Posts Tagged ‘boardwalk’


A couple of weeks ago, RailGuy and I headed up to Arnprior, north and west of Ottawa, to hike the Macnamara Nature Trail. The trailhead is just outside downtown Arnprior, in an industrial area. The trail runs in part through the property of Nylene Canada Inc. At the trailhead, you can pick up a helpful guide. It highlights 19 stops along the trail with information about the natural and human history relevant to each location.


The four kilometre long trail (five if you include the optional sidetrail to the marsh lookout) is well-marked and nicely maintained, with benches thoughtfully placed at the top of a few modestly demanding climbs. Near the trailhead, there was quite a bit of traffic and commercial noise, but we weren’t far along the trail before the sounds of industry fell away and the quiet of the forest prevailed. Comprised mostly of deciduous trees, the woodland is open and pretty.


A section of the trail travels through the upper reaches of the wetland and features a sturdy boardwalk. At the edge of the boardwalk, we spotted the red berries of Jack-in-the-Pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum). You can readily see the source of its scientific name, three-leaves, triphyllum.


The remains of an old lime kiln provide evidence of early industrial activity in the forest. The kiln was built by the McLachlin Lumber Company in the mid-to-late 19th century. The rocky ground, part of the Canadian Shield, is mainly marble and limestone. The igloo-like kiln was stocked with firewood and used to heat broken chunks of rock. When water was added to the burnt rock, it produced slaked lime (Calcium hydroxide), a product used as mortar in brickwork or as paint (whitewash).


Not far from the lime kiln remains, a set of stairs allows hikers to get a close-up look at the rock face.


There are a few points of interest here. In the little den formed by the facets of rock, there are piles of oval droppings. They are evidence that the den has been popular with porcupines over many years.


But the main attraction is the colony of rare Walking Ferns (Asplenium rhizophyllum). Their name is derived from the manner in which they reproduce. Whenever the long, pointed tip of a leaf-like frond touches down, a new frond can sprout up. A parent plant can thus create several generations of fronds via vegetative reproduction as it ‘steps’ across the rock. Walking Ferns are calciphiles, lovers of calcium-rich soils. Walking Ferns can be found in shady spots on limestone ledges and in limey forest places.


The rock also features a foliose lichen, perhaps an Umbilicaria species, known as Rock Tripe.


Back on the main trail, I notice this burl, or burr, high up on a tree. It looked for all the world like a small animal with its limbs wrapped around the tree. Burls are tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. They are the result of some sort of stress suffered by the tree, perhaps from an injury, virus or fungus.


We followed the sidetrail to the marsh lookout. To the east, the wetland is more marshy, while to the west, it is swampy, with trees growing into the wet area. Off in the distance, you can just make out Goodwin’s Bay and the Ottawa River. The marsh floods in the spring when the Ottawa River rises, carrying a flush of nutrients into the wetland.


There were splashes of bright yellow flowers sprinkled through the wetland, Nodding Bur-Marigolds (Bidens cernua).


There was quite a bit of diversity in the forest groundcover. Some areas of the forest floor were dressed in a variety of ferns, while other regions featured a groundcover of club moss. One section of the trail was bordered by the heart-shaped leaves of Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).


When we came to a stand of Eastern Hemlock trees, we looked for the work of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. We had a family of sapsuckers nest in a large, old maple tree this summer, and I often saw them flitting about the garden, where their preferred tree to tap was a little locust. I didn’t know that sapsuckers are partial to hemlock trees until I read it in the guide. Sure enough, the neat rows of sap wells that the sapsuckers drill were readily apparent.


After passing through the hemlock grove, we continued back to the parking lot. These are just some of the highlights of our hike. The Macnamara Nature Trail was named after Charles Macnamara (1870-1944), a naturalist and photographer who loved these woodlands. A gifted amateur, he identified six species of springtails (Collembolans), and one species is named after him. The trail is a wonderful memorial to Macnamara. The guide book, provided by the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club, really enhances visitor understanding and enlivens the hike. This was one of our favorite hiking trails, and it is well worth visiting.


