Portapique River Wilderness Area is a small but distinctive patch of wilderness which protects old forests, habitat for a rare fish species, and the waterflows of a provincially-significant salmon river, and tells the story of the province's geological backbone.
The narrow canyon of the Portapique River and its tributaries cut through ancient rocks and expose the heart of the till-mantled, rounded granite hills, in cool, moist ravines facing all points of the compass, with rapid moisture and cold air drainage.
Mature to immature old-growth coniferous forests, dominated by red spruce and scattered old-growth hemlock, flourish in the cool microclimate along the slopes of the Portapique River canyon and tributaries. Pure hardwood or mixed wood forested hills, typical of the Cobequids, surround the waterways, in a stable climax forest condition. The watercourses expose a tremendous variety of bedrock outcrops which tell the billion-year story of the Cobequid Mountains, the backbone of Nova Scotia. The Portapique River hosts the the rare blacknose dace, a small fish which occurs only in upland and mountainous streams. Downstream, Atlantic salmon habitat depends on the predictable and clean water flows protected by the stable forests of the wilderness area.
The bedrock outcrops, cascades, and gorges of the river corridor, and the old forest along this section, provide wilderness travel experiences sheltered from the sights and sounds of surrounding land uses.