On 21 August 2016, with the approval of Nova Scotia Environment (NSE), the Woodens River Watershed Environmental Organization (WRWEO) designated three sites on the Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail as “NSE Approved Leave No Trace (LNT) Educational Camping Sites” and posted the follow signs at each site:
One reason why these three sites are called “educational” is because they cannot be considered examples of “ideal” LNT camping sites. For example, by placing of the signs to notify hikers of the designation we have already “left a trace” and undermined the very principles we are seeking to promote. Similarly, ideal LNT camp sites would not be located directly on an established hiking trail. However, all three of the NSE Approved Leave No Trace (LNT) Educational Camping Sites are located along the Bluff trail. Two are found on the north leg of the Mi’kmaw Hill Loop not far from Frederick Lake and the intersection with the Bluff Loop. The third is located on the cross section of the Bluff Loop. Moreover, even as these sites where selected as LNT Educational Sites, each was already marked with evidence of harmful human impacts which should not be apparent at any LNT camp site.
All three sites are located on flat rock surfaces. In that sense each offers an excellent example of a “durable surface” suitable to pitch a tent. However, lichen and mosses have already been crushed, killed, or scrapped off the rocks in these locations. Similarly, a number of spots on these rocks bear the signs of camp fires and some of the nearby trees have been limbed or cut to supply bows to sleep on or fuel for fires. These are all signs of how NOT to practice LNT camping and serve as a very poor example of the ideal LNT camp site.
These sites are not areas which have suffered the worst examples of harmful human impacts from people camping on the Bluff Trail. There are at least two sites on the Mi’kmaw Hill Loop which bear considerably more damage from campers and campfires. Both of these sites have more than twenty trees cut down, they have trees that have been limbed and hacked, they have damage to the soul layers from poorly placed, poorly managed, and far too large campfires. These sites also bear the signs of fire damage to the tree canopy from these same campfires.
It is because of the damage being done in this protected wilderness area that WRWEO is undertaken to improve LNT practices among trail users. If there is not a noticeable reduction in the harmful human impacts on the trail it may be necessary to prohibit camping all together. WRWEO hopes that the users of the Bluff Trail will be inspired to take better care of the space that heals them and help ensure that people can continue to enjoy hiking and camping in this protected wilderness area.
The coordinates of the NSE Approved Leave No Trace (LNT) Educational Camping Sites are:
Coyote/U’lukwej Site: Latitude 44.64224, Longitude -63.78316
Crow/Ka’qaquj Site: Latitude 44.64116, Longitude -63.78411
Squirrel/Atutu’wej Site: Latitude 44.63094, Longitude -63.7953
WRWEO discourages camping on the Bluff Trail because of the harmful human impacts often caused by camping such as damage to trees and other plants and the accumulation of litter including toilet paper and human waste.
Although The Bluff Trail is designed as a stacked loop trail, it is possible to access even the more remote loops without camping. All loops on The Bluff Trail are accessible by canoe and can be explored in a day trip. You can canoe directly to the Mi’kmaw Hill Loop (formerly Indian Hill Loop) at the end of Cranberry Lake or to The Bluff Loop at the end of Frederick Lake where the second and third loops join, or you can canoe directly to the Hay Marsh Loop at the end of Hubley Big Lake in Paradise Cove. The portage at Paradise Cove goes to Upper Five Bridge Lake where the portage joins the Hay Marsh Loop. See map on our website for details. The trail system is designed so that each of the last three loops is accessible by canoe for a day hike.
How can you gain public access to these lakes? You can “put in” on Cranberry Lake at the trailhead (parking your vehicle in The Bluff Trail Parking Lot on the Bay Road) or put in on Hubley Big Lake at the end of Hubley Lake Road (where Birch Hill Lake feeds into Hubley Big). To gain public access to Frederick Lake is more complicated. The best way is to drive into Lake of the Woods on Silver Birch Drive until you come to house number 199 on the right. On the left hand side of the road is a telephone pole and 20 feet to the right is a small ravine running perpendicular to the road down to Black Point Lake run. Just to the right of that ravine, hidden in the dense bush there, is an opening to a path on which you can portage your canoe down to Black Point Lake run and then to the right to Frederick Lake. This is 66 foot right-of-way on Crown Land that can be used by the public. The carry is relatively short. The only hard part is finding the path.
