After visiting the Millcroft Inn and the Alton Mill, two of the premier tourist destination in the Hills of Headwaters travel area, I also wanted to explore some of the lovely nature areas that this region is known for. Through rolling hills and forests I drove southwards to the picturesque Belfountain Conservation Area. This protected nature area is part of the Credit Valley Conservation organization and a popular destination for travelers who enjoy hiking on the Niagara Escarpment. Anglers also enjoy it here because of the great fishing opportunities for brook and brown trout.
Serene vistas at the Belfountain Conservation Area
To learn more about this place I met with Kelly Bowman who works for the Belfountain Conservation Area. She filled me in on the interesting history of this area: in 1908 Charles Mack, a wealthy industrialist and inventor of the cushion rubber stamp, bought a property here on the West Credit River to build his summer home. As a tribute to Niagara Falls, Mack had a waterfall built on the property which is still one of the main attractions today. He also added many stone walls, footpaths, scenic lookouts and a guesthouse.
My expert guide: Kelly Bowman
Another interesting place is the so-called Yellowstone Cave, a man-made cave with artificial stalactites, another project initiated by James Mack. Owls and fish were carved into some of the stones, but some of the details have already eroded. The cave certainly has a somewhat mysterious feel to it and is testimony to the sometimes eclectic tastes of wealthy business magnates.
Interior of the mysterious Yellowstone Cave
Kelly and I went for a walk on a trail that took us across the Credit River on a suspension bridge and into some very rocky limestone terrain, all part of the Niagara Escarpment, the famous limestone formation that stretches through southwestern Ontario. Further down the river we crossed the river again and returned to the tamer side of this nature area. Due to its picturesque setting, the Belfountain Conservation Area has long been a favourite destination for wedding photos and special events. Many families and large groups also come here for picnics.
The fountain that may have inspired the name for the Belfountain Conservation Area
After my visit to the conservation area, I did not have to go far to see the next interesting place. First settled in the 1820s, Belfountain is one of the oldest villages in Ontario and full of heritage properties. Just a bit up the street from the conservation area I dropped by at the Belfountain Inn, housed in a stately country home that overlooks the Credit River. There has been a restaurant in this location for over 30 years now. Today’s Belfountain Inn offers casual fine dining from Wednesday to Sunday. The large dining room on the main floor is joined by a large outside deck where guests can go to admire the Credit River.
The Belfountain Inn offers hospitality with a view over the Credit River
From here I continued my way up the hill into the main part of the village of Belfountain which is anchored by a pleasant main street with various businesses. The Ascot Room is an attractive boutique that sells women’s apparel; various patrons were enjoying their cups of java on the patio of the Shed Coffee Bar; and the Belfountain Village Church has been serving the community since 1835. Hollyhocks, roses and various types of summer flowers were just overflowing from many of the front gardens of Belfountain’s historic homes.
Belfountain has many beautiful homes and gardens