Morrison Dam Conservation Area
Morrison Dam Conservation Area (MDCA) is located 2 km east of Exeter, near 71108 Morrison Line, RR 3 Exeter, Ontario.
Driving Directions: From Exeter, take County Road #83 east for two (2) kilometres, turn right (south) at Morrison Line. The entranceway is 500 metres ahead.
After the construction of Morrison Dam in 1958, the Ausable River, east of Exeter was transformed into a lake ecosystem with many recreational opportunities.
Morrison Reservoir (Morrison Lake) is one of the area's only inland lakes.
Visitors enjoy canoeing, fishing, picnicking, birdwatching, hiking on the five-kilometre trail.
For map of Morrison Dam Conservation Area trail and the MacNaughton-Morrison Section of the South Huron Trail, linking MDCA with Exeter, please download the letter-size version of the South Huron Trail Brochure.
- Please also visit the Conservation Education page for information about school and group education programs at Morrison Dam Conservation Area east of Exeter.
Morrison Dam Reservoir has provided recreation, nature enjoyment, habitat benefits for 60 years
Morrison Dam Reservoir is one of area’s only inland lakes
Sixty years ago (in 1958), local partners created Morrison Dam and Morrison Dam Reservoir (Morrison Lake) east of Exeter. The dam and reservoir were created, in part, to supply water for the former canning factory in Exeter. At that time, the business was a major employer and purchaser of local crops and the canning factory needed a reliable supply of water to cool the cans.
The former Ausable River Conservation Authority built the dam “with the financial assistance of both the Town of Exeter, which also gained a supplementary water supply, and the Township of Usborne, because situating the dam on the road allowance upstream from Exeter meant the replacement of an obsolete Township bridge,” according to engineer Charlie Corbett in his article From an Engineer’s View in the booklet 40 Years of Conservation. The conservation authority began work to build the dam and reservoir in the mid-1950s and completed the work in 1958. The dam and reservoir are named after John A. Morrison.
Today, Morrison Reservoir is one of the only inland lakes in the area. The lake isn’t used as a water supply anymore but it offers many important benefits such as habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species and recreation for residents and visitors. The water surface area of the lake, at the normal summer level, is about 25 acres. At the normal summer level, the maximum reservoir depth is about 16 feet with the average depth around six feet.
People enjoy canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and nature appreciation on Morrison Lake. Andrew Dixon, in the bookletA Tour through 25 Years of Conservation (1971), wrote that if you like to fish, canoe, or watch birds, “then the Morrison Lake is for you and is a beauty spot worth a visit.”
The conservation authority planted trees around Morrison Lake to create wildlife habitat and Morrison Dam Conservation Area (MDCA) was born. People enjoy walking, hiking, and other multi-use trail uses such as bicycling at the conservation area. The conservation area is also home to the administration centre and office of Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA). The conservation area surrounding the Reservoir maintains areas of wetland habitat for many species of plants and animals.
The trails of the conservation area join with MacNaughton-Morrison Trail to form the eight-kilometre South Huron Trail. Currently, a community campaign is taking place to raise funds to create a pedestrian bridge, downstream of Morrison Dam, to join two sections of the South Huron Trail. This bridge would provide trail users with a safer, more scenic alternative to walking beside vehicle traffic on the roadway in order to enjoy both trail sections. The community has donated or pledged more than $200,000 towards the trail bridge project and a community working group hopes to raise $90,000 more in order to turn the Jones Bridge dream into reality in 2018.
Today, it is hard to imagine the local landscape without Morrison Dam, Morrison Lake, and the surrounding protected conservation area. David McClure, in his 2006 Annual Report article about conservation authority history between 1956 and 1960, wrote that the creation of Morrison Dam was one of the late-1950s projects that turned vision into action. He wrote that “the environmental benefits and recreational enjoyment,” of two major projects including Morrison Dam, “are the living legacy that grew out of the roots of that vision by local conservation pioneers.”