Mudpuppy Night
in Oxford Mills

[Mudpuppy, dorsal view]

is the weekly nocturnal
visit to Kemptville Creek below
the dam at Oxford Mills,

every Friday evening at
20h00 (8 pm) from the first Friday after Thanksgiving until spring high water.

The best Mudpuppy viewing
in Ontario!

Flat bedrock and
clear shallow water
provide safe footing
for researchers and spectators
of large numbers of
giant aquatic Salamanders
pursuing their
winter activities.

Mudpuppies, Necturus maculosus, are foot-long permanently aquatic Salamanders. They retain the gills and smooth skin of larvae as adults, and go undetected in many water-bodies because of their secretive habits. Mudpuppies are slow and cautious, though they can swim nearly as fast as a fish on occasion. In May females deposit 50-150 eggs on the underside of a flat rock. The female guards the eggs, and attends the larvae after they hatch.

About 25 years ago herpetologists realized that Mudpuppies are active, and feed actively, all winter, because they can be caught in baited minnowtraps in the winter but not in the summer. Mudpuppies were long famous for having more DNA in each cell than just about any other animal, and this winter activity has shown that the abundant DNA provides Mudpuppies with the array of temperature-adjusted enzymes they require to remain active in water from 0°-32° C. Mudpuppies are fairly common in the Ottawa River and its major tributaries, north to the Arctic Watershed, and the Canadian range extends through southern Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.

The rocky clear-water Kemptville Creek from the dam at Oxford Mills to the Prescott Street Bridge in Kemptville is the best place to see Mudpuppies in eastern Ontario. Since 1998 Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills’has been taking observers to the only place in Ontario where Mudpuppies have been repeatedly observed in large numbers throughout the winter; the longest-running winter herpetological outing in Canada. In 2005 Mudpuppy Night was awarded the CARCNET Silver Salamander Award for local herpetological conservation and education.

Contact us by phone at (613)258-3107, or e-mail
(there's no registration fee, and all you risk by not contacting us is the unlikely chance that illness or disaster will mean we'll have to cancel)

Mudpuppy Nights

4 Feb 2005
19 Jan 2003

field note archives from Mudpuppy Night


1998-1999 - 1999-2000

2000-2001 - 2001-2002

2002-2003 - 2003-2004

2004-2005 - 2005-2006

2006-2007 - 2007-2008

2008-2009 - 2009-2010

...more years coming soon!

Mudpuppy publications

Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills: It's your only chance to see an active Amphibian when the air temperature is -26 C!

Narrative of a Mudpuppy field trip with Little Ray's Junior Herpetologists - 3 June 2001

Featured Creature - Mudpuppy Necturus maculosus

Mudpuppy links


Andree Gendron's research

About us

Pinicola Home

Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills

dorsal view]
This is the opportunity to see our giant aquatic Salamanders at the only place in Ontario where they're known to be easily viewed during their winter activity. We assemble on the County Road 18 bridge below the dam, and walk around the shore or ice shelves, seeing up to 180 Mudpuppies prowling the bottom. Afterwards we retire to the Brigadoon Restaurant, to drink coffee, eat desserts, and talk about Mudpuppies and everything else!

in Oxford Mills - working the area below the dam]
Fred Schueler and David Tomes working the area below the dam, 28 Dec 2000. (photograph by Bev Wigney )

If you're not familiar with Oxford Mills, just follow the twisting route of Leeds-Grenville County Road 18 south from Kemptville or north from Hwy 401 at Prescott - we meet at the parking lot just below the dam at the bridge in the village - not the Hanlan Bridge outside (west or downstream) of the settlement.

Alternatively, you can reach Oxford Mills from Hwy 416, from Ottawa, Montreal, or the bridge from Ogdensburg. Take Exit 28, to County Road 44. At the end of the exit ramp turn right (onto Co Rd 44 northbound). then take the first left onto Beach Rd. At the end of Beach Rd turn right, onto Crozier Road, and once in the village turn left towards the Brigadoon Restaurant, and there you are. Park along the street, or in the lot behind a little log building east of the dam (if it's not snowed in).

From Smith Falls or Merrickville, take Hwy (now ?County Road') 43 east, to the stone church and township archives at Actons Corners, turn right at the sign to Oxford Mills (County Road 25), proceed south, crossing railway tracks, passing Craig Road, and then left at the stop sign onto County Road 18 and into the village, cross the bridge, and park.

From Winchester take Hwy 43 west, over Hwy 416 to traffic lights at County Road 44, turn left, go to the stop sign at Clothier Street (=County Road 18) turn right, and continue about 7 km to the first left after the railway tracks, across the downstream (Hanlan) bridge, through the village, and park as above.

Mudpuppies don't come up into the area where they can be viewed when the water is high and fast. After rain or thaws it may take weeks for water levels to subside to the point where significant numbers of Mudpuppies are visible, so after such events it's best to contact us, or to check the NatureList for recent reports.

[Mudpuppy, dorsal
The dam in Oxford Mills has got an ancient pedigree:
The province nearly tore it down in 1953.
Repaired, it bars the Rideau Carp from running up the stream,
And stymies springtime Mudpout to support a fishery.

The summer creek below the dam is golden, clear, and warm.
Pearlly Clams and twiggy Caddis larvae root around,
Red-eyed Rock Bass fan their fins behind each standing stone,
And giant neotenic mothers guard their broods alone.

In August when the gold-striped offspring leave the nest at last
There's no idea of hibernating to let winter pass.
Their mating season (no one's seen it) may well be a blast,
And everything that moves becomes their wintery repast.

Necturus maculosus - they prowl the winter nights.
The tadpole is their snack food, the Crayfish their delight.
When Oxford Mills, incurious, has tucked itself in tight,
They wander, cleaning up the creek, beneath the shelves of ice.

Salamanders generally do well when its cool
Ambystoma walks over snowdrifts on its breeding stroll),
And these aquatic wanderers are faithful to this rule:
They fatten up on ice-stunned fish in riffle and in pool.

Below the dam in January, on the bedrock floor,
At first you just see one, and then there's more and more and more,
Stepping with their little feet and stubby fingers four,
They fan red gills and flex broad tails beside the spillway's roar.

Necturus maculosus - they prowl the winter nights.
The tadpole is their snack food, the Crayfish their delight.
When Oxford Mills, incurious, has tucked itself in tight,
They wander, cleaning up the creek, beneath the shelves of ice.

If you say "keystone predator," I think "Necturus" now.
Most creeks lack winter foragers, and so we must allow
Their presence here transforms the stream. Though we may not know how,
Around these long-lived Salamanders the creek's life revolves.

Necturus maculosus - they prowl the winter nights.
The tadpole is their snack food, the Crayfish their delight.
When Oxford Mills, incurious, has tucked itself in tight,
They wander, cleaning up the creek, beneath the shelves of ice.

page somewhat revised, 28 Jan 2011 - fws