Sifton Bog Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) is located on the south side of Oxford Street, west of Hyde Park Road. The map on the reverse shows the access points and trails.
Parking is available at the main entrance on Oxford Street.
The main feature of this 41.6-hectare public site is the floating acid peat bog and associated boreal plant life. Deciduous swamp and upland forest surround the bog, providing a sharp contrast between the northern (boreal) and southern (Carolinian) vegetation types.
There is a variety of trails within this site, totaling 2.7 km (see map on reverse). A 370-metre long boardwalk leads from the parking lot at Oxford Street to Redmond’s Pond at the centre of the bog, where there is a viewing platform. Most of the trails are easy to walk, but there are a couple of short hills. The managed trails are marked with yellow blazes.
Since the bog’s “discovery” by local naturalists in the 1870s, it has been a site of fascination and some controversy. In the 20th century, drainage was attempted to grow celery, layers of peat were harvested, and Black Spruce trees were sold for Christmas trees.
In 1957 a movement to preserve the bog was initiated by Dr. W.W. Judd of the University of Western Ontario. The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority acquired the site in 1967 from the Sifton Construction Company. The City of London later purchased additional lands.
The bog is a product of glaciation. As the last ice sheet melted 13,000 years ago, a large block of ice broke off and settled in the glacial till (sand and gravel). When the block melted it left a kettle lake, cut off from any watercourses. Sedges, mosses and other plants gradually colonized the margins of the lake. Due to the cool, oxygen-poor conditions, when dead plants sank to the bottom, they did not break down fully, but became compressed as peat.
In time, the accumulating peat formed a semi-floating mat that crept from the outer edges of the bog towards the open water at the centre. As the mat became consolidated, Sphagnum mosses, heath plants and spruce trees grew on the drier hummocks.
The bog’s most fascinating plant life is found near Redmond’s Pond, where colourful Sphagnum mosses grow on the surface of a quaking mat of partly decayed mosses. Other common plants include Leatherleaf, Small Cranberry, Black Huckleberry and Highbush Blueberry. Carnivorous plants such as Pitcher Plant and Round-leaved Sundew grow amongst the mosses. Orchids, including Rose Pogonia and Grass Pink, brighten the mat in early summer. In the fall, a profusion of Cotton Grass, a kind of sedge, may be seen. Towards the outer edges of the bog, Black Spruce and Tamarack trees grow.
Redmond’s Pond supports Southern Pond Lily, identified by its attractive yellow flowers and upright leaves.
Surrounding the peat bog is a swamp of Red and Silver Maple, White Pine and White Birch. There are also several small pockets of Silver Maple swamp in the southwest corner of the ESA near Naomee Place.
On the higher, drier ground surrounding the bog are trees and shrubs typical of southern Ontario’s hardwood forest. Stately White and Red Oak, Black Cherry, and Sugar Maple stand tall, overlooking the bog.
Numerous species of warblers, sparrows and other migrants stop over during spring and fall migration. In some years, the Black Spruce and Tamarack cones attract the winter finches.
Green Frog and Grey Treefrog are often heard in the spring. Midland Painted Turtle frequent Redmond’s Pond.
Raccoon, Grey Squirrel, Eastern Chipmunk and other mammals typical of urban natural areas can be found in the drier habitats. White-tailed Deer live in and around the ESA. The herd’s intense browsing pressure is known to result in the loss of young trees, which has a long-term impact on forest regeneration. Coyotes have also been seen and heard in the ESA.
Sifton Bog is home to uncommon butterflies, including the Bog Copper, whose larvae feed on cranberry plants, and the Bog Elfin, which relies on blueberry plants. Many brightly coloured dragonflies and damselflies can be seen around the pond in summer.