Wild Northerner Magazine 2015/16 Winter Issue - Page 17

Just where is the best interpretative trail anyway? It is one of the few trails to have a designated snowshoe symbol, welcoming winter’s embrace.

It is place you will not want to go for a “quick snowshoe or hike.” It is an area where our ecological perceptions are changing. At one time everything was a “swamp,” not a place to go for a holiday or spend some quality time. We are now learning wetlands are important, but we still don’t know much about bogs, fens, swamps and ponds. We all have seen a pond or swamp of some description. They take many forms including marshes, estuaries, mudflats, mires, ponds, fens, pocosins, swamps, deltas, coral reefs, billabongs, lagoons, shallow seas, bogs, lakes, and floodplains; some are man-made.

Ecologically speaking wetlands are areas where water covers the soil or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. Water saturation largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil. The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favour the growth of specially adapted plants and promote the development of characteristic wetlands soils. Marshes and swamps are one of the broadest categories of wetlands and in general harbour the greatest biological diversity and account for almost half of all wetlands throughout the world. Therefore we have different types of wetlands; we should come to know them like some of our familiar coniferous and deciduous trees. And winter is a great way to get around, improving our access.

The wonders of Mashkinonje Provincial Park (pronounced mas-kin-onj) consists of a diverse system of wetlands supporting all the major wetland types; marshes, bogs, swamps, fens and ponds; interspersed with undulating granite ridges that cover more than 2000 hectares between the West Arm and the West Bay of Lake Nipissing. The park counts among its many wetlands two provincially significant areas the Loudon Basin Peatlands and Muskrat Creek.

Nature helped out over time. The parks’ features are the result of a post-glacial lake that covered the area combined with a series of parallel low elevation folded bedrock uplands. The low upland bedrock areas were wave washed with soils eroded and deposited in the depressions. Add the moisture and nutrient variability- wave action on Lake Nipissing and the result are a variety of wetlands habitats that make Mashkinonje a very interesting location to observe nature throughout the year.

But the wonderment is in the trail system is the interpretative signage that has been erected. It is one of Ontario Parks non-operating parks. The development and maintenance is directly linked to the local species of residents in the area.

Angela Martin is the President of the Friends of Mashkinonje. She is also the President of Ontario Nature and owner of a tourism business, Welcome Lodge. The park was identified by the John Robart’s government of 1963, the park was expanded by the Mike Harris’ ‘Living Legacy” in program in 1997. Originally it was named Haddo Provincial Park on some older topographic maps. Thirty-eight percent of the park is wetland and there are many little bridges and board walks totalling more than one kilometre of construction. A steering committee was formed in 1997 and then the Friends’ group in 2000.