In the early 90’s this area was destined to be a clearcut logging operation. A group of concerned citizens and user groups successfully lobbied the provincial government to preserve this gem and today, parts of this 2,000 acre (800 hectare) old growth forest is located within the town limits. It is Ontario’s sixth largest remaining stand of original old growth red and white pine forest.
Now, officially designated as a Conservation Reserve, traditional native uses such as hunting, fishing, trapping and farming (collecting nuts, berries and mushrooms) can still be conducted while resource extraction such as logging and mining has been permanently stopped.
Several access points will take you along old trails, or the Nastawgan which is Ojibway for trails, that have been documented to be between 5 and 6 thousand years old. Note: Egypt’s pyramids are only 4,000 years old! Towering white pines in excess of 5 feet in diameter that were mere saplings when Columbus first visited the Americas over 500 years ago can be found on some of the ridges in the interior of this ever-evolving forest. Red pines with a DBH (Diameter, Breadth, Height) of 24” are quite common throughout Ontario’s forests. Trees over 30” DBH are rare. Several red pines in “The Bear” are over 36” and at least one is documented to have a DBH of 40”! Various species of wild orchids and countless varieties of mushrooms can also be found there.
Guided and self-guided tours are available in all seasons by hiking boots, cross country skis or snowshoes. One outfitter offers a water taxi service to take you into the center of this unique eco-system. Motor boat and canoe rentals are also available locally.
Article by Doug Adams