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Temagami Island Trails

Image by Milk-Tea


The history of the Temagami area, in terms of both its natural and cultural heritages, is diverse and extensive. Aboriginal inhabitants, the Teme-AugamaAnishnabai, have occupied this area, their homeland (n'DakiMenan), for at least 6,000 years.

Temagami Island lies within n'DakiMenan, the homeland of the Teme-AugamaAnishnabai, which encompasses almost 4,000 square miles. Archaeological investigations have documented human habitation in the Temagami area as early as 1,000 B.C., and it is likely that these were ancestors of the tribe that presently occupies the area. Historically, the Teme-AugamaAnishnabai were a hunter-gatherer society that moved with the seasons and with the availability of various resources. Within their homeland, certain areas had special significance. Temagami Island has two such areas of significance.

The first is a place now known as Wabikon, which was the summer settlement of the Teme-AugamaAnishnabai, located at the southern tip of this island. The second was the presence of small groves of maple trees on the northern portion of the island that were used to produce syrup. An impressive stand of old-growth maple still remains. More recently, non-natives have influenced the Temagami landscape through resource exploitation and recreation for more than 150 years.

Whether you are visiting Temagami Island on a day trip to hike the Old-Growth Interpretive Trail, or staying for a longer period in order to experience the other trails, we trust that you will practice no-trace, or minimal impact, hiking and camping techniques. In these ecologically rare and sensitive areas fires should be avoided. The consequences of uncontained fire or other major disturbances are particularly serious for this natural area. Even the simple removal of downed wood for burning disrupts the ecosystem and its renewal. Please see the back of this guide for hiking and camping suggestions.

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What is Old Growth?

To most people, an old-growth forest is one containing spectacular trees of exceptional height and age. Ecologically, however, oldgrowth forests are much more than just old or large trees. Large standing dead trees (snags), large accumulations of fallen trees (deadfalls), and the presence of trees of small and intermediate size are also important components of old growth that combine with other characteristics to produce unique habitat.

Old-growth forests develop over centuries in the absence of widespread, catastrophic disturbances, and while they represent a steady state (with the death of old trees being balanced by the growth of new trees) they are dynamic systems.

Contrary to many myths about old growth systems, they are highly productive. These ecosystems are ecologically diverse, in plant and animal communities, as well as in structure and function. Very few oldgrowth red and white pine forests are left in the world because they have historically been, and remain, highly valued for their timber.

The forests of the Temagami area represent a transition between the Boreal Forest Region to the north, and the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Forest Region to the south. These forests contain an abundance of white and red pine -- the largest concentration found anywhere in Ontario. The oldgrowth white pine forest remaining here on Temagami Island is one of the best examples of a forest condition that was once much more widely distributed. This self guiding interpretive trail is designed to provide you with a brief introduction to the components and processes that characterize this unique ecosystem. If you spend more time in the ancient forest, try the other trails. Please help to minimize impacts by remaining on the trails at all times.

Post #1

The old-growth forest on this island is a mixed one dominated by white and red pine. Other tree species do occur within the forest, but they are relatively minor components. This particular red pine, just to the right of the trail, is about 225 years old. Red pines generally prefer sandy, well-drained soils, and are adapted to growing under dry conditions. Most natural stands of red pine establish following a forest fire. Fires tend to reduce surface leaf-and-needle litter, and often expose mineral soil. This, combined with a high availability of light, provides ideal conditions. Once established, the thick bark of the red pine enables it to weather most fires, except those that reach and damage the crown. This thick bark also makes these trees especially resistant to damage from insects and disease.

Because of their resistance to both fire and pests, red pine, once established, often live long, healthy lives, attaining ages of up to 350 years. However, as suggested earlier, red pine require lots of sunlight in order to germinate and grow. Knowledge of the age of mature red pines can help to reconstruct the history of major disturbances, such as forest fires.

As you hike this trail, see if you can find any red pine seedlings. How does this compare to the number of white pine seedlings you find in the area?

Post #2

The majority of pine in this old-growth forest are white pine. This giant, to the left of the trail, is about 255 years old. White pine can live as long as 450 years. Notice how the deeply furrowed bark differs from that of the red pine. Like red pine, white pine establish and grow well on sites with exposed mineral soils, like those created by forest fires. However, white pine seedlings can also take advantage of smaller gaps in the canopy created by smaller disturbances, such as surface fires, tree deaths, and windthrows. This is possible because white pine are able to grow under a broader range of light and soil conditions than red pine.

To many, the white pine is a symbol of the beauty and magnificence of Eastern Canada's wilderness. In 1984 it was declared Ontario's provincial tree. At one time, white pine was Ontario's most important commercial tree species, and was responsible for much of the growth and development of Eastern Canada. Due to continuing exploitation, its importance to Ontario's economy is rapidly declining. Today, less than 1 % of the original ancient forest remains. It is clearly endangered.

Look for areas where there are many young or seedling white pines. Is there anything special about the canopy of the forest at these sites? Can you see any evidence of how these canopy conditions may have arisen?

Remember this simple way to identify white pine: the needles occur in clusters of five, and there are five letters in the word white!

Post #3

Forward, and to the right, of this point on the trail you can see a dense mixed stand of pine dominated by tall, very slender red pine. Fierce competition for light in the early development of this even-aged stand has resulted in disproportionate upward growth as each tree strove for, and now seeks to maintain, its place in the canopy.

What conditions must have been present to facilitate the growth of the stand?

As the older red pines die, how might the species composition of this stand change?

Post #4

This location provides an excellent panoramic view of the mixed old-growth forest. Note the multi-layered structure of the forest, and compare this to the stand we examined at the last post. Many different types and species of plants are found growing in the understory of this old growth, including trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, ferns, mosses, fungi and lichens. Snags (dead standing trees) and logs (dead fallen trees) are also important components of the old growth and provide essential habitat for plants and wildlife.

The dominant trees found in the understory of this forest are balsam fir, black spruce, and red maple. White pine is generally the fourth most abundant understory tree species.

Do you think there is enough white pine in the understory to replace the older pine that now dominate this old-growth forest? How might knowledge about the former composition of this forest help to answer this question?

Post #5

In the area immediately surrounding this post, you can see many snags and logs. As previously mentioned, these are important functioning components of any oldgrowth forest. Snags and logs are crucial as feeding and nesting sites for many birds and mammals. A variety of woodpeckers, including the impress

sive pileated woodpecker, which attains lengths of 42 cm (16 in), many warblers, and the redbreasted nuthatch feed on the insects present in these decaying trees. The large, oblong holes you see in many of the snags are evidence of the pileated woodpeckers' search for carpenter ants, its preferred food. Snags are also important habitat for cavity nesting birds, such as woodpeckers, tree swallows, and saw-whet owls, and may be used by birds of prey, such as the osprey and the golden eagle, as nesting sites and perches. Bats and flying squirrels also inhabit these snags.

The recycling of nutrients is important to the productivity of any ecosystem. Old-growth forests have historically been considered as unproductive systems by foresters . They refer to them with misleading terms such as "over mature" and "decadent". As trees die in the oldgrowth forest, valuable nutrients are returned to the forest system through the activity of fungi and microbes. Decomposition of logs results in the replenishment of nitrogen and phosphorous, which are essential to the continued growth of the forest. As you can see, many plant species, including white pine, establish and grow on decaying logs.

By examining snags and logs, we can discover the composition of the former forest in this area. Large white and red pine trees may require up to 700 years to fully decompose, so analysis of old-growth logs can provide clues for up to 700 years of past forest development. The majority of snags and logs here are white pine, indicating that this forest was also dominated by white pine in the past. Although this tells us that

this white pine forest has been self-replacing for the past 700 years or so, we still don't know whether the future forest will be dominated by white pine. To shed some light on this question, we must focus on forest regeneration (the establishment and growth of seedlings and saplings).

One of the features of this forest that contributes to the regeneration of white pine is apparent at this post. The windthrows you see on either side of the trail probably resulted from a windstorm. When trees are uprooted, patches of mineral soil are exposed, and gaps in the canopy are created. As a result of these disturbances, light, water, and nutrients become available in greater amounts, and new plants can colonize the site. White pine seeds can take advantage of these conditions. The saplings must still compete with other plants, but if they are successful they stand a good chance of becoming mature trees of the forest.

Have you noticed anything special about the manner in which white pine seedlings regenerate? From a broader perspective, how might this strategy promote the survival of the species?

Post #6

Charcoal has been found in the soil at this site, indicating that a fire occurred here relatively recently. Because the older, larger trees are not dead and there are no fire scars on their bark, it is most likely that a surface fire burned only a relatively small patch of ground. These light surface fires reduce the thickness of the leaf-and-needle litter, and often expose mineral soil. As with windthrows, these small patches of disturbance result in an increase in resources such as light, water, and nutrients. When this happens, white pine seeds have a much greater chance of germinating and establishing. If you look closely at the ground in this area, you will see many white pine seedlings and saplings.

White pine often regenerate in clusters of 30 or more individuals. The white pine seedlings and saplings must compete for the same resources, and often only those in the middle of the cluster survive to maturity. This strategy of saturating available areas with seeds may help to ensure that at least some individuals reach maturity, and thereby facilitate self -replacement in these old-growth white pine forests.

Can you find any young red pines in this area? What is the primary constraint on the establishment and growth of red pines?

Post #7

Here you can see evidence of all stages in the process of self-replacement within this old-growth forest. The many large white pine snags and logs are a testimony to the past forest. The large, living white pines are the oldest age-class of the present forest, and the medium-sized white pines, saplings, and seedlings represent the intermediate and youngest age-classes. We know that this forest has been selfreplacing in the past, but it is still not clear whether white pine will continue to dominate in the future. Given the historical evidence and information arising from ongoing research, it seems likely that this will happen.

There is limited information available about the functions and processes within oldgrowth ecosystems. Recently, many major research efforts have begun in North America. The Society of American Foresters has recognized that with present knowledge, it is not possible to re-create old-growth stands, or markedly hasten the process by which nature creates them. As well as the opportunity for research provided by old-growth forests, other reasons for their conservation include heritage values, recreation, wildlife habitat, and water filtration, as well as their intrinsic value as unique ecosystems.

Post #8

Young white pines face many natural obstacles in their quest for growth and dominance. The seeds may be eaten by many small mammals, such as mice and squirrels, as well as many bird species. At this site you can see several young trees with girdled trunks. Girdled trees have had their bark removed concentrically - all the way around the trunk at the same point. This damage results in the eventual death of the tree as nutrients and water can no longer be transported from the bottom to the top of the tree. Porcupines, whose preferred food is inner tree bark, are often the culprits behind such damage. However, fortunately for the pines, porcupines are wanderers and the damage they inflict normally tends to be spread lightly over large areas of forest.


Another factor that can curtail damage by porcupines is the presence of its chief predator, the fisher. The fisher, one of thelargest members of the weasel family, prefers these old forests, and is one of the few predators that tackles the prickly porcupine. Although it is not likely that this island would support a permanent fisher population, it is quite possible that these animals travel between here and the mainland, particularly in the winter. During the early part of this century, fisher numbers were very low throughout Ontario due to depletion of their forest habitat from logging, fire, settlement, and over-exploitation. More recently, fisher numbers have been increasing because of protective legislation, habitat improvement, and reintroduction into areas where they had become locally extinct.

Why are the girdled portions of some trees so much higher than others? Clue: Porcupines do not hibernate.

Post #9

Looking around and up from this point, you will notice that red pines are the dominant mature trees. If you look closely at exposed rock surfaces and along fallen trees, you will also notice many piles of cone scales. These piles were left by red squirrels. They are common in pine forests such as this, and seem particularly fond of red pines. The silence of a still forest broken by the sharp crackling of objects striking branches is traced to the busy winter preparation of this industrious rodent as it gnaws the twigs holding cones. The fallen cones are then collected by the squirrels and stored under fallen logs, in hollow trees and in the ground. The seeds from the cones keep the squirrels through the winter. You may not have seen any red squirrels as you have wandered along this trail, but you are sure to have heard them announcing their presence with long, rachet-like calls.

This is the last stop along the trail. We have a long way to go before we can fully understand the processes within this complex ecosystem, but we can certainly appreciate its natural splendor.

Other trails on the island pass through old-growth forest, and areas of historical significance, some of which are discussed in the following section. For more information on the natural and cultural history of the area, as well as on the political controversy surrounding logging, we refer you to the Obabika Old Growth Trail Guide, and Earthroots publications.

Other Points of Interest

Hudson's Bay Company Trading Post 

The natives of Temagami were trading furs with both the English and the French as early as the 1600's. For many years the fur trade was an economic weapon in Anglo-French imperial rivalry, and the fur rich country of n'DakiMenan was the source of competition among early European traders. Eventually, in September of 1834, the Hudson's Bay Company established a post on the south end of I Temagami Island, just beyond Wabikon, in order to secure trade of the furs trapped by the natives. This post was moved to Bear Island in 1876 for strategic reasons, and remained active until 1972. By the early 1900's, the fur trade had declined considerably, and the Temagami area was opening up to settlement. From this time forward, the post functioned more as a supply post, meeting the needs of tourists, sportsmen and residents, than as an active fur trading post.

The Temagami Inn


Recreational enthusiasts discovered the Temagami region at the end of the last century. The area was highly valued by sportsmen and canoeists, because of it's great beauty and abundance of wildlife. Such interest sparked many tourist developments, one of which was the Temagami Inn, located here on Temagami Island. It was one of Ontario's largest log buildings and stood on the island until it was destroyed by fire in 1980. Built in 1905 by the Temagami Steamboat and Hotel Company, the 3story hotel was once a grand luxury resort that could accommodate 200 guests.

Copperfields Mine

The Temagami Mining Company opened a copper mine here on Temagami Island in 1954. It was among the purest copper deposit, but by 1972, the mine had closed.

A great mineral collecting opportunity exists in the scrap heaps of the old mine. One can easily find chalcopyrite, malachite, bornite, dolomite, and quartz among other minerals.

Logging History

Temagami Island has largely been spared from logging activity. However, in the 1970's there was an experimental plot cut, and the timber was removed using helicopters. This technique had been proposed as an alternative to conventional harvesting techniques that cause serious environmental damage to surrounding areas. White birch is one of the first trees to colonize cutover lands after the pine are removed, and is abundant in these old cuts. Scattered trees have also been cut by settlers and residents for local construction over the past decades.

Scenic Lookout

The vantage point from this ridge affords hikers an impressive view of the valley with its old-growth backdrop. This perspective on the forest reveals the multi-layered canopy typical of old-growth forests. Also apparent is the effect that topography and soil conditions have on the forest that grows in a given area. The well-drained soils on the opposite ridge have resulted in a forest dominated by white and red pine, the wet conditions in the valley have led to a forest dominated by species adapted to such conditions. White cedar, one of which is located just out and to the left of this lookout, are commonly found growing in swampy areas.


Camping and Hiking Suggestions

Use camp stoves whenever possible to reduce fire hazards and save wood. If a fire is necessary, keep it small and use existing fire pits. If no safe firepit exists, build one on solid rock or mineral soil, digging to remove all plant matter and humus in a radius of at least six feet. To put the fire out, soak and stir thoroughly and soak again. Never cut balsam boughs for bedding or otherwise mutilate live trees. Burn all paper and carry all other garbage out in a bag. Use a dishpan for all washing and rinse away from water bodies. Dump waste water in a depression in the soil at least 30m from the shoreline. Use biodegradable soap instead of detergents. Use properly installed pit privies located at least 30m away from open water and camping areas. When necessary dig a small hole in the active soil layer at least 30m f rom water or camping area. Use single-ply toilet paper and bury everything completely. Be familiar with the basics of first aid. lf possible take a first-aid course. First-aid kit should include the following: A first-aid booklet, band-aids, adhesive tape, compresses, gauze dressings, triangular bandages, needles, thread, safety pins, scissors, tweezers, disinfectant, burn ointment, suntan lotion, painkillers and personal medicine. Almost all of the Temagami waters are clear and pure for drinking with no reported cases of Touleremia (Beaver Fever). Places to avoid, however, are beaver ponds and waterways adjacent to villages. In these cases boil the water or treat it with purification tablets before drinking.

This is the last stop along the trail. We have a long way to go before we can fully understand the processes within this complex ecosystem, but we can certainly appreciate its natural splendor.

Other trails on the island pass through old-growth forest, and areas of historical significance, some of which are discussed in the following section. For more information on the natural and cultural history of the area, as well as on the political controversy surrounding logging, we refer you to the Obabika Old Growth Trail Guide, and Earthroots publications.

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