Park Quest #5: Southwold Earthworks Historic Site (and dog run?)

Southwold Earthworks Historic SiteSouthwold Earthworks near St. Thomas, Ontario, is a strange serene off-the-beaten path locale you’ll likely have all to yourself if you can find it.

Completely enclosed by a fence, it’s also an ideal dog park.

But don’t tell Parks Canada I said that.

Southwold Earthworks is a free Parks Canada National Historic Site located along Iona Road in Elgin County, Ontario about 20 minutes south of Highway 401. We discovered it on our way back from a weekend in Point Pelee National Park right at the point my dog Victor needed a run.

A little terrier dude can only spend so much time in the car. Plus, he loves history – or the smell of it.

At Southwold Earthworks, history smells about 500 years old. That’s old in Canada, a country celebrating its 150 anniversary this year.

A green Parks Canada sign marks the entrance to the site, and about three side-of-the-road parking spots indicate you can stop here. Behind the historic entrance way plaque, a long grassy fenced walk (great for dogs) flanked by a ravine on one side and a farmer’s field on the other eventually opens up to a circular fenced park.

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Gnarly photographic old growth trees provide shade. Picnic tables and metal educational plaques dot the area. (Note: Porta-Potties are the only facilities).

An oval of double grass-covered mounds of earth make this site significant: these mounds were once the base of double palisade walls surrounding a village of about 800 Attiwandaron First Nations people, later called the Neutral Iroquois, who lived here pre-European contact sometime between 1500-1650.

Archaeologists suggest about 18 longhouses existed within these fortified walls and a small stream ran through the village. There’s no evidence the strength of the walls were tested by attack, nor that these people ever met European settlers.

Southwold Earthworks Historic Site plaque

Victor runs the circumference of the oval sniffing through the grass. The site demands a circular meditative walk visualizing a village of many people crowded into this dense forest clearing unaware of how history will eventually unfold. It would be three hundred and fifty years before someone named this land Canada.

Why an oval? Symbolically circular shapes are universal and sacred representations of the universe’s infinite power. Practically, this might have been the easiest way to enclosed the village and keep out potential threats and invaders. Whatever the reason, little beats the serenity of having a quiet wooded enclosure all to yourself and your dog.

And today’s rustic fencing enclosing the entire site sure helps too (even if dogs are supposed to be leashed). Next time, we’ll bring a picnic.

Want to know more about National Parks of Canada sites? Check out National Geographic’s Guide to the National Parks of Canada (available on Amazon – affiliate link) – a highly recommended book.


Note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click on a link above and then make a purchase, will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you. Cheers!


  1. So beautiful! Victor must have felt like he was in heaven! I love how serene this park looks. This would be a great place to visit. The historical part of the park would be interesting to read more about.

    1. He loved the run but was a little confused at first about where he was going. There’s a long narrow path to get there.

  2. Looks like a great place to take your dog and learn a little about history as well! I’d love to visit Canada again (and perhaps relocate there given the current situation in the US)

    1. Get you visas in order now…

  3. What a great find! I love a dog friendly place with a bit of history, especially if it’s not a terribly crowded tourist spot. Lovely photo slideshow. Sherri it was so great seeing you at the BlogPaws conference, I wish we had more time to just sit & chat – but it gets so hectic!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    1. See you at the next BlogPaws!

  4. That’s really interesting! I have been thinking about fleeing up to Canada (only half joking). I enjoy history although my dogs only like digging it up, but I’m glad you were able to take your pup there.

    1. No joke. I’ve been watching the news and thinking, ‘if I have to help my American friends flee, what can I do?’ At least come for a visit.

  5. If you head to Ottawa we MUST meet up seriously – I would love to take you to the McKenzie King Estate!

    1. Yes, that’s on my list. I’m actually hoping to get there for the Market dog festival.

  6. spencerthegoldendoodle · · Reply

    How awesome combining the two! Most places like that don’t allow dogs. Thank you so much for sharing, it sure looks like a place I would love to frolic around in.

    1. Most National Parks Sites in Canada allow dogs on a leash …

  7. hpwallace · · Reply

    You have some amazing parks near you! Lucky for Victor.

    1. This one’s about 1.5 hours away – half way stop between home and Point Pelee.

      1. hpwallace · · Reply

        Wonderful that you were able to visit on your way home!

  8. What a beautiful park! My bucket list includes visits to the New England area and Canada. I hope to visit both in the near future. I wish the girls didn’t mind traveling so I could take them with me.

    1. New England is definitely on my list too – especially Maine

  9. Love the idea of it being peaceful and quiet as it gives you time to relax also. Layla and I during the summer check out all the parks in the city but I do it a lot in the mornings when there are less people as I love the peace and quiet 🙂

    1. I do like to socialize Victor but sometimes it’s easier to not worry about other dogs and just have a place to ourselves for an hour.

  10. Sweet having all that space to yourself! Ok, Victor, I want to know……how does history smell? I would think rather musty, but since it’s an outdoor space, doubt that’s the case. Regardless, looks like a really nice place for some down time!

    1. Apparently, it smells…every three steps. Who knows what walked there before us but Victor sure found it interesting.

  11. Looks like Victor enjoyed his romp. It sounds like a great place for people and dogs to spend a great day.

  12. Sounds like the perfect quiet little pit stop for your trip. Intentional or not, it definitely also sounds like the perfect place for pups to stretch their legs!

    1. I suspect it’s used a lot for that, especially by locals

  13. What a cool place to visit. Looks like Victor enjoyed the romp.

    1. He actually almost got tired – especially after visiting Point Pelee the day before.

      1. Hahaha “Almost.” I guess you are just going to have to take him back again two days in a row.

  14. Looks like a nice serene space. Honestly judging by the pictures, this is the largest dog run I’ve seen. Nice play for to release and run indeed. Pretty well maintained considering how old the space is.

    1. It was a big park for a dog … but small for a designated historic site.

  15. What a cool place to run into. Mr. N has been to a couple of historical sites but nothing that old.

    1. It’s weirdly old – and likely won’t be there another 100 years because nature has a way of taking things back

  16. I love it when places make considerations for pets. There are many places I wouldn’t even consider going to because they are not dog-friendly.

    1. I’m not sure they did it on purpose. But a big quiet fenced in park sure invited a good dog romp. (Rules say he should have been on leash).

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