Both ends of Big Trout Bay are vividly different, according to Gary Davies, the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) program director for northwestern Ontario.
Find your perfect balance at Big Trout Bay
Like yin and yang, these two opposing sides come together to create a harmonious and serene natural area that leaves visitors with memories of picturesque bays and the sounds of songbirds singing above.
The trail at Big Trout Bay stretches nearly 10 kilometres, and visitors can start their adventure on either end. The north side of the property offers visitors a peek into the treasure chest of this nature reserve, nestled into the most pristine of the Great Lakes.
“On the north side, you start your hike along a rocky incline to a point where you overlook Little Trout Bay and Lake Superior in all of its splendour, with cliffs over the water and islands below,” explains Gary. “It’s quite breathtaking.”
If visitors start their hike on the property’s south side, which is accessible off Memory Road, they will find themselves standing by an old gravel pit in the process of being restored into a wetland by NCC. The forest at this end of Big Trout Bay has been more recently impacted by human activities than the forest to the north. It was harvested a decade ago, but nature’s resiliency is evident as the area is now a young forest, which provides habitat for a variety of birds, including Nashville warbler.
“This [south] end is quite different as the forest on this part of the property is regenerating, and is full of beautiful songbirds and natural life,” says Gary. “From here, you’re looking up at Mount Mollie, which stands about 700 feet above Lake Superior.”
The sounds of Lake Superior
Big Trout Bay’s dense forest, towering cliffs and rugged shoreline are crucial to several native species, including raptors such as bald eagle and peregrine falcon. This region has been a stronghold for these birds. Once wiped out throughout southern Ontario, they have slowly been making a comeback.
“The property is really great habitat for peregrine falcon,” says Gary. “There are four documented nesting sites here, and some are used by the birds every year.”
Peregrine falcons are one of Canada’s success stories. In the 1970s, these raptors were almost extinct due to the use of pesticides, such as DDT. But thanks to conservation efforts, their populations have begun to bounce back. Big Trout Bay is just one of the ways NCC is helping to protect habitat for species like peregrine falcon.
The coastal forest that cloaks most of Big Trout Bay provides habitat for nearly half of Canada’s bird species. Many of these species, such as ovenbird and American redstart, can be seen singing in the trees above as visitors make their way along the trails.
Connecting people to the land
NCC firmly believes in making many of our properties accessible to nature lovers, and encourages visitors to visit them often. Big Trout Bay provides excellent hiking, birdwatching, nature photography and other recreational opportunities. In addition to stewarding the lands for nature, NCC has just finished building a trail to ensure visitors can explore the property safely, while other parts remain untouched so wildlife can thrive undisturbed.
“We are a part of nature, not apart from it,” says Gary. “We need to reconnect to nature. When you get out to Big Trout Bay, you can let yourself become part of it for a few hours. You can’t help but feel like you’re benefiting from being out there.”
For Gary, he finds the rugged, wild shorelines and stunning, picturesque vistas at Big Trout Bay — seemingly opposite, but complementing and connecting the area together — in perfect harmony.
“I’ve lived here for 40 years and have developed a connection to the northwestern coast,” he says. “I’d be lost if I couldn’t be in nature.”
Photo Credits (Top to bottom): NCC; Carol DeSain; NCC; Brian Ratcliff; Mark Alexander MacDonald; Karol Dabbs.