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This is why we, as humans, can’t have anything nice. One of my favourite places to take autumn photographs is now permanently closed and off limits to visitors. As sad as it is to hear about this closure, it is actually for the better. Years ago, I used to make my way up to Caledon, Ontario to photograph this unworldly landscape that not many people knew about until recent years. I used to drive up there with my gear and have the entire place almost to myself. All that has changed now. I was last up at the Cheltenham Badlands in 2012 to photograph some of, in my personal opinion, Canada’s most stunning autumn landscape. The Badlands is a seven-hectare area of exposed iron-rich Queenston Shale bedrock deposited over an impressive 445 million years ago. As I pulled up to the road to park, I noticed there was literally a slew of cars and people everywhere. “How the hell did this many people find out about this place in the last few years”, I thought. I managed to find a secluded spot to park my car and make the short walk over to the landscape.
The area’s popularity has increased in recent years because of population growth in the surrounding area, word of mouth and of course, good ‘ol social media. The increasing number of visitors led to safety concerns due to the large number of cars parking along the road adjacent to the site, which has a horrible blind spot due to a hill on the road as well as increased foot traffic and erosion along the trails, in the slopes, and in other areas of the badlands. They have plans on building a viewing platform for people to enjoy the landscape, but it will never be the same to me. I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited this place over the years with a small amount of people for photo shoots, or building my personal photo portfolio. It’s about time we took charge of protecting what we have left of this natural phenomenon before it erodes to red dust.
To be honest, I’m not mad at the fact that they’ve closed it down to visitors, I’ll admit, I wanted to scope it out this year too, but I’m happy that they are actually realizing the effects that humans are having on the landscape before it’s simply too late. We have to protect these areas before we are left with nothing. At least I have these old photographs to remind me of the natural beauty that we are so fortunate to have in this country.