Proposed Tusket River Protected Areas
Size & Location
The Tusket River is the major waterway running through Yarmouth County, in southwestern Nova Scotia. Its tributaries include the Carleton, Silver, Napier, Caribou, and Quinan Rivers.
Most of the Tusket River's drainage area is split over two distinct natural regions, the Tusket River Drumlins and the Roseway River Glacial Plain. Ice played a major role in the development of both regions. The drumlin landscape is dotted with small round hills of glacial deposits. Fertile soils in this region support forests that are more productive than most other parts of Nova Scotia. Common tree species include white pine, red spruce, yellow birch, and hemlock. The glacial plain landscape has shallower, less productive soils. Wetlands are common owing to this region's flat terrain. Forest cover in this region includes red oak, black and red spruce, hemlock, and white pine.
The Tusket River is renown for its rare species of coastal plain flora.
At the end of the last ice age sea level was up to 100m lower than it is today, allowing a land bridge to connect southwestern Nova Scotia with New England. This link enabled many plant species that are usually found further south to migrate north as glaciers retreated. Nationally endangered and threatened plants are found in wetlands, barrens, and along lake shores in the watershed.
This narrow ridge squeezed between Little Wentworth and Wentworth Lakes in Digby County is 55 hectares. This block of land contains impressive stands of old sugar maples, yellow birches, and hemlocks. It boasts over 16,000 feet of shoreline on the Carleton River system, a traditional canoe route and a tributary of the main Tusket River.
Stillwater Meadows/Squash Lake Brook
Some of the west side has been logged, but several hundred hectares on the river are still intact. This block of roughly 2,000 hectares is one of the few public properties bordering on the Tusket River.
This site contains nationally threatened Sabitia kennedyana (Plymouth Gentain), and rare Woodwardia areolata (Netted Chain Fern). Portions of this block along Gillfillan Lake and the Tusket River have been a candidate ecological reserve for 25 years. It contains mixed forest. The entire block, which also has frontage on Cranberry Lake and Third Lake, is roughly 700 hectares.
Grid Iron Falls
This area offers three kilometres of beautiful river frontage.This area near Canaan is the most downstream of the few Crown properties on the Tusket River, and is about 150 hectares.
Spar Ridge (Wilderness Study Area)
This area includes Great Heath, Croshes Meadow, Quinan Lake, Quinan River, Biggars Lake, Louis Lake, Canoe Lake, Kegeshook Lake, Spar Ridge, Cold Stream, Ikes Ridge, Big Meadow Brook, and about four kilometres of frontage on the main Tusket River at Hemlock Run. About a third of the block drains into the Tusket River.This remote area encompasses roughly 90,000 hectares of public land between Great Pubnico Lake and the southern boundary of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area.
Excluding a handful of rough dirt roads, the Spar Ridge lands are a vast wilderness. The terrain is flat, with occasional ridges and low hills. Large swamps, barrens, and bogs blanket much of the region. Nova Scotia's native moose call this area home, and their narrow trampled down paths criss-cross the land. The barrens are frequented by black bears. Softwoods dominate the forest cover, including black and red spruce, hemlock, and white pine. Red oaks are common on ridges.
Outstanding Natural Features
The Tusket River system boasts many traditional backcountry canoe routes, as well as popular hunting & fishing destinations. It has attracted generations of backcountry canoeists. Many people have fond memories of nights spent below the hemlocks and white pines on the banks of the Tusket River, the rumbling of the rapids interrupted only by the crackling of a campfire.
While hydro dams, acid rain, and an open pit mine at the river's headwaters have taken their toll on the river, the newest threat to the river's natural and recreational values is a proliferation of clearcutting in the region.
The Tusket River Environmental Protection Association, a conservation group with 500 members in the Yarmouth area, and the Ecology Action Centre are calling on the Province to protect Wentworth Lake, Stillwater Meadows/Squash Lake Brook, Gillfillan Lake, and Grid Iron Falls. We have also asked the Province to identify additional protected area candidates from within the Spar Ridge area
The sites recommended for protection have been collectively labelled as the proposed Tusket River Wilderness Area. An additional area at the Napier River, which drains into the Tusket, is proposed as an addition to the existing Tobeatic Wilderness Area.
Protecting some of this wilderness is not a new idea. In the early 1990s government Parks staff identified two large potential Candidate Protected Areas within the greater Spar Ridge block: French Hill (45,364 hectares) and Goodwins Ridge (34,766 hectares). Staff ranked these two areas second and fourth respectively, out of 11 candidates they considered for protection in western Nova Scotia. But the Province did not afford legal protection to a single acre of either site.
Associated Member Groups
This initiative is supported by the Tusket River Environmental Protection Association (TREPA).
© Nova Scotia Public Lands Coalition, Ecology Action Centre, 2006