Mississippi Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Mississippi Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located near Innisville, Ontario. It provides a secure refuge for many birds.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

The Mississippi Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary is located 20 kilometres upstream from Carleton Place, Ontario. The sanctuary largely overlaps with the Mississippi Lake National Wildlife area and both protected areas are centered around and encompass McEwen Bay, also known as Mud Lake. While this site is important for many species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals, it is known to be particularly important for ducks during their fall migration. These birds gather in this protected area to take refuge from the hunting pressures present outside the sanctuary.

During a fall migration, up to 10 000 ducks can pass through this site in a single day. The majority of these are:

This sanctuary is also periodically used as a waterfowl-banding site.

Wood Ducks
Wood ducks


McEwen Bay is located in the western end of Mississippi Lake, which appears as a swelling of the Mississippi River. This bay, connected to the lake by McIntyre Creek, was formed in 1980 after a milling company erected a dam 17 km downstream of Carleton Place. Prior to this flooding, the land now covered in the waters of McEwen Bay was low-lying farmland.

In the present day, a peninsula and an island restrict the mouth of the bay and farmland still runs along its western boundary. The area surrounding the bay consists of gently rolling terrain with a sedimentary base. Limestone outcroppings occur in the higher areas. McEwen Bay itself is shallow, with an average depth of approximately 1.5 metres, and a muddy bottom with loose vegetative debris and silt covering much of its surface. During wet years, when water levels are high, wild rice is often the most abundant plant to grow out of the water where it forms extensive beds along the shores of the bay and the river. Lush growth of aquatic plants can be found along the shorelines between the open water and the rice stands. Cattails also occur in the bay; however they grow sporadically and do not form dense phragmites. The land surrounding the bay is dominated by flooded vegetation composed of willow, dogwood and maple. In some areas this vegetation is replaced by silver maple swamp at the water’s edge. Where the land surrounding the bay is drier, these dense thickets back onto mature hardwood forests of maple, elm, ash and patches of white cedar.

Mississippi Lake: landscape

Did you know?

Mississippi Lake, the first National Wildlife Area (NWA) in Ontario, was the first Canadian site to use a “weed cutting” boat. In the early 1940s Mr. Earl Richie decided to do something about the weed-choked lakes on the Mississippi River. He formed the Mississippi Lake Association and raised funds to import a specialized weed cutting boat from Wisconsin, U.S.A. This pontoon type boat was equipped with paddles driven through the water by a motor, which cut the weeds at a depth of five feet. This boat puttered around the lakes for many years, clearing paths for boats and opening up the waterways.

Map of the area

Map of Mississippi Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Planning your visit

Whether you’re paddling a canoe or enjoying a picnic on the shore, Mississippi Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary is a beautiful place to reconnect with nature.

Onsite facilities include a picnic area, boat launch, trail and washroom.

As it overlaps with a National Wildlife Area, portions of the sanctuary are seasonally restricted. Access to the Migratory Bird Sanctuary is prohibited from September 15 to December 15, except for direct access to Mississippi Lake via the McIntyre Creek boat launch.

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Mississippi Lake, are established across the country to protect migratory birds during critical periods of their life cycle. Whether these areas are used for feeding, resting or nesting, they play an important role in the survival of many species. Access to each migratory bird sanctuary varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager. Please ensure that you are aware of how you can help protect this sanctuary and please read the restrictions, including those on firearms and hunting, which are in place to conserve the wildlife that call it home. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large inside Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.  

If you would like further information on what is permitted in Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, please visit the Management and Activities section of the website. For more information on Mississippi Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Mississippi Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Ontario
Latitude/longitude 45°03' N, 76°14' W
Size 284 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1959
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations
Main habitat type Marsh and shallow open water, swamp, upland deciduous forest, old field (former agriculture), and meadow
Other species Fish: Yellow perch, pumpkinseed, smallmouth bass, bluegill, northern pike and yellow pickerel
Reptiles and Amphibians: 14 species including American bullfrog, northern leopard frog, snapping turtle, midland painted turtle and northern garter snake
Mammals: Beaver, river otter, muskrat, short-tailed shrew, masked shrew, meadow vole, deer mouse, eastern chipmunk and white-tailed deer
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Least bittern, red-shouldered hawk, Canada warbler, golden-winged warbler, rusty blackbird, snapping turtle, eastern musk turtle, monarch, broad beech fern and butternut
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Region
Landowners Canadian Wildlife Service, Province of Ontario and private

Related links

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada – Ontario Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Ecosystem Conservation
4905 Dufferin Street
Toronto ON M3H 5T4

Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: enviroinfo@ec.gc.ca

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