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A Little History and Fishing

Fishing in the Mill Pond for stocked trout is a popular pastime.

Family camping at Backus Heritage Conservation Area



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Backus Heritage Conservation Area is one of those hidden gems most anglers and hunters would dream about taking their family camping.

The fact that Backus is hidden likely contributed to the continued existence of the 1798 grist mill built by John Backhouse (later shortened to Backus) that is the centerpiece of the conservation area. Backus Mill is the only Canadian mill along Lake Erie to have survived razing by invading American forces during the War of 1812. It's in terrific shape and a tour is educational.

Today, the Long Point Region Conservation Authority owns the mill and surrounding property. Backus Heritage Conservation Area, which is just outside Port Rowan and not far from Lake Erie’s Long Point Bay, offers camping and fishing as well as a glimpse of the area's rich history. A heritage village accompanying the village offers activities throughout the summer.

Our site, like most of the 165 others on the property, is nicely shaded and surrounded by trees. First thing Saturday morning, I head down to the millpond to try to catch some stocked rainbow trout with my wife and our three young children. We don’t have much success, but fare much better with smallmouth bass on nearby Long Point Bay that evening. We have a boat to take advantage of the bay’s fishing, but for those who don’t, area marinas have rentals and numerous charter options are available.

Hunters typically don’t have the opportunity to tie hunting into a summer camping trip but the Backus Education Centre offers three different exhibits with hunting connections. The original exhibit is the waterfowl gallery in the building’s basement is first class. While providing information about the geography of the Long Point Area, the display also highlights the area’s waterfowling heritage. It includes everything from antique decoys to an authentic duck hunting boat used by one of the area hunting clubs.

waterfowl heritage gallery
The author's wife Karen and daughter's Abigail, right, and Aliyah check out the decoys in the waterfowl heritage gallery. (Photo credit: Jeff Helsdon)

The main floor features a display of grouse and woodcock sponsored by the Ruffed Grouse Society as well as an interactive display of endangered wildlife. The latter is a partnership between several conservation groups and was spearheaded by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. It is designed to celebrate wildlife success stories and highlight the important role hunters play in conservation.

We spend an hour one afternoon checking out some of the 15 kilometres of trails that snake through the adjacent Backus Woods. At 700 acres the Backus Woods is one of the larger stands of Carolinian forest in Ontario and offers examples of tulip trees, flowering dogwood, sassafras and other Carolinian species.

After a swim in the outdoor pool we visit the Long Point shipwreck display at the Backus Museum. Considering that we’d just been fishing in the area, tales of what is called The Graveyard of Lake Erie were intriguing for the whole family. Just another part of what makes camping and angling at Backus a fulfilling family activity.

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