<··· Back to Previous

<<··· Back to Home

Contact Us

Ulf T. Runesson

Faculty of Natural
Resources Management,
Lakehead University

955 Oliver Road,
Thunder Bay, Ontario,
Canada P7B 5E1

     (807) 343-8784

     (807) 346-7769


Greenwood Lake Conservation Reserve
A Rare and Remarkable Old Growth White Pine Forest

First Nations Forestry Company Achieves Milestone

Old-growth white and red pine provided timber for building the early towns and cities of eastern Canada and the Great Lakes states. Only a few scattered stands remain but fortunately, a superb, undisturbed old-growth white pine forest occurs in Northwestern Ontario.

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.

Ecological Features

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 depressions.

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 age.

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) in height.

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.


Click on Image to Enlarge
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

Faculty of Forestry and the Forest Environment,
Lakehead University

955 Oliver Road,
Thunder Bay, Ontario,
Canada P7B 5E1

Phone: (807) 343-8110

Last Modified: January 20, 2014 20:01:06. 
Copyright © 2011 Faculty of Natural Resources Management, Lakehead University. All Rights Reserved.