Johnson River Falls

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Johnson River Falls Virtual Tour

Johnson River Falls Trail Info:

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How-To Guide

Waverly-Salmon River Long Lake Wilderness Area

     Johnson River leads into the nearly 900 hectare Waverly-Salmon River Long Lake Wilderness Area where Crowbar Lake hiking trail lies at the Southeast corner.  The Johnson River watershed drains into Soldier Lake and Miller Lake which are connected by a hydro station that uses Solidier Lake as its reservoir. Scouts Canada leases 3600 hectares between Miller Lake & Soldier Lake known as Miller Lake Park.  Miller Lake is best known for its landmark dragon, a nod to Loch Ness folklore, it’s been intriguing passers-by on Highway 102 since the 1950s.

     At 240 hectares, Soldier Lake is a vast wilderness area in itself with few manmade footprints along its shores. Johnson River flows into Soldier Lake at its Northeast corner and the hydro station along its Western shore harnesses its flow into Miller Lake. Anything up or downstream of this river leads into huge tracts of unmanaged wilderness and should not be explored by anyone but experienced explorers.

Hiking Trail

     This up & back hike starts at the end of the paved road (Perrin Drive) where a gate begins a dirt trail. This trail is often used by ATVs & offroad motorcycