A place of
togetherness

The Pugwash Estuary is a place cherished and cared for by the local community and a hotspot for nature

I n Doug van Hemessen’s eyes, the Pugwash Estuary in Nova Scotia is a place of togetherness and community.

“Many people are unaware that the very first organized discussion on nuclear disarmament was held in Pugwash,” says Doug, NCC’s Nova Scotia stewardship coordinator. “The first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs brought together scholars and public figures to work together and was held in 1957 at what is now knowns as the Thinkers Lodge.”

This rich history and prime habitat for waterfowl is why Doug loves this property.

By foot or canoe

“When I first arrived at Pugwash, I remember everything seeming so green: the trees, fields, salt marsh,” he says. “The weather was warm, as a relaxed breeze off the estuary whooshed through the trees and the air tinged with ocean saltiness.”

While many visitors choose to explore this area on foot, one of Doug’s preferred modes of transportation through Pugwash is by canoe.

“If you choose to paddle along the estuary, the reward is an easy, meandering course through continuous curtains of green: the eel-grass grading into salt marsh before emerging into trees,” he says.

Migratory bird pit stop

Pugwash is the largest estuary along the Northumberland Strait of Nova Scotia and is particularly unique in that its shoreline has remained largely undeveloped. Commonly referred to by locals as cottage country, humans aren’t the only ones flocking to this area for its warm ocean waters and pristine beaches. Pugwash is a highly sought-after area for waterfowl and migrating shorebirds.

“The Pugwash Estuary is a hot spot for species, such as great blue heron,” says Doug. “Those large birds have always amazed me. It’s fun to watch them soar in the air and perch along the estuary, where they wait patiently to catch their next meal.”

This area is also home to several endangered species. Twenty-seven species of shorebirds, including semipalmated sandpiper and willet, pass through the region during their spring and fall migrations.

The Pugwash Estuary Trail

Wind along the trail through mature and regenerating Acadian forest and skirt the edge of the salt marsh, where vistas across the estuary await. Interpretive panels along the trail provide information on the trail itself, the forest, the eel-grass and the waterfowl that rely on it, and the salt marsh ecosystem.

“When I first arrived at Pugwash, I remember everything seeming so green: the trees, fields, salt marsh.”

Species to Spot

– American black duck
– Barrow’s goldeneye
– Canada goose
– great blue heron
– semipalmated sandpiper
– striped maple
– willet

“Those large birds have always amazed me. It’s fun to watch them soar in the air and perch along the estuary, where they wait patiently to catch their next meal.”

A truly special place

One of Doug’s favourite spots in the estuary is NCC’s Pugwash Estuary trail, a landmark in the area that he has a special connection with.

“The Pugwash Estuary trail is an easy hike that loops through all of the great natural features of the site, including the salt marsh, riverside woods, regenerating deciduous forest and mature Acadian forest with a carpet of moss,” he says. “Being involved in its creation, from conception to completion, has been especially rewarding.”

Doug admits he’s become enchanted with its calm and warm ocean views, with shores that grade gently into the water, creating long shallow estuaries.

“I’ve been involved with the conservation of Pugwash for only the past four years, but over this time I have learned what a special place it is,” says Doug. “Especially to others I have met in Nova Scotia. I have enjoyed coming together on Pugwash and establishing friendships with the locals.”

Photo Credits (Top to bottom): Mike Dembeck; Mike Dembeck; Mike Dembeck; iStock; Mike Dembeck; Mike Dembeck.

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