Canada is rich in forest habitats, with many unique forests in each province. More than half of our country is covered in forests, and Canada is home to almost 10 per cent of the world's forests. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is dedicated to preserving forests coast-to-coast, from the boreal forest in Newfoundland to the majestic coastal forests of Vancouver Island. We've chosen ten of our forest properties that are publicly accessible for you to explore.
1. British Columbia's coastal Douglas-fir forests
Chase Woods Nature Preserve is a 100-acre (40-hectare) property located on Mt. Tzouhalem in British Columbia's Cowichan Valley. Dominated by trees clinging to dramatic cliffs rising above Cowichan Bay, Chase Woods is well-loved and travelled by locals and hikers. This old-growth forest includes centuries-old Douglas-fir and arbutus, and pockets of rare Garry oak meadow. Bats and peregrine falcon nest in the cliffs and caves on this special preserve.
2. Alberta's majestic Crowsnest Pass
The remote Crowsnest Pass in Alberta is storied for mining, being an important railway connection through the Rockies, and the disastrous Frank Slide, where the town of Frank was lost in a massive rockslide in 1903. The Crowsnest Pass is also home to an ecologically diverse Interior Douglas-fir forest, where wide-ranging carnivores, elk and deer can call home. Included in this forest is NCC's Lusicich Estate property, where visitors who are willing to venture off the beaten path will be rewarded with a close-up experience of the Phillipps Pass, which transverses through the area and along the Crowsnest Lake, and a look at some of the province's majestic Douglas firs.
3. Saskatchewan's West Parklands Natural Area - Maymont 5
On the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River, just south of the town of Maymont, Saskatchewan, is a 136-acre (55-hectare) property called Maymont 5. Many rare or endangered species make their home here, including lake sturgeon that plies the waters of the river this property hugs.
This area is a part of West Parklands Natural Area in Saskatchewan, which forms the southern transition to the boreal forest, a type specific to Canada's Prairies.
Visitors to Maymont 5 will find a collection of waterfowl, grassland birds and mammals - but no marked trails. You can start your journey just south of the Maymont Bridge at the barbed-wire fence entrance and walk east across the property, crossing through narrow bands of aspen forest and dry grassland knolls before climbing the fence line to the height of land to watch the waters of the river flow by.
4. Manitoba's Elk Glen
Elk Glen is a 1,596 acre (645 hectares) property which is right next to the southern boundary of Riding Mountain National Park in western Manitoba. The north of the property consists of mixed-wood forest, transitioning into aspen and oak forests to the south. The olive-sided flycatcher, Canada warbler, bear, moose and elk all make their home here.
Before heading out to Elk Glen, please contact the Manitoba Region at 1-866-683-6934 to obtain prior permission and coordinate your visit.
5. Ontario's Happy Valley Forest
The Happy Valley Forest is a 2,850 acre (1,154 hectare) forest located in King Township north of Toronto. It is one of the largest remaining intact deciduous forest tracts on the ecologically significant Oak Ridges Moraine, and supports more than 110 bird species and a number of species at risk, including endangered plants and salamanders.
Happy Valley is a shining example of the upland sugar maple and beech forests native to this area. Its old-growth features take visitors back to a time before the first loggers began cutting the forest giants of southern Ontario.
6. Quebec's Green Mountains Nature Reserve
Quebec's Eastern Townships give Montrealers a chance to enjoy nature an hour away. NCC's Green Mountains Nature Reserve is the largest privately held Quebec conservation area; a stunning 17,300 acres (7,001 hectares) of pure, untouched wilderness. This forested area provides habitat for 20 at-risk plant species, birds of prey such as owls and hawks, and various mammals including bears, bobcats and moose. The forest boasts deciduous birches, beeches, ash and maple at lower elevations, which are stunning to view in the fall, and mixed-wood forests of fir, spruce and birch at higher elevations.
7. New Brunswick's Bay of Fundy - Musquash Estuary
The Musquash Estuary is the Bay of Fundy's last fully-functioning estuary. An estuary is a transitional space between rivers and coasts, where high levels of nutrients make estuaries one of the most biologically productive environments in the world. The massive area -4,233 acres (1,713 hectares) - covered by the Musquash Estuary is home to six important habitats from the Bay of Fundy region, including coastal forests. The NCC has established and maintains two hiking trails which give visitors an immersive experience in this ecologically diverse area.
8. Nova Scotia's Gaff Point
If you're looking for a coastal hike on Nova Scotia's South Shore, Gaff Point near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia will reward you with thrilling views of the ocean. The trail starts on a white sand beach, meanders and climbs through a rugged and windswept conifer forest, and opens up to heaths and grasslands overlooking the shore below. Whales, seals and a variety of birds are just some of the wildlife you'll see on a hike to Gaff Point. A seven-kilometre hiking trail is accessible off Hirtle Beach.
9. Prince Edward Island's Boughton Island
Boughton Island, Prince Edward Island (Photo By Mike Dembeck)
Boughton Island is PEI's third-largest island and has been completely uninhabited since World War II. Wildlife diversity has bloomed on Boughton, and locals often take day trips to Boughton to try to catch a glimpse of the bald eagles, great blue herons, and the endangered nesting piping plover. Its diverse habitats include six kilometres of pristine shoreline and spruce forests, which you can enjoy with walks through old roads constructed before the island's limited settlements and lobster cannery were abandoned.
10. Newfoundland: Boreal forest and the Salmonier River
Salmonier River, Newfoundland (Photo by Mike Dembeck)
The Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland is home to North America's most easterly forest. The forest consists primarily of stands of balsam fir, with white and yellow birch interspersed. This unique forest habitat also has a high diversity of lichens, believed to be unmatched when compared to the boreal forests of the rest of Canada. Many of these species are uncommon, declining, or at risk worldwide, such as the endangered Atlantic population of boreal felt lichen.
This post originally appeared in the Globe and Mail and on NCC's blog, Land Lines.
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