The Backlands encompass 1350 hectares between Williams Lake, Colpitt Lake, McIntosh Run, Powers Pond, Herring Cove and Purcell’s Cove roads. Trails and access points (except the protected area) are unmarked and unofficial. Exploring here requires navigational, ecological and land ownership considerations.
This ecologically unique land is composed of granite and bluestone glacially sculpted rock. The area had been used as a quarry from the mid-late 1700s through to the 20th century. Much of the stone used to construct Halifax’s fortified defences and historic buildings was quarried from this area. Because of the rocky terrain, it is easy to see where you’re going. “Piggy’s Mountain” has a view stretching many kilometers in all directions. Vegetation is filling in after a devastating fire swept the area in 2009. The Jack Pine and Broom Crowberry barrens are uniquely adapted to recurrent fires, the only of its kind in all of Canada.
The area is a Mecca for migratory birds with more than 40 species confirmed breeding here. Some aren’t seen anywhere else in Eastern Canada. This important breeding area emphasizes the need to protect the ecosystem and treat it with respect. Staying on well used trails and not disturbing any vegetation are rules of thumb.
The McIntosh Run and Williams Lake watersheds are the backbone of the backlands. Williams Lake is a cornerstone to the area, and can be explored via canoe/kayak. A paddling loop at the other end of the backlands known as the Pine Island Ponds loop is another great way to explore.
The lands (officially unceded by the Mi’kmaq) are under threat of development, and surrounded by private land. As such, it isn’t easy to identify access points which aren’t on private land. The majority of the backlands are unprotected. The exception is land donated by the Napier and Arnell families facilitated by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. These strips of land are the only protected spots. Many groups interested in preservation came together to be known as the Backlands Coalition. Our HRM Aliance, identified the backlands as an important part of the proposed H.R.M. Greenbelt.