With the expansion of the Waterfront Trail to Lake Huron in 2016, Chatham will add 63 km of Trail in the northern part of the Municipality along the Thames and St. Clair Rivers [Maps 25-26]. The other part of Chatham-Kent’s Waterfront Trail has been open since 2013 and runs along Lake Erie [Maps 13-16] between Leamington and Elgin.
Heading east from Essex County (Leamington) along Lake Erie, the Chatham-Kent Waterfront Trail follows a 16 km stretch of gravel road from Wheatley to Erieau. The condition of the gravel is variable depending on the time of year, recent weather conditions, and the whether the road has been recently graded. The road is generally passable for all bikes, though a hybrid type tire is generally preferable.
Though not on the Waterfront Trail, a 16 km detour will take you to Buxton Museum where you can learn about the Underground Railroad and Canada’s early Black settlements.
As you head into Erieau be sure to take in the path that runs along a dike located on the southern side of McGeachy Pond, a Provincially significant wetland. The Trail was constructed by volunteers of South Kent Trails and a has an observation platform where you’ll get a fantastic view of the Lake and Pond. (There are not many trails in Chatham-Kent that have not had the help of South Kent Trails–dedicated and busy group!)
Erieau makes a great stop along the Waterfront Trail, offering beaches, a marina, accommodations, restaurants and even a brewery. Relax on the patio overlooking the beach with great views of Rondeau Provincial Park just across the bay. The trail is not marked into Erieau – it is a technically a side trip and a must-see stop. Look out for Ross Lane as your travel through Erieau Marsh to head south to the town of Erieau.
Blenheim is another small hamlet that offers food and lodging just off the Trail. Rondeau Provincial Park just east of Erieau offers campsites and fantastic natural scenery.
Heading east from Morpeth, the Waterfront Trail follows a stretch of Highway 3 with 90km speed limits and gravel shoulders. Extra caution should be used while travelling on this stretch.
The northwest section of Chatham-Kent Waterfront Trail meanders alongside the Thames River on Tecumseh Line. Check out the interpretive plaques on the Tecumseh Parkway that commemorate the 1813 Battle of Thames and First Nations heritage. This part of the Waterfront Trail is designated as Trans Canada Trail as well.
Going northwest after crossing the Thames River you may be tempted to take a detour to see the St Clair National Wildlife Area. Portable washrooms and parking are available here. The roads leading to the Wildlife Area are gravel–hybrid bikes may fare better than road. On the Trail you’ll pass Pain Court (french for short bread) and Grand Pointe. Both hamlets have places where you can grab a bite to eat. Heading into Mitchell’s Bay the route becomes an off-road trail, known as the South Lakeshore Trail. Mitchell’s Bay is renowned for its great fishing. Its waterfront features a look-out pier over Lake St. Clair, a beach, a splash pad, parking, marina, boat rentals, range of accommodations including camping. Washrooms are available seasonally.
North of Mitchell’s Bay you will hit two stretches of gravel road conditions on which vary depending on weather. It is passable but probably best suited for hybrid bikes if cycling.
A short detour north of Base Line Rd. will take you to Wallaceburg, home to a historic museum and lovely restaurants along the Sydenham River. As you continue north on the scenic but gravel Bluewater Line, consider taking Tecumseh Rd through Walpole Island First Nation to the Walpole-Algonac Ferry that departs from Walpole Island for Algonac, Michigan, USA.
MacDonald Park and the Roberta Stewart Wetland are located at the intersection of St Clair Parkway and Langstaff Line. Together they create a beautiful natural park with tall grass prairie and a restored wetland. Amenities include: parking, a covered picnic shelter, washrooms and a walking trail around the wetland. Great birding spot!