The Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation

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Scanlon Creek Restoration Project

The Scanlon Creek Restoration Project is located at Scanlon Creek Conservation Area in the municipality of Bradford West Gwillimbury. Scanlon Creek is the flagship conservation area of LSRCA, acting as one of the primary focal points for public use, education, and appreciation of the natural environment in the Lake Simcoe watershed.  Each year there are thousands of recreational visits to Scanlon Creek by the community. Additionally, each year thousands of school-aged children connect with the outdoors through curriculum-based environmental education  provided by LSRCA staff.


In the early 1970s the Conservation Authority created an on-line reservoir to contribute to recreational and aesthetic values in the conservation area. Unfortunately, the reservoir had unanticipated impacts on wildlife.  Further, water quality in the reservoir had declined consistently over the years as a result of non-sustainable agricultural practices upstream (that have now ceased). As a result, this reservoir has been closed to swimming since 2003.

The Scanlon Creek Restoration Project puts into action the recommendations provided in the  Scanlon Creek Conservation Area Management Plan and subsequent Environmental Assessment. The assessment recommended the reservoir be de-commissioned and a natural creek and wetland be restored to encourage local flora and fauna to thrive. Once completed the restored natural channel and adjacent wetland will provide habitat for more diverse wildlife populations.

Local trail users in Scanlon Creek will experience the natural wetland through the creation of boardwalks, viewing platforms and interpretive signage that will connect local residents to wetland stewardship and education programs. 

Project Objectives

  • Resolve the issue of the degraded on-line reservoir by decommissioning the concrete dam
  • Re-establish a free-flowing Scanlon Creek, bringing it back to it’s natural state, connecting  to Lake Simcoe and beyond
  • Re-establish traditional spawning runs of white sucker and northern pike throughout the Scanlon Creek subwatershed
  • Increase the value of this water feature for breeding and migratory waterfowl
  • Provide more educational and stewardship opportunities by establishing a demonstration site for reservoir decommissioning

Project Phases

The Scanlon Creek Restoration Project is executed in 3 phases to reduce both cost and short-term stress on the environment.

Phase One: Reservoir Draw Down​

The reservoir was partially draw down by opening the sluice gate valve.  High water flow during spring freshet initiated the development of a free-flowing creek in the reservoir’s footprint. The upper reaches of the channel created itself naturally, and the unstable banks were re-graded by an excavator to provide a more natural stable slope. The slopes were planted with native live cuttings to further enhance stabilization and provide more habitat for wildlife.


Project monitoring is essential to ensure success and benchmarking for future applications. It is integrated in all phases of the project for changes and impact to aquatic fish and their habitat, terrestrial, benthic species, wetland habitat, water quality and quantity. Baseline measurements are already established.  Lapsed photography cameras have been installed at the former on-line reservoir to illustrate and monitor the incredible transformation.

Phase Two: Dam De-Commissioning

  1. Dam De-commissioning Design: Retain a consulting firm to assist with the creation of detailed design drawings, obtaining all permit approvals and completion of a tendering document with detailed construction costs.
  2. Continue monitoring activities

Phase Three: Channel By Pass, Boardwalk and Wetland Creation

A small hill represented the last obstruction for fish habitat and migration. This barrier was removed to allow Scanlon Creek to flow around the dam.

2015 Activities:

  • In 2015, a new 22 metre bridge to cross over Scanlon Creek was installed.
  • New wetland areas in the old reservoir bed have been shaped and contoured, they are ready to be planted and monitored. We are excited to see what new and returning species take up this restored habitat.
  • Planting along the edges of Scanlon Creek (riparian planting) and occurred throughout the restoration area in the spring of 2015.
  • New educational and signage installed in the fall of 2015 explaining the ecological significance of this project to visitors and highlight the valuable role Scanlon Creek plays in the Lake Simcoe watershed.
  • Extended boardwalks, trail and a viewing platform will be coming soon.
  • Ongoing monitoring of plant, aquatic and terrestrial species will continue. We are interested in learning if white sucker, northern pike and brook trout populations (among others) will live and breed in Scanlon Creek as they have historically.

The Scanlon Creek Restoration Project is an excellent example of a project our donors support. Thank You!

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