What if you don’t have a canoe or just want to camp on the trail?
It is important to note that The Bluff Trail is located within a Protected Wilderness Area and is governed by the Wilderness Protection Act. Except in certain circumstances the Act and the ORDER ON CAMPING AND LIGHTING OF FIRES IN DESIGNATED WILDERNESS AREAS ISSUED BY THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT AND LABOUR prohibit (among other things) the development of campsites, the cutting of trees, damaging or removing any plants, and the burning of campfires. Therefore, the only camping permitted on the Bluff Trail is Leave No Trace camping.
The Leave No Trace principles are on our signs at each junction of the trail and on our volunteer handout available on our website.
Leave No Trace Principles:
- Follow official trails. Travel single file in the centre of the trail, even through wet and muddy areas. Use only Approved LNT Educational Sites for camping.
- Pack out all food (including peels and shells) and litter including toilet paper. Do NOT burn food scraps or garbage.
- Bury human and dog waste at least 60m off trail and away from water or pack it out.
- Leave rocks, plants, trees, and other natural objects as you find them. Do not build an Inukshuk, furniture, cairns, or fire rings. Do not cut trees or pick flowers.
- Use ONLY LNT fire bowls & camp stoves. Campfires are prohibited. Use ONLY fallen dead wood for LNT fire bowl fuel.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow, approach, or feed animals. Feeding may cause aggressive behaviour.
- Note that dogs should be leashed (HRM Bylaw A-700).
- Be courteous to others. Enjoy the sounds of nature.
These are explained in more detail on the Leave No Trace Canada website.
There are two important reasons to follow Leave No Trace principles. First, because following these principles will help to ensure that you follow the rules set out in the Wilderness Protection Act and the ORDER ON CAMPING AND LIGHTING OF FIRES IN DESIGNATED WILDERNESS AREAS ISSUED BY THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT AND LABOUR. Second, because following these principles will help to preserve the wilderness area and the creatures that live in it.
Sleeping, cooking, and defecating will leave a mark on the wilderness. The vast majority of people do not know how to camp without partly, or over time wholly, destroying the area in which they camp. People clear areas to set up their tents to sleep, they build fires to cook, and they leave feces and toilet paper near their campsites. These are all prohibited on the Bluff Trail because it is in a Wilderness Protected Area. Some campers are even more destructive, they cut down trees, leave trash, and light campfires that threaten to burn down the forest.
It is impossible to camp without leaving any trace but it is possible to minimize our harmful human impacts by following Leave No Trace principles. It is possible to sleep in the forest, even to sleep sheltered from the rain, and leave no visible sign that you were there. It is possible to cook on a camp stove or by making a small fire in a stainless steel salad bowl, which can be easily carried inverted on the top of your pack. In the case of a fire in a bowl, use small pieces of dead wood and rest the bowl on rocks so that ground underneath is not scorched. Third, it is possible to toilet using natural materials instead of toilet paper and to lightly bury your feces. Unburied feces decompose in about six months while feces buried six inches take twice as long. Ideally campers should carry out their feces and toilet paper but a compromise is to bury human waste and carry out your toilet paper. Defecate well away from streams and lakes. Finally, you should camp some distance from the trail so that you don’t encourage others to camp who may be less careful than you.
Leaving no trace can be fun. You can regard it as a challenge that makes camping much more interesting than it would otherwise be and leaves out none of the things that make camping such a pleasure. Leaving no trace can be a point of pride.
We ask you not to leave your car overnight in the parking lot. Have someone drop you off and arrange for someone to pick you up. In this way someone will know right away that there is a problem if you do not return on time.
Because of the increasing harmful human impacts visible on The Bluff Trail, WRWEO and Nova Scotia Environment–Protected Areas Branch are considering prohibiting camping or limiting camping to only Approved Leave No Trace Educational Sites and are working together to identify these sites.
To sum up: We discourage camping on the Bluff Trail but, if you must camp, please leave no trace that you have been there!