Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area protects more than 16,000 hectares of rugged woodlands, lakes and waterways of the Eastern Shore interior. It extends over 30 km, between Musquodoboit Harbour and Mooseland, and meets the Atlantic coast at the upper reaches of Jeddore Harbour.
This is the largest protected area in Halifax Regional Municipality. Together with the adjacent White Lake Wilderness Area and Tangier Grand Lake Wilderness Area, it forms an assemblage of protected lands larger than Kejimkujik National Park, with three times as many lakes.
Most of Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area was designated in 2009, after two years of planning and consultation. It was expanded in 2012 and again in 2015.
The protected lakes, waterways, wetlands, old forests and remote forests support many species which depend on healthy, intact ecosystems – such as brook trout, endangered mainland moose and at least four species of rare lichens, including globally endangered boreal felt lichen.
Protection of these lands improves the representation of several of Nova Scotia’s diverse natural landscapes within the province’s protected areas system
In the south, this wilderness area is underlain by 350 million year old granitic bedrock, which forms a rugged and ridged landscape with numerous lakes. Where not exposed, the granite tends to be covered only by a thin layer of stony till and nutrient-poor, acidic soils. Forest productivity is generally poor, with white pine, red spruce, balsam fir, and early-successional hardwoods common.
Elsewhere, the wilderness area is underlain by half-billion year old quartzite bedrock. Here the topography is less rugged and even fairly flat, such as between Fishing Lake and Ship Harbour Long Lake. Unrestrained by topography, shallow lakes, like the aptly named Flat Lakes, assume broad sprawling shapes and are connected by gentle stillwaters. Dozens of open and treed bogs are scattered across what is otherwise dense forest of white pine, red spruce, and balsam fir. Black spruce and tamarack occur in depressions and along wetland margins. Parts of the forest are strewn with massive tangles of trees felled by Hurricane Juan in 2003.
East of Ship Harbour Long Lake, Fish River tracks a jagged course through the quartzite bedrock-controlled landscape, between Scraggy Lake and Lake Charlotte. All but the lower 300 m of this wild river is within the wilderness area. Forests along Ship Harbour Long Lake and up the Fish River to Scraggy Lake are still dominated by softwoods, but soil productivity is better and supports some impressive stands of red spruce, white pine, and scattered eastern hemlock. Mixed stands with yellow birch, white ash, beech, and red maple occur on some slopes and ridges.
At Scraggy Lake, the wilderness area extends into a landscape with rounded, elongated hills, knowns as drumlins. These well-drained hills consist of accumulations of glacially-derived material. A large, hardwood cloaked drumlin is a defining feature of this lake.
This scenic wilderness area offers exceptional opportunities for wilderness recreation and nature tourism, including angling, hunting, canoeing and hiking.
One of the best ways to explore Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area is by canoe or other small craft. There are two primary canoeing opportunities: Scraggy Lake – Fish River – Lake Charlotte, at the eastern end of the wilderness area; and the interconnected lakes of the southern portion, between White Lake Wilderness Area and Lays Lake Road. Paddlers can travel to the Atlantic coast in both cases. None of these routes are currently managed; portage trails are neither marked nor maintained.
A hiking trail system managed by Musquodoboit Trailways Association is a great way to experience some of the wilderness area on foot. Located near Musquodoboit Harbour, the entire backcountry trail portion of this system extends from Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area, north, through the adjacent White Lake Wilderness Area. It is accessible from multiple locations off an abandoned railway corridor that is now part of the Trans Canada Trail.
Many of the area’s lakes and waterways are popular for angling. More than a dozen campsite leases occur in the wilderness area.
Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area can be accessed by vehicle via forest access roads around the perimeter and through the middle of the area, using roads which are not within the wilderness area. Public access is possible at numerous locations, including:
- Off Lays Lake Road, with side roads to Portapique (Porcupine) Lake, towards Rocky and Logging lakes, and to within 75 m of Hartman Lake.
- Along Higgins Mine and Murchyville roads, including the bridge at Fish River and within 750 m of Melvin Dam Flowage, on Fish River
- To the south end of Scraggy Lake, north end of Ship Harbour Long Lake, northwest end of Lake Charlotte, and south end of Salmon River Lake.
Many of these forest access roads do not receive routine maintenance and may be passable only in a high clearance or off-road vehicle. Please check road conditions before planning a trip.
- Read the government news release (September, 2009)
- Download: Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area Map (PDF:1.3mb) - July 2009
- Download: Newsletter #4 (with map) (PDF:1.5mb)
Designation Proposal Information
- Read the government news release (April 2009)
- Download: Consultation Newsletter #3 (with map) (PDF:1021k)
- Read the government news release (April 2008)
- Download: Consultation Newsletter #1 (with map) (PDF:1.3mb)
- Download: Consultation Newsletter #2 (PDF:837k)
- Wilderness Areas: Frequently Asked Questions