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"This irregular coastline covered in glacial deposits is young in geological terms. A rising ocean flooded low areas such as that created here by a fault formed in the greywacke bedrock. Wave and current action formed the barrier beach joining headlands. Eroded sediments settled in the sheltered intertidal zone to form the natural wonder known as the salt marsh. Black spruce, red maple, white birch and a variety of shrubs grow in shallow, rocky soil. To the northwest are rounded drumlin hills composed of well-drained soil imported and deposited by glaciers during the last ice age. Drumlins support the hardwood tree growth and farming. Land meets sea in the salt marsh to provide a productive habitat. Cord grass colonizes the mud flats and traps waterborne silt and nutrients with each incoming tide. Eel grass, visible underwater at low tide, is torn up by tides, storms, ice & geese. Dead eel grass often covers the shoreline. Waterfowl thrive here. Lare flocks of migrating Geese rest and feed in spring and fall. Some stay all winter. Bogs, rock outcrops, old fields, regenerating and mature hardwood and softwood forests, mud flats, sheltered coves, fresh and brackish waters provide habitat variations within the salt marsh environs. Naturalists have recoreded more than 90 resident and visiting bird species and at least 12 resident mammal and 6 reptile species. There are frequent sightings of White-tailed Deer, Snowshoe Hare, Porcupines, Red Foxes, Bobcats, Otter & Coyotes. Greg Blue Herons & Osprey are common in summer. Mergansers frequent ice-free water around the bridges in winter. Bald Eagles are seen year round."


"After many unsuccessful starts, work on a railway linking Dartmouth, Musquodoboit Harbour and Upper Musquodoboit finally began in 1914. It required construction of a major causeway across the salt marsh. An Italian crew completed the line in two years and trains began running in 1916. A local sawmill cut the spruce and hemlock ties. For years, people in the area had anticipated the benefits of a railway to carry farm products, fish, lumber and other goods from the Musquodoboit Valley & Eastern Shore. The original intention to extend the railway east into Guysborough County was never realized. Cole Harbour Dyke was destroyed soon after the railway opened. Additional fill was required to protect the line from high tides. Despite its four bridges, the causeway restricted tidal flow. As tides changed, seawater roiled through the narrow openings resulting in dangerous conditions. A similar situation occured at the harbour mouth where a small bridge replaced the old dyke gates. Several people drowned. The danger lessened once sand closed the old harbour entrance in the late 1960's. Tiny "Cole" station was located where the railway crossed Bissett Road. For about 40 years trains carried goods and passengers twice daily. A ticket from Cole Harbour to Dartmouth cost 25 cents. As roads improved, passenger travel and the transport of perishable goods declined. Passenger service was terminated in 1960 while freight service continued until 1982. The tracks were lifted in 1985 and after 1988, when the main bridge was burned, travel across the marsh ended. Construction of the Salt Marsh Trail in 2000 included the rebuilding of all four bridges."

"For untold years the Mi'kmaq gathered food from the salt marsh in summer. In the 18th century, European settlers harvested fish and game, cut timber, cleared land, sailed up the channels, built vessels, cut salt hay, gathered sea manure, and insulated their homes with eel grass. A century later, to gain more land for hay and grazing, a dyke was built across the harbour mouth. Peter McNab Kuhn, last owner of the dyke, maintained the aboiteau gates and repaired breaches in the barrier beach for 22 years. The gates were destroyed in 1917. Seawater flooded the land that reverted to the salt marsh. Today, a small bridge spans the much-reduced gap where the dyke gates once operated, and beach sands have closed the old harbour entrance. The tides flow through a new opening to the east. Long ago a ferry carried people across the harbour. While the dyke was in place West Lawrencetown and Cow Bay were connected by road. Residential development escalated in the 20th century, threatening the water quality and life of the marsh. A small local group succeeded in halting plants for sewage disposal into the harbour. Recognizing its value to the people of the area and responding to the need for protection, the provincial government acquired land around the harbour and created the Cole Harbour Lawrencetown Coastal Heritage Park. The rate of contamination and over enrichment has lessened. Residents and visitors enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities and experience the unique salt marsh environment protected by provincial park designation."

This trail is maintained by a VOLUNTEER organization (The Cole Harbour Parks & Trails Association), please help them by packing out what you pack in (including dog poop bags).

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