Open menu

1.0 Nichols Creek Catchment: Facts

1.1 General/Physical Geography


  • Montague (13 km2; 28% of catchment)
  • Ottawa: (34 km2; 72% of catchment)


  • The Nichols Creek Catchment resides with an extensive physiographic region known as the Smith Falls Limestone Plain. In this catchment, the limestone plain is discontinuously overlain by organic soils and localized areas of beach sands and gravels
  • In this catchment, bedrock consists of interbedded sandstone and dolostone of the March Formation in the southern parts and dolostone of the Oxford Formation in the northern parts


  • The ground surface ranges in elevation from approximately 140 masl at the head of Nichols Creek to approximately 97 masl at the catchment’s outlet

Drainage Area

  • 47 square kilometers; occupies eight percent of the Jock River subwatershed, one percent of the Rideau Valley watershed

Stream Length

  • Nichols Creek and tributaries: 62 km

1.2 Vulnerable Areas

Aquifer Vulnerability

  • The Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection initiative has mapped scattered parts of this catchment as a significant groundwater recharge areas and all the catchment as Highly Vulnerable Aquifer. Parts of Wellhead Protection Area (WHPA) D for the municipal wells in Kemptville underlie the southern half of this catchment

Wetland Hydrology

  • A watershed model developed by the RVCA in 2009 was used to study the hydrologic function of wetlands in the Rideau Valley Watershed, including those found in the Nichols Creek catchment

1.3 Conditions at a Glance

Water Quality

  • Surface chemistry water quality on Nichols Creek is “Fair” due to occasional high nutrient concentrations and bacterial pollution   
  • Instream biological water quality conditions at the Nichols Creek sample location range from “Fair” to “ Poor” from 2004 to 2015 (using a grading scheme developed by Ontario Conservation Authorities in Ontario for benthic invertebrates) with an overall benthic invertebrate water quality rating of “Fairly Poor” determined for this period

Instream and Riparian

  • Overall instream and riparian condition for the Nichols Creek catchment as assessed by the stream characterization and headwater drainage feature assessment programs show that the Nichols Creek and its tributaries are in generally good condition. The majority of the system has low erosion levels and a healthy forested/wetland riparian corridor along Nichols Creek. Instream diversity of aquatic habitat is fairly complex in the upper reach of Nichols Creek, while the lower and middle reaches are dominated by wetland which is a very important wetland feature with high values that support catchment health

Thermal Regime

  • Warm/cool water thermal guild supporting the Jock River fishery

Fish Community

  • Twenty species of recreational and bait fish

Shoreline Cover Type (30 m. riparian area; 2014)

  • Wetland (77%)
  • Woodland (14%)
  • Crop and Pasture (5%)
  • Transportation (3%)
  • Meadow-Thicket (1%)
  • Settlement (<1%)

Land Cover Type (2014)

  • Wetland (43%)
  • Woodland (39%)
  • Crop and Pasture (9%)
  • Meadow-Thicket (4%)
  • Settlement (3%)
  • Transportation (2%)
  • Aggregate (<1%)
  • Water (<1%)

Land Cover Change (2008 to 2014)

  • Woodland (-8 ha)
  • Meadow-Thicket (-4 ha)
  • Crop and Pasture (-3 ha)
  • Aggregate (0 ha)
  • Transportation (0 ha)
  • Water (0 ha)
  • Settlement (+5 ha)
  • Wetland (+9 ha)

Significant Natural Features

  • Marlborough Forest Provincially Significant Wetland
  • Nichols Creek Provincially Significant Wetland
  • Pinery Road Provincially Significant Wetland
  • Richmond Fen Provincially Significant Wetland

Water Wells

  • 50 (approximately) operational private water wells in the catchment. Groundwater uses are mainly domestic but also include livestock watering


  • No Aggregate Resources Act licenses in the catchment. Very limited sand and gravel resources are of tertiary importance

Species at Risk (Elemental Occurrence)

  • Loggerhead Shrike, Spotted Turtle (Endangered)
  • Barn Swallow, Blanding’s Turtle (Threatened)
  • Eastern Milksnake, Snapping Turtle (Special Concern)

1.4 Catchment Care


  • Twelve stewardship projects undertaken (see Section 5)

Environmental Monitoring

  • Chemical surface (in-stream) water quality collection since 2003 (see Section 2)
  • Benthic invertebrate (aquatic insect) surface (in-stream) water quality collection since 2003 (see Section 3.3.1)
  • Fish survey along Nichols Creek (see Section 3.3.11)
  • Stream characterization survey on Nichols Creek in 2015, working upstream to the headwaters from the mouth of the creek where it empties into the Jock River, taking measurements and recording observations on instream habitat, bank stability, other attributes and preparing a temperature profile (see Section 3)
  • Five headwater drainage feature assessments in 2015 at road crossings in the catchment. The protocol measures zero, first and second order headwater drainage features and is a rapid assessment method characterizing the amount of water, sediment transport, and storage capacity within headwater drainage features (see Section 3.4)
  • Groundwater chemistry information is available from the Ontario Geological Survey for a well located in this catchment

Environmental Management

  • Development along Nichols Creek and in and adjacent to the Provincially Significant Wetlands in the catchment (Marlborough Forest, Nichols Creek, Pinery Road, Richmond Fen ) are subject to Ontario Regulation 174-06 (entitled “Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses”) that protects the hydrologic function of the wetland and also protects landowners and their property from natural hazards (flooding, fluctuating water table, unstable soils) associated with them
  • No active Permit To Take Water (PTTW) and no Environmental Compliance Approvals issued in the catchment