Acres: 185

Status: Open to the Public, with Trails

Protected: October 31, 2019

Donors: A bequest from John Pitts, support from the families of John and Kathleen Milligan, numerous community members, The Echo Foundation, The Consecon Foundation and The Gosling Foundation. This project was made possible by the Government of Canada through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund.

Landscape: Black River Wildlands

Landscape & Species:

  • The land is located at the southern extent of the Black River Wildlands corridor, identified in our most recent acquisition strategy as high priority for protection. 
  • 25 vegetation communities that are still being documented.
  • A highly vulnerable aquifer provides significant cold water recharge.
  • The property has an active quarry to the south west and buffers a large wetland connected to the Head River.
“Protecting this mix of forest, wetland and headwaters benefits our entire community,” said Mark Bisset, Executive Director of The Couchiching Conservancy. “Creating corridors of connected wilderness is a critical goal of our work. Having land set aside from development is an imperative part of the solution to our collective climate crisis. Adding untouched wilderness to our network of Nature Reserves, and other protected places is something that helps us all.”


6298 Pearl Carricks Road, Sebright.

This Nature Reserve is open to the public but has no designated trails at this time.  Access to the property is at your own risk, and dogs must be kept on a leash.  Throughout the summer of 2021, we have two interns from the Canadian Conservation Corps working on clearing some of the beautiful trails John Pitts created on the property.  We look forward to announcing the opening of these trails to the public by September.   

In spring, summer and fall, there is parking in front of the property sign off of the road.  In winter, parking is more challenging as the shoulder of the road is soft.  Park away from the blind corner and mind the soft shoulder.


The John Pitts and Kathleen Milligan Sweetwater Farm Nature Reserve:

John and Kathleen were peaceful people who gave more to the world than they took.  John lived in the Toronto area for several years before moving to the Orillia countryside and  buying a homestead  which he called the Sweetwater Farm. This 185 acres  in Ramara Township is mixed hardwood, wetland and high-quality alvar with a variety of species.

John lived self-sufficiently on the farm, growing his own food, caring for the land, and giving his time and energy to help friends and contribute to local causes. He met and married Kathleen Milligan with whom he shared almost 32 years. To his great sorrow, he lost her in 2012.

John’s intention was to protect this place. The Couchiching Conservancy had conversations with John about protecting Sweetwater Farm, but it seemed like there was lots of time to work things out. In February 2018 he unexpectedly died.

When John passed away, he bequested $30,000 to the Conservancy toward the acquisition and permanent protection of the property that he cared for. On top of that, his family pledged an additional amount. We are so appreciative of John and his family’s gifts and are honoured to be entrusted with a place close to their hearts.