Marsh make-over

Pukaskwa National Park

By Christine Drake

Arial photo of the current Hattie Cove wetland boardwalk

In 2021, Parks Canada has committed to replacing the walkway in the Hattie Cove wetland in Pukaskwa National Park. In place of the current boardwalk, an entirely new structure will be built to reduce maintenance, enhance ecological integrity, and improve overall visitor experiences.

At Pukaskwa, one of my favourite places to be in the spring–when the sun is just starting to poke up over the hills and the songbirds are singing madly–is the Hattie Cove wetland.  Here, the Coastal Hiking Trail jets out from the dark, cedar forests and transitions to a bright, open marsh for a blissful 180 meters before ducking back into the forest. The expansive wetlands that surround you at this spot are unique on the Coastal Hiking Trail. Known to be biodiversity hotspots, wetlands create habitat for a variety of wildlife and plants specially adapted to life in these environments. In Pukaskwa, this may be your only chance to hear the descending whistle of a sora rail, a secretive marsh bird; or to catch a glimpse of bog buckbean, a northern plant with star-like white flowers that blooms in late spring. Wetlands that adjoin directly to the coast of Lake Superior are few and far between on the north shore, making the Hattie Cove wetland all the more exceptional. 

Countless visitors have enjoyed walking on the boardwalk through this special habitat while hiking the Coastal Hiking Trail. Over the years, water levels in the marsh have risen and fallen with changing lake levels and varying beaver activity. Maintaining a safe and dry walkway for visitors while allowing natural processes to occur, like beavers carrying out their important work required for maintaining this significant habitat, has been an ongoing challenge for the park. This year, Parks Canada has committed to replacing the boardwalk in the Hattie Cove wetland with a new structure that will reduce maintenance, enhance ecological integrity, and improve overall visitor experience.

Given the significance of the site, several months of planning went into this project, so that both the construction and new walkway would ensure the maintenance of ecological integrity of the wetland. To lessen the impacts of the project, in-water work will be completed between mid-July and the end of August to avoid disrupting spawning fish. During this time, the old boardwalk will be removed and replaced with an entirely new walkway, following the same route.

Visitors hiking the trail will be temporarily diverted to an alternate route, approximately 1 km long, around the wetland.  Helicopters will be used to sling materials to the site, as there is no road access to the area. Because of this, there may be short, temporary closures of the trail to ensure visitor safety during construction.

If you’re planning a hike or visit to the park this summer, contact the park ahead of your trip to avoid unexpected delays. We apologize in advance for any inconveniences. The new walkway in Hattie Cove will afford visitors in the years and decades to come the opportunity to safely and comfortably enjoy this very special and biodiverse spot in Pukaskwa National Park.

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