The King’s Forest is a topographically diverse area with contains a cooler microclimate supporting rich forest growth including hardwoods and conifers. The King’s Forest contains an “interior forest” that is more that 100 metres from any edge. Migratory songbirds that require deeper forest are found here including Scarlet Tanager, American Redstart, Hairy Woodpecker, Brown Creeper, Black-and-white Warbler, and Ovenbird. Other wildlife including Southern Flying Squirrel, Grey Squirrel, Garter Snake and Brown Snake occur in this area.
The forest was first named Sherwood Forest, in reference to the tales of Robin Hood, but the name was later changed to honor King George IV of England (1936-52). In Europe, forests were the domain of the royal families and hunting was not allowed without permission. While hunting was once allowed in the Red Hill Valley, it has become restricted.
An early Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) site, dated A.D. 800-A.D. 1300, was located within the King’s Forest Park. The people in that small village planted corn, lived according to family clans, and began to hold community councils to resolve their differences. Their core villages were surrounded by smaller camps and hamlets in order to hunt, gather and fish.
Kings Head Inn
A courthouse was built in 1794 on the east bank of the Red Hill Creek, adjacent to Big Creek, where it entered the lake. It also served as the King’s Head Inn, as an early tavern, and rest stop along the Lake Ontario shoreline trail. It was known as the Court House, Government House and was used as a military depot.
The inn was a two-storey, frame house, with eight rooms, and two low rear wings, together comprising a “pretty plan” (Mrs. Simcoe). The inn was constructed to accommodate travellers, being located on a travel route along the lakeshore, and also served as a military depot and storehouse. Known also as the Court House or Government House, its strategic location on the eastern end of the Burlington Bay sand strip was well recognized for its military significance as a lookout. The inn was destroyed by a contingent of 200 American troops in 1813.
The Kings Head Inn marked a strategic location of three Indian trails: the Mississauga, essentially a lakeshore trail from Newark to York, Brant’s trail from the Burlington sand strip around the south shore of Burlington Bay to Burlington Heights and Ancaster, and a third trail from the Burlington sand strip to present day John Street at the foot of the escarpment, and on south to Lake Erie.
Another major trail was the present day alignment of King Street (Queenston to Head-of-the-Lake) that avoided some of the marshier land and was closer to the foot of the escarpment.