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On the weekend, RailGuy and I were out in Cornwall, and after finishing our shopping, decided to check out Cooper Marsh Conservation Area. The marsh is located about 18 kilometres east of Cornwall, at the edge of the St. Lawrence river, south of Lancaster. Cooper Marsh is part of a larger wetland, the Charlottenburgh Marsh.

Interestingly, the land wasn’t originally wetland. The marsh was first created in the mid-1800s by navigational water-level control structures, and was further impacted by the Seaway Project in the 1950s. The land was acquired in the 1940s by the Coopers, who worked with the Raisin Region Conservation Authority in the 1970s to protect the marsh. A network of dykes, dams and channels were constructed by Ducks Unlimited and partners to improve the quality of the marsh habitat for wildlife.

There were four different trails to choose from and we decided to take the boardwalk trail. It is an ambitious boardwalk that loops in a long curve through a swampy wet area with plenty of plant life and standing water. The boards were beginning to show their age. In between many of the boards was a dense growth of Cladonia spp lichen.

The shrubby areas were alive with small birds, but it was hard to get a good look at them, let alone a photograph. Most views looked like this glimpse of a Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), below.

I did get a few better shots. Here is a Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris).

And a Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana).

Of course, there were the usual wetland residents, such as Red-winged Blackbirds, as well. But the highlight of the walk were the Green Herons (Butorides virescens). I’ve seen Green Herons before, but only a brief glimpse as the bird disappeared out of sight into heavy shrubbery. Here they were right out in the open.

At the end of the boardwalk is a blind from which we were able to watch the herons, and also spotted these ducklings.

The ducklings seemed to be on their own. Where was their mother? When I later looked more closely at this photograph of a heron, surprise! There’s Mother Mallard, peaking out from the top left corner.

The boardwalk offered lots to see. We only had time for a quick walk, but look forward to revisiting both the boardwalk and the other park trails on another day.

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On July 5th, Japan’s Emperor Akhito and Empress Michiko visited the Mer Bleue Conservation Area as part of their eleven day tour of Canada. The protected area encompasses 33 square kilometers southeast of Ottawa. It’s main feature is the Mer Bleue wetland, about 50% of which comprises a sphagnum bog, rare this far south. It was designated as a Wetland of International Significance under the Ramsar Convention in October of 1995.


The name, Mer Bleue, is French for Blue Sea. It is thought that the name reflects the appearance of the bog when it is shrouded in an early morning mist. RailGuy and I took a walk on the boardwalk trail on the weekend. The trail is 1.2 kilometers long and begins on a sand ridge that overlooks the bog. The boardwalk leads first through an area of marsh and open water, home to beavers, muskrats and other wildlife, and then enters the bog.


Near the point at which the boardwalk enters the bog from the marsh is an interpretive sign that outlines the acidity level of the bog.


Water in the bog has an acidity level, or pH, of 3 to 4, making it up to 1000 times more acidic than milk. The sign shows the standard acid/ base scale that runs from 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very alkaline). Each increment on the scale represents a 10-fold increase. That is, 3 is 10 times more acidic than 4.


The high level of acidity is the result of poor drainage. No running water rinses the acidity from the bog and a specialized plant community that can cope with the high level of acidity develops. This includes larch and black spruce trees, Labrador tea and leatherleaf shrubs, and cottongrass and sphagnum moss.


The webs of spiders, glistening in the sun, could be seen ornamenting the sphagnum and low vegetation, including this funnel web.


While walking along the boardwalk, one tree caught our eye. It had a large, round globe-shaped growth situated conspicuously near its tip. A witch’s broom! I only recognized it as such because such a growth was recently featured on Birdgirl’s blog, The Marvelous in Nature.


Two beaver lodges were located near the boardwalk. One showed little sign of activity. The second, however, had gnawed branches floating nearby, suggesting it was in use.


Passages through the marsh connected the lodge with open water.


It was a very hot day, and the boardwalk leads through an open expanse where you are exposed to the bright sun. The trail returns through the marsh and then enters a final section of forest. Part of the forest was natural, while the remainder was an old pine plantation. The shade of the trees was a welcome respite from the heat of the sun.

For a visit to another bog, see this post on Alfred Bog.


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