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Saugeen Rail Trail

Posted: June 5, 2007

Winter Walker Article and photographs by Allsion Kennedy

This is a four season trail. Winter uses include cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Summer uses vary from hiking and biking to running and jogging. Popular dog walking spot.
Difficulty: All
Length: 9 kilometres one way from Port Elgin to Southampton

The Saugeen Rail Trail is a nine kilometre multi use trail that connects Southampton and Port Elgin. Built on an old railway line, the trail is an excellent means of transportation between these two shoreline towns. The trail begins in Port Elgin at the 6th Concession, east of Highway 21, and runs to Wellington Street in Southampton. It can be picked up at several points along its nine kilometres, including at the main trailhead on River Street in Port Elgin.

For many Port Elgin and Southampton residents, this easy access means it is the perfect spot to walk the dog, take the kids for a bike ride, or go for an early morning jog. With the trail passing through many residential Port Elgin and Southampton neighbourhoods, one can easily strap on their skis or snowshoes and be on the trail within minutes.

Despite its easy residential access, the trail runs through several wooded areas and is quite quiet. When visiting after a fresh snowfall, watch for a wide variety of animal tracks and the odd field mouse eyeing you up.

Evergreens provide shelter from west winds and help to keep the trail from drifting. While not track set in winter, frequent users often leave behind a perfect set of tracks.

The trail itself is hard packed and broad. Because of its previous use as a rail line, it is very flat. This makes it ideal for beginning skiers as well as those interested in skating for exercise.

In the summer, a popular route is to bike the trail and loop back along the North Shore Road. This route provides beautiful views of the Lake Huron shoreline.

The trail runs along what was the Wellington Grey Bruce Railway line in the late 1860s and early 1870s. Once used to transport local commodities, the trail is now a popular recreational route for families in the area.

Between 1992 and 1995, Port Elgin, Saugeen Township and Southampton acquired sections of the rail line. These were set aside for recreational use. In 1995, the Rail Trail officially opened and has since become an integral part of the South Port community.

The goal is to extend the trail south to MacGregor Point Provincial Park in the future.

The trail is maintained through a combination of volunteer labour, community funding and membership.

Groomed/ungroomed in winter: The trail is not groomed for cross country skiing during the winter but is used frequently. A stand of trees protects the trail from west winds and subsequent drifting.

Membership: Membership is available and helps to support trail maintenance. Memberships run from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Singles are $10, families are $20, patrons are $50, trailblazers are $100 or a donation can be made.

Trail highlight: The trail provides a wonderful means of travel between Southampton and Port Elgin. Your highlights: plentiful animal tracks, great access and a cup of cocoa at either end.

Access: Official trail head is located in Port Elgin on River Street, a few blocks east of Highway 21. Parking is also available on the 10th Concession east of Highway 21. In Port Elgin, the trail can be accessed at the following intersections: 6th Concession east of Highway 21 and at River Street. In Southampton, access is at South Street just west of Highway 21 and just past Wellington Street, due west of Highway 21.

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