes.

The following day (Tuesday, August 5), after the storm had ended, Conservation Halton staff began conducting field investigations in areas of the City of Burlington affected by riverine (creek-based) flooding to document damages and the extent of flooding. The investigation took staff the better part of a week as they examined debris patterns, high water marks and spoke to residents in areas near creeks and streams.

It is very important to understand how the watershed responds during a severe storm event in order to guide future development and improve flood plain management. Conservation Halton staff put together a detailed report, in consultation with Halton Region and the City of Burlington, which was presented to the Conservation Halton Board of Directors in April and released to the public on May 1st. The complete report can be found on the Conservation Halton website at

The most important finding, with further details available in the Flood Report, is that the areas in the City of Burlington where Provincial and Conservation Halton flood plain planning policies were applied during development, were the least affected during the August 4, 2014 Storm event. These areas (typically developed after the mid 1970’s) experienced the least amount of erosion and flood damage in comparison to areas of the City of Burlington that were developed before these policies were put into place. Proper planning, which involves not putting people and property in potential harm’s way, is Conservation Halton mandate, which we have been providing to the community for the past 40 years. Conservation Halton staff work hard to address natural hazards through the application of science-based regulation and planning policies.

Conservation Halton’s Burlington Flood Report also contains four recommendations based on the experience from the flood. These recommendations identify the need for better protection measures for Burlington from the effects of future storms, and also identify the need to improved monitoring and the sharing of information.

It is also important to draw a distinction between urban versus riverine flooding. Urban flooding can be defined as nuisance flooding of streets, underpasses, basements and other low-lying urban areas usually due to poor drainage or limited drainage capacity of urban systems (i.e. stormwater). Riverine (creek-based) flooding is flooding that occurs when surface runoff causes a river to swell causing the water to breach the river’s banks. The water then overflows into the river’s flood plain area(s).Conservation Halton is responsible for riverine flooding which is where our flood plain mapping and regulations come in to play. These maps help determine where development can occur and keep people out of harm’s way.

Conservation Halton and Natural Hazards

Natural events that can pose a threat to humans, their property, or the environment are given the term ‘natural hazards’. Natural hazards are often equated with extreme rainfall or snowmelt, fog events, snow/ice storms, forest fires, tornadoes, and earthquakes but the term can also include flooding and erosion associated with creek and river systems.

Conservation Halton has two primary roles when it comes to flooding. The first is flood protection through a water control and flood warning program. Water control is in the form of dams (Hilton Falls, Kelso, Mountsberg and Scotch Block) and flood control channels (Milton, Morrison-Wedgewood and Hager-Rambo) which effectively hold back and divert water from flood prone areas during storms. Flood duty staff monitor weather forecasts from Environment Canada, local weather conditions, and water levels. When flooding is possible or about to occur, Conservation Halton issues flood warning messages to municipal emergency management officials and the media. The municipal officials would then take action to warn local residents. Flood warning messages fall under three categories.

The second role Conservation Halton plays is natural hazard management as part of the land use planning process. This service supports development decisions which safeguard human life and property while protecting the natural features of our watershed. Conservation Halton’s Watershed Management Services Division review development proposals to determine how the proposed works may impact upon, and/or be impacted by, natural hazards. Conservation Halton has the regulatory responsibility to ensure that development is not permitted in areas of natural hazards in order to prevent the loss of life and property. Key in this is preventing home construction and other development projects within ravines, flood plains, shorelines, wetlands, etc.

Conservation Halton’s Regulations, which guide development in and around creeks and watercourses, are intended to keep people and property from natural hazards such as flooding and erosion, and protect against creek or riverine flooding. They are intended to safeguard against the effects of a Regional Storm, such as Hurricane Hazel, which struck Southern Ontario on October 15, 1954.A Regional Storm is the standard to which Conservation Halton regulates. Hurricane Hazel pounded the Toronto region with winds that reached 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph) and 285 millimetres (11.23 inches) of rain in 48 hours, killing 81 people in the process. The damage impacts of Hurricane Hazel cost taxpayers more than $1 Billion in today’s dollars. See for more information.

The work that Conservation Halton does keeps people and property safe from natural hazards such as flooding and erosion and also provides a significant benefit to taxpayers by preventing loss of life and damage to property. The Conservation Authority model is unique to the Province of Ontario and is one of the only natural hazards management models that emphasize prevention and sound planning as the key elements in encouraging development that is in synergy with the natural environment when it comes to natural hazards.

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The Games of Kanata

Piece by Rene Mishake, currently exhibited in the Deer Clan Longhouse, Crawford Lake

by artist Rene Meshake, from the Running with the Deer exhibit

In 1907, Tom Longboat (Cogwagee) ran uphill, in the snow, passing numerous competitors, and even a train to set a new record at the Boston Marathon.    Cogwagee, an Onondaga from Six Nations, began his running career as a child, playing with his siblings, and later running to escape a residential school.   Cogwagee won numerous races around the world and participated in the London Olympics.   He served in the Canadian military and competed as a professional runner. Cogwagee has been recognized as one of the top Canadian heroes of all time, and as a role model for aspiring Aboriginal athletes.

What does it mean to be an Aboriginal athlete in Canada?  Cogwagee encountered many obstacles throughout his racing career; obstacles, which unfortunately continue to greet many Aboriginal athletes today.    Numerous Aboriginal athletes have represented Canada at the Olympics and beyond, yet racism and lack of inclusion are among the barriers that Canadian Aboriginal athletes may face.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action detail several recommendations regarding sport, including:

We call upon the federal government to amend the Physical Activity and Sport Act to support reconciliation by ensuring that policies to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being, reduce barriers to sports participation, increase the pursuit of excellence in sport, and build capacity in the Canadian sport system, are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples” (89) 


We call upon all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, sports halls of fame, and other relevant organizations, to provide public education that tells the national story of Aboriginal athletes in history.” (87) 

It is our hope at Crawford Lake, that through our new Games of Kanata exhibit we can support the reconciliation process.  This exhibit recognizes and celebrates the immeasurable contribution of Canadian Aboriginal people to sport in our nation.   Rene Meshake’s “Running with the Deer”, poetry and images will inform and inspire you, as will the stories of our 3 amazing athletes.


The Games of Kanata exhibit also includes archery, lacrosse presentations and special guest lectures.  Please visit the Conservation Halton events calendar for more information.

With great thanks to:  Rene Meshake, Mary Spencer, Darren Zack, Richard Peter, Wheelchair Basketball Canada and the Government of Canada Community Celebration Fund. Crawford Lake gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada and the Community Celebration Fund for their support of this project.

Canada EN-FR

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