Located along the banks of the north branch of the Thames River, the nature trail features over 10 km of varied levels of difficultly, catering to pleasure walkers, joggers, hikers & bird-watchers. The trail and Wetlands are accessible for baby strollers, motorized scooters and wheelchairs. The trail is a photographer's paradise, from the Mill Pond through to the woodlands and the Wetlands.
Most of the trail is in the urban ward of Mitchell, while the West Perth Wetlands are located in the rural Ward of Fullarton Township.
The original trail was actually a footpath that ran between the Dam and Rowland Street.
When Willow Lane and the Ritz Villa were developed, more people seemed to enjoy walking along the river. In the late 1970's, a design for an extended walking trail from the dam to the Ritz Villa was proposed to the Mitchell Town Council by Richard Lehnen and Gerry Kehl. Council accepted the proposal and proposed the further development of the trail on the west side of the Thames River from Howie Morenz Park to Frank Street.
During the summer of 1979 two summer students, Bill Stephen and Brenda Osborne, were hired to rough through the trail from the railway bridge to Frank Street and install stairs in the pine forest just south of the railroad bridge. Later in the summer six or so Co-Op students from Stratford joined in to complete the work. (Today, this section of the original trail system is not part of the West Perth Thames Nature Trail. Instead the trail has been re-routed along the east side of the Thames River).
Through the summer of 1980, Co-Op students, some of whom were Rob Sawyer, Kevin Doerr, and Jan Wolfley, worked to complete the trail. Many individuals and groups came forward to assist. One of the many that worked hard towards the establishing of the original trail system was the late Don McKerlie. The two benches that were placed along the north section of the trail, still remain today.
Over the years, lack of maintenance caused the trail to become less defined in some areas.
In the mid 1990's, members of MAEG (Mitchell and Area Environment Group) raised concerns about the meadows, wild life corridors and wetlands along the North Branch of the Thames River that were being eliminated. After a public meeting, it was recommended to council that a Committee to address environmental concerns be created. Thus, it was that in 1998 that the Township of West Perth Council created the West Perth Energy and Environment Committee. With the formation of this Committee, interest in re-establishing the trail became a focus, and with Council's approval, the Committee proceeded to work towards the creation of the West Perth Thames Nature Trail.
The West Perth Wetlands involves the reclamation of three decommissioned sewage lagoons that served the Town of Mitchell prior to installation of the present sewage treatment plant. These lagoons have been restored to a natural state as wetlands and shorebird habitat. The area encompassed is approximately 24ha. or 60 acres.
The Wetlands are an excellent location for birders of all ages and skill levels. The berms surrounding the wetland cells are readily accessible and make for an easy walk and clear viewing into all cells. The site provides all birders the opportunity to see a great variety of species. Even a beginner birder will be able to identify many of the geese, ducks, shorebirds, herons, raptors and other species that can be found at this site. Several species actually nest either in and around the wetland or in the neighbouring bush lot, This gives birders the chance to see young birds being fed and perhaps take their first flights as they fledge from the nest.