Conestogo Lake Conservation Area is in the heart of Mennonite country. It is on a y-shaped lake that stretches six kms up each arm. A unique feature of this area is the huge concrete flood control dam and reservoir surrounded by large tracts of forest, giving the appearance that the park is in northern Ontario. This is a multi-recreational use park that is used for many activities including camping, power boating, sailing, water skiing, canoeing and fishing.
In the early 1800s, the Grand River was a source of transportation, power and water for local communities. Settlement led to deforestation, intensive farming and urbanization, which began to hinder the natural cycles of the river. By the 1930s, river conditions had become so severe that annual floods, drought and pollution were affecting public health and the economic development of the communities up and down the Grand. Something had to be done. Sponsored by the Grand Valley Boards of Trade and modeled on the fledging Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States, the "Grand River Conservation Commission Act" was passed by the Province of Ontario in 1932. The commission was the first watershed management agency in Canada when it received its formal Letters Patent in August, 1934. This was the first time local municipalities had banded together to address water management issues on a watershed scale.
The founding partner municipalities were Brantford, Galt, Kitchener, Fergus and Caledonia. William Philip of Galt was the first chairman, and the commission's head office was in Brantford. Other municipalities soon joined the partnership. In 1948, the Grand River watershed municipalities formed their own Grand Valley Conservation Authority under this new act. This new agency had extended powers in the 1950s, which allowed it to acquire many wetlands, forests and natural areas in the watershed. The valley authority also acquired park land for camping, swimming, fishing and canoeing.
Many of today's popular conservation areas, including Elora Gorge, Rockwood, Pinehurst Lake and Byng Island, were purchased and developed during this time. This new authority's objectives began to parallel those of the commission. Early provincial conservation authority publications even included the commission as a special section. The two agencies merged in 1966 to form today's Grand River Conservation Authority.