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Don’t look down.
How could I help but look down? And not just down, but to the left, right, and all around. I was mesmerized by the tall trees and dense forest growth. Everything was so green. The trees, like skyscrapers, shot straight up to the sky, with a metropolis of flora and fauna living harmoniously down below. Even though I was enraptured by this peaceful forest valley at the top of the escarpment, I was slightly preoccupied. I was standing on a narrow wooden platform 50 feet in the air that gently swayed in the breeze.
Okay, you can look down…but try not to fall!
Alright, so I was wearing a harness, a helmet, and was attached to ropes with two safety straps. However, it was a very thrilling adventure walking up high in the trees!
Scenic Caves Eco Adventure Tour
It’s a unique experience at the highest point of the Niagara escarpment, one of Canada’s sixteen UNESCO biosphere reserves. The Scenic Caves Eco Adventure Tour is a professionally guided treetop canopy walk and cavern tour with two ziplines going through the forest and across the valley. And yes, it is an eco tour, meaning that the proper care is taken to avoid any damage to the natural environment. This is responsible tourism that allows tourists to visit the area with minimal negative impacts, ensuring that the natural environment is left relatively undisturbed. No trees were damaged in the creation of the treetop canopy walk, and we were provided with many interesting ecological facts on our journey.
Come along with us on our eco tour of the Scenic Caves just outside of Collingwood, Ontario, Canada!
Our first stop was the suspension bridge. This isn’t any old suspension bridge! It’s Ontario’s longest bridge of its kind located 300 meters above the water level of nearby Georgian Bay (the height of the Eiffel Tower!). The bridge is unique in that it arches upwards toward the center, providing the best view possible. And the view is quite beautiful. On one side, you see a wall of green – trees, trees, and nothing but trees. I can imagine that this would look quite gorgeous on an autumn day when the leaves have started to change color. The most magnificent view can be witnessed by facing the opposite direction towards Georgian Bay. On a clear day, you can see 10,000 square kilometers of the water, the nearby town of Collingwood, a lighthouse off in the distance, and the surrounding countryside.
Even though our small group was crowded towards the middle of the bridge, this didn’t mean that other visitors weren’t walking across it. When people took a stroll across this bridge, it moved around a lot! It swayed quite violently back and forth. Even though there was no chance of this bridge breaking, it was still a little unnerving, particularly when a huge group of school children ran across the bridge – twice! Of course, there was nothing to be worried about and it actually added to the excitement of being up so high, suspended above the Niagara escarpment.
Treetop Canopy Tour
From the suspension bridge, our small group boarded a wagon that was pulled by a tractor. We went on a little ride down a trail in the forest, wide enough for vehicles, toward the starting point of the canopy tour. We went through some safety protocols and tested out our ropes and carabiners on some practice areas on the ground before heading up into the trees. Soon enough, Justin and I climbed up a ladder onto the first of sixteen platforms that took us on an adventure through the treetops in the forest.
We walked along 10″ planks of wood, completely airborne in the forest. These planks are flanked by cables and attached to wooden decks supported by oak trees that are hundreds of years old. At each of the sixteen platforms, we learn about the actual tree that is supporting us with an informational plaque. The canopy walk is 600 meters in total length. We were up there for a while, admiring the views and making sure we were careful in slowly stepping across the wooden planks. Some of the platforms leaned slightly “downhill” or “uphill” in the air, adding to the challenge. Furthermore, if a pair in our group were slightly ahead or behind us and walked on the same platform, the planks tended to bounce in the air, contributing to the thrill.
Justin was walking behind me on the canopy tour for the most part. At one point, he said to me, “Watch the camera, it’s hitting the ropes a little bit.”
For a little back story…a couple of weeks ago when I was hiking the Bruce Trail, I had a small incident where I fell in the mud and the camera lens cap went flying into the forest. I was able to locate it after several minutes of searching. This time, it wasn’t a moment after Justin told me to watch the camera that it must have rubbed up against a rope and the lens cap fell off the camera. This time, it fell straight own into the forest below, 50 feet down. The lens cap, unfortunately, was gone for good this time. (Side note: when I went to replace the lens cap, the kind man at the store informed me that there was a handy thing that attaches the lens cap to the camera itself and strongly suggested that I purchase it. Of course, I decided this was a good idea given my past history!)
At the end of the canopy walk, we took the easy way back down to the ground – a really fun 330 foot zipline ride through the forest back to the bottom.
A second wagon/tractor ride led our group to Lookout Point. We savored pastoral views of the rolling countryside, as well as the sparkling waters of Georgian Bay. We crossed from the edge of one limestone cliff across a short natural bridge onto a rocky surface that was actually one of the “flowerpot” shaped rock formations jetting out from the edge of the escarpment.
The Caverns of Scenic Caves
It’s called “Scenic Caves” for a reason! On our Eco Adventure Tour, we were given the opportunity to explore some of the caves and caverns at the site. These caves were carved out over 450 million years ago by glacial ice. It’s really a whole other world down in the caves, descending up to 70 feet below the surface. The temperature of the air cooled right down as we ventured to the caves hidden in the forest. We were completely surrounded by large boulders, covered in lush ferns and sprawling moss. The sun peaked out between the tall oak trees that somehow grew on the rocky surface above. We had to watch our step as we walked beneath low-lying stone ledges. These were unlike any caves I had visited in the past; they were deep within the escarpment, yet not quite underground. From their website:
The Scenic Caves at Collingwood are excellent examples of fissure caves. These occur in the narrow gaps that form between large blocks of rock as they move downslope from the top of the Niagara Escarpment. Fissure caves have been also called ‘neotectonic caves’ because their formation depends on the presence of joints (deep cracks) in the dolostone cap rock of the Niagara Escarpment. Joints are the product of modern day stresses created by the slow drift of the North American plate westward over Earth’s mantle. The word ‘neotectonic’ means ‘new tectonics’ in recognition that stresses are active. Thus, Scenic Caves is best described as a series of chambers, with sculptured cliffs, overhanging rocks, boulders, tight passageways and jig-saw puzzle fractures.
1000 Foot Escarpment Zipline
Our three hour eco tour ended with a 1000 foot zipline from the top of the escarpment and across the valley, offering spectacular views. It is one of the fastest zip line rides in Ontario! It was a great finish to an exhilarating tour of this magnificent landscape.