Ecosystems and habitats

Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site

Hike the 2.2 kilometre Attikamek trail located across the lock gates on South St. Marys Island to experience the beauty of the natural world in the heart of the city of Sault Ste. Marie.

The rapids

Early explorers and fur traders were forced to portage their supply-laden canoes around these turbulent waters. The St. Marys River Rapids remained an obstacle for vessels entering and returning from Lake Superior until the construction of the first locks.

The shallow oxygenated waters of the rapids make this a productive aquatic ecosystem. The native whitefish, trout, perch and pike, along with the more recently introduced species of salmon, feed on the larvae of caddisflies and mayflies.

Whitefish Channel

Whitefish Channel, now a fish sanctuary, offers ideal spawning grounds for smelt in the spring, and salmon and whitefish in the fall. This stream duplicates in miniature the conditions, which have made the St. Marys rapids such a favoured fish habitat. The cold water becomes oxygenated as it tumbles around the rocks of the stream bed.

Further along the trail, a man-made stream bed was created in an attempt to encourage fish spawning: contrast its sterility with the varied plant and animal life of this natural watercourse.

Whitefish Island

"Attikamek" (or adikameg) - for which this trail is named - is the Ojibwemowin word for whitefish and means "caribou of the waters." Ojibwe fishermen came from miles around to harvest this bountiful food source. Fishing was done by dipping nets in the rushing waters while skilfully manoeuvring birchbark canoes among the eddies and pools of the rapids.

As Canada's natural areas are developed, harvested or plowed under, wetlands are too often major casualties. Our wetlands support a rich diversity of plant and animal life and play a role in filtering pollutants from the water.

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