The old-growth forest of Greenwood Lake is on provincial
Crown Land located within the Dog River-Matawin Forest, a sustainable licence area
west of Thunder Bay. This reserve was originally identified in the mid 1970s by
foresters with then Great Lakes Forest Products (now Bowater) as a forest area with huge
potential value for research and forestry education. The area was officially reserved in
1992 and expanded in 1995 when 811 hectares (just over 2,000 acres or three square
miles) were formally designated as a "Conservation Reserve."
An Advisory Committee to the Ministry of Natural Resources suggests policies
and practices for this unique old-growth white pine forest. This committee is composed
of representatives from Lakehead University, the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists, the
Ministry of Natural Resources, and Bowater Thunder Bay Woodlands Operation. A
guiding principle is that the forest remains undisturbed and will not be altered by
research, educational, and recreational activities.
The fully-stocked old growth stand in the southern portion of the reserve is almost
pure white pine, with a few scattered red pine. White pine in the north of the reserve are
less numerous and are in mixedwood stands with black and white spruce, balsam fir,
white birch, and trembling aspen. A few black spruce stands occur in poorly drained
Dominant white pine in the southern portion of the reserve have many trees
exceeding 1.0 m (3.3 ft) in diameter, are more than 40 m (131 ft) in height, and clear
boles extend up to 10 to 21 m (59 to 69 ft). These pines have developed in a dense stand
and are not branchy trees found in open areas. Trees range between 250 and 300 years of
Most of the large pines are similar in size indicating that this is an even-aged stand. The
role of fire in forest succession elsewhere in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence and the Boreal
Forest Regions suggests that this stand probably originated following pre-settlement forest
fires. There are numerous standing snags and down trees usually caused by weakening
of the bole by heart rot. Such woody debris provides habitats for a variety of plant,
animal and bird species.
Soils are developed on upland moraines, on boulder pavements located in drainways, and
on peatlands. Soils on broad uplands have loam to silt loam surface soils (upper 30-45
cm; 12-18 in) indicating possible windblown (loess) origin. Site quality on the broad
uplands is excellent due to the deep, well-drained silty surface soils thus accounting for
the dense shrub and herb-rich understorey, and the impressive tall trees with large
diameters and long clear boles. These moist, well-drained soil conditions also favour the
occurrence of yellow birch and red maple species common in hardwood forests of
southern Ontario, northeastern Minnesota, and northern Michigan and Wisconsin.
Research and Education
Research by the Canadian Wildlife Foundation Service and by the Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources includes bird and small mammal inventories which show
the presence of the pine warbler. This bird is at the northern edge of its range in
northwestern Ontario where it is common only in old-growth white and red pine forests.
Vertical biodiversity shows well-developed layers including: a) the dominant white pine
canopy, b) a lower canopy of white and black spruce, balsam fir, and occasional yellow
birch and red maple, c) a shrub layer primarily of mountain maple and beaked hazel, and
d) a herb-rich forest floor. Minimal white pine regeneration occurs beneath the dense
overstory; numerous suppressed white pine seedlings occur but few exceed 1.0 m (3.3 ft)
A small area on the southern edge of the forest was burned in August 1991 following a
lightning fire. This hot fire consumed much budworm killed balsam fir and spruce, and
crown scorch killed most of the large white pine. Studies show considerable white pine
regeneration in the burned area particularly on moss seedbeds. These studies confirm the
role of fire in regenerating white pine forests.
Forestry, biology, and outdoor recreation classes from Lakehead University use this
reserve for field trips.
This large 811-hectare (2,004-acre) reserve is accessible for research, educational
and ecotourism purposes through several trails. These trails were established thanks to
the volunteer efforts of a large number of organizations and individuals including
Thunder Bay Field Naturalists, Thunder Bay Hiking Association, Friends of the Forest,
students and faculty of Lakehead University, Bowater Thunder Bay Woodlands
Operation, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and Woodlot Forestry Services.
Trails are located so that visitors can observe the diversity and complexity of old-growth
forests, and the geologic diversity of upland moraines, lowland peat bogs, and the shoreline
of Greenwood Lake. In this area it is possible to see a variety of forest and water birds as
well as moose, bears, wolves, lynx, fisher, and pine marten. Trails are designed only for
foot traffic, and natural barriers such as downed logs. Rock outcrops, boulder fields and
peat bogs are intentionally used to discourage unwanted use by motorized vehicles.
The Greenwood Lake forest reserve is located about two hours west of Thunder
Bay, and about one hour southeast of Atikokan. Quetico Provincial Park is about 16 km
(10 miles) west of the area, and the Boundary Waters Canoe area in Minnesota is about
24 km (15 miles) to the south. From Highway 11 turn south onto highway 802 just west
of Kashabowie and follow signs on gravel roads for 42 km (26 miles).
It is hoped visitors will enjoy observing the many diverse features of this large forest reserve,
but the Advisory Committee asks everyone to leave the area undisturbed so that others can
enjoy the beauty of an undisturbed old-growth white pine forest.
Adapted from: Greenwood Lake Conservation Reserve brochure
Photos: Lori Kiceluk, Willard Carmean
For more information, contact:
Greenwood Lake Advisory Committee
c/o Dr. Willard Carmean
Professor Emeritus of Forestry
Thunder Bay, ON
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