Photo: Three Sisters old-growth pines

Three Sisters: This photo of three white pine and a red along the trails was turned into a popular poster by Temagami Wilderness Society in 1990.

        Photo: Ian Mackenzie/Earthroots

Endangered Ecosystem


World's Largest Old Growth 

Red and White Pine Stand

This unique stand at the north end of Obabika Lake is the largest continuous stand of old-growth red and white pine forest remaining in the world. 

The 380-year-old white pine in this ancient ecosystem were young trees at the time of the founding of the Hudson's Bay Company. Among their neighbours are old-growth white cedar and black ash. After naturally going about its day-to-day struggle for thousands of years, this forest played a pivotal role in the protection of Temagami and the recognition of old-growth forest in eastern North America. If you haven't seen old-growth pine and I don't mean gazing at the treetops from your canoe then you must beach your canoe and follow the Triangle's hiking trails.

     Wakimika Triangle Trails
















Less than one percent of the world's old-growth red and white pine remains. 






fragmentation by roads


catastrophic fire



In 1987 old growth, as far the public and scientists were concerned, didn't exist in eastern North America. Battles were raging on the West Coast over old growth and that's where the concept began and ended. That year logging plans were announced for Wakimika Triangle. Hap Wilson, Terry Graves and Brian Back, directors of the Temagami Wilderness Society, made trips in to look it over. They were surprised at the size of the trees. Brian had been studying the old-growth situation out west and saw similarities in the forest components. He suspected this was an old-growth pine stand. 

The Society went looking for an old-growth pine scientist who could give a definitive answer. But no scientist existed because none had studied old-growth pine, or any old growth in eastern Canada.

Unperturbed, the Society decided to launch the Tall Pines Project in 1988 to answer the question: was the Wakimika Triangle old growth? It hired forest ecologist Dr. Peter Quinby to head the research team. 

By November, he had an answer. It was old growth. He also developed criteria for identifying old-growth red and white pine, and a new science was launched. The following spring the Province of Ontario recognized old growth for the first time. Today, old-growth forest is recognized as a unique ecosystem throughout eastern North America.

   WEBSITE: Quinby's research institute (AFER)


Public perception of Temagami in northern Ontario shifted. Until then, locals were saying that Temagami was just another forest. If one was to be saved, they believed, go over the next set of hills and save that one. But things had now changed for them. It wasn't just another forest. It was special. Many more locals and northerners became preservationists. It didn't happen overnight, but gradually over the next few years. Ontario would not halt its logging plans though. In the summer of 1989, Goulard Lumber began construction of the road into the stand. Despite a blockade in June at which 11 protesters were arrested, Goulard finished the road, including bridges across the Obabika and Wakimika Rivers. The company requested final cutting permits from the Ontario government. The plan was for Goulard to cut the red and white pine in most of the southern portion of the stand and take it south to its mill in Sturgeon Falls. Pine in the northern portion would be cut and taken along the Red Squirrel Road extension to the Milne mill in Temagami .  In September, the Temagami Wilderness Society blockaded the Red Squirrel Road. During the blockades, Goulard's license to the stand was revoked. A well organized campaign by environmentalists and the response from the public had turned the table. 

Photo: Chee-skon-abikong Lake

                               Photo: Earthroots

Cliff at sunset on Chee-skon-abikong Lake

A section of the Red Squirrel Road extension actually sank into a wetland that winter, right after construction was completed, and the extension never opened. In 1990 Ontario bought and closed Milne, ending all immediate logging plans. 

In 1990, the old-growth stand became the focus of 45 artists who camped here as guests of the Temagami Wilderness Society so they could paint their vision of the ecosystem. Among those who attended were Robert Bateman, Glen Loates and Toni Onley. The art went on tour in Quebec and Ontario the following year.

In 1996, the entire stand became part of the Obabika River Park and the bridges were removed.

The conventional wisdom among foresters was that white pine only regenerated only after catastrophic wildfire or by planting, although planting has never enjoyed the success predicted. Too little is understood about our forests. Study in Temagami has turned the fire-only theory on its ear, as the white pine in the Wakimika Triangle is self-regenerating. 

After 200 years of logging, an activity the industry believes is good for the health of the forest, only one percent of the old-growth red and white pine that once dominated thousands of square miles of eastern North America remains. Study of the Wakimika Triangle could produce invaluable knowledge for the forest industry to use for its restoration of thousands of hectares of logged landscape. 

Even though it is located within a park, the Wakimika Triangle stand is threatened by the intensive logging activities that are slated to take place along its boundaries. Currently, logging is planned on its eastern side, a clear threat to its health and survival.  

 Map: world's largest red and white pine old-growth stand with trails


Dominant old growth: 

      eastern white pine, red pine

Other old growth

      eastern white cedar, black ash

Oldest known tree:

      380-year-old white pine

Identified as old growth:


Original logging target: 


Fully Protected: 



      Obabika River Waterway Provincial



      2,500 ha.

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