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Shrewsbury is nestled on the North West shore of Rondeau Bay. Rondeau Bay is 10.5 by 4 km wide and has a mean depth of 1.95 m and a maximum depth of 3.5 m and is the enclosed by the sandspit of Point aux Pins, (Rondeau Park).

The Carolinian Life Zone, where the Rondeau Watershed is located, represents 1% of Canada's land mass. Yet it supports 1/4 of the country's population and is the most intensely farmed area in the province. This area supports a greater variety of plants and animals than any other natural area in Canada, including 1/3 of Canada's rare, threatened and endangered species.

Rondeau Watershed, Official Drainage Plan

Historically, Rondeau Bay marshes formed a continuous wetland fringe along the shores of the Bay.  Today, the wetland is a series of fragmented remnants surrounding the drain mouths. A total of 96ha. of wetland was lost between 1978 and 1985, with only 124 ha. of wetland remaining in 1985. Wetland loss has resulted from dyking, filling, dredging, breakwall construction, and periodic high water levels in the Great lakes. In addition, wetland composition has changed, degrading habitat diversity. Today, less than 5% of the area's natural habitats remain. 
Woodlands account for approx. 3.3%. That leaves a mere 1.7% of Chatham-Kent's remaining as wetlands or other natural areas, (e.g. prairie, savannah). The Rondeau Bay watershed's remnant habitats are a very small example of the diversity of natural areas, species and communities which once dominated this landscape.

Significance of the Area
Rondeau Bay's Marshes are designated as Provincially significant coastal wetland and an Environmentally Sensitive Area. The marshes are provincially significant for waterfowl staging and regionally significant for waterfowl production. 

They provide traditional migration, breeding and/or feeding habitat, for 13 provincially and 2 regionally significant bird species and active colonial water bird (Black and Caspian Tern) feeding and breeding areas. The area is situated along a major fall raptor migration route and is a traditional feeding/breeding ground for the Bald Eagle.

 It is known to provide regionally significant spawning and nursery habitat for 22 species of fish including the spotted gar as well as reptile and amphibian breeding/feeding habitat and good winter cover for game and non-game species alike. Four provincially rare plant species are also present. 

Hydrologically  the marshes help to absorb damaging wave action that erodes the shorelines and diffuse pollution that degrades water quality and aquatic habitat conditions. 
Bates Marsh, Photo Keith Mclean

Recreational opportunities abound. The area has a long history of sport fishing (summer and winter) and waterfowl hunting that are wetland based. At one time, the Bay was world-renound for its largemouth bass, panfish and northern pike sport fishery. These activities strengthen the local economy.

The various habitats within Rondeau Bay and it's watershed play a vital role in sustaining life, supporting populations of common, rare, threatened and endangered species: birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates and plant species. These areas are needed for species to complete some or all of their life stage processes. Continued losses and degradation of Rondeau Bay's significant wetlands has the potential to result in species declines and losses which will lead to reductions in biological diversity
Continued efforts are needed to ensure that degradation and losses are prevented and habitat gains realized

Rondeau Bay supports a rich and diverse aquatic ecosystem. Submerged aquatic plants form the basis of of several food chains and provide habitat for invertebrates, fish reptiles and amphibians, as well as sustenance for migrating waterfowl. Shrewsbury is situated within the Greater Rondeau Important Bird Area and as such is a staging ground for migrating species.

Tundra Swans Canada Geese

Situated within the marshes, Shrewsbury affords abundant opportunities for fishing, waterfowl hunting, birdwatching and ecotourism. A public dock, provides access for windsurfing, canoeing and boating.

Rondeau Bay Lotus Garden

Conservation Area
Accessibility to viewing the marshes and a heron rookery at the outflow of Mill Creek can be found at the Rondeau Bay Marshes,  a 20 hectare, Provincially Significant Wetland, acquired by the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority in 1978. Access is at the end of Wellington Street.

The Shrewsbury Heron Rookery in June

Sora Rail

Black Tern

Environmental Impact

Through it's various incarnations over the past 230 years, as a military port, shipping port, rail terminus, agricultural area, resort and settled community a series of modifications to the natural shoreline have defined the area's relationship with the Rondeau Bay ecosystem.
The major changes to the environment include the widening and hardening of natural drainage channels and the creation of new channels through historic dredging,  reduction of marsh habitat by shoreline development. 

The impacts of channalization have been mixed, in some cases providing feeding and breeding habitat for aquatic species like Black Crappie, Bluegill, Blandings Turtle, Northern Leopard Frog, Green Heron and Black Tern. 

Proposal for the Shrewsbury Trails. More info in the Forum

View Shrewsbury Trails in a larger map