Week 8 – Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills


WANTED: Naturalist adventurers of all ages who aren’t afraid of being outside on a cold winter’s night.  Your mission is to join Fred Schueler and Aleta Karstad in observing the Mudpuppy population of Oxford Mills in their natural habitat.

DSCF5920But…what is a Mudpuppy?  I didn’t know either until I went to a talk by Fred and Aleta on January 10, which was hosted by Sustainable North Grenville.  That’s when I learned that Mudpuppies (or: Necturus macrolosus) are foot-long aquatic salamanders that are active even throughout our frigid Canadian winters.  Unlike frogs, who slow down when it gets cold, Mudpuppies have the same energy levels in the summer and winter.  They mate in late autumn and females lay up to 150 eggs on the underside of a flat rock.  Mudpuppies can live for up to 30 years.

Usually difficult to find because the rivers they live in tend to be wide or have tall banks, Fred explained that the Kemptville Creek from the Oxford Mills dam to the Prescott Street bridge in Kemptville is the perfect spot to see Mudpuppies because of the flat rocks and clear, shallow water.

After the talk and a fun rendition of the song {yes – there is a song!}, the group of about 30 people headed down to the dam to see the Mudpuppies in action.  Fred warned us to be careful on the ice – not because of risk of drowning but because there’s a chance of getting a good soaker.  The path down to the dam was a bit treacherous due to the snow and rain of the week before.  Parents of young children should be ready to hold their little one’s hands on the way down.


Clad in hip-waders, a thick toque, and a headlamp, Fred broke shelves of ice with an axe to reveal the Mudpuppies hanging out under the ice.  One particular Mudpuppy who was submerged in the cold water looked as content as a lizard on a flat rock in the hot summer sun.  Mudpuppies like to cuddle and snuggle up in crevices.  If you like, you can pick them up, but Fred cautions not to squeeze them.

DSCF5910The flashlights of my fellow adventurers made spotlights in the water and lit up mini glaciers and they floated by on the brisk current.  A Canada Goose watched us from across the water before growing bored and leaving us to our observations.  At the centre of the ice where we’re gathered is a bucket containing two Mudpuppies.  A group of kids gather around the bucket, eager to touch the creatures.

After a half hour on the ice, Joe and I headed back up to the street.  Couples and families walked up with  us.  By the end of the night 30 strangers were chatting amiably with wide smiles on their faces.  There is something magical about Mudpuppy Night.  And if you want that to last, the group stops in at The Brigadoon for coffee, tea, dessert, and conversation.

So…what are you doing on Friday night??

Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills

When: Every Friday night at 8:00 pm from October until the spring thaw.

Where: Participants meet at the parking lot just below the dam at the bridge in Oxford Mills (not the Hanlan Bridge).  For detailed directions from Kemptville, Winchester, Merrickville, Smiths Falls, Ottawa, Montreal, and Odgensburg, see the Mudpuppies website)

Cost: Free






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8 Responses to Week 8 – Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills

  1. Jill says:

    We were there! My 3 year old had fun (that’s him in the blue striped coat) as did I – but then again, I’m a bit of a nature nut.

    • 52weeksNG says:

      No way, Jill! I think we must have met then, as we were walking over the bridge to get back to the parking lot afterwards. I asked you how old your little one was and mentioned our almost-three-year old at home! Mudpuppy Night is a great opportunity to get outside in the winter…I’m a cold weather nut. 🙂

  2. Vincent says:

    what a unique Canadian winter experience……who would have thought?

  3. Might have to join you one night! Mud Puppies …topping the charts for favourite new animal…Adorable! It will all depend on my ability to stay awake on a Friday night!!!

  4. Sonja Bertram says:

    Fascinating to think that all that activity is going on out there and because of such intrepid folks like Dr. Fred and Aleta we can experience it as well.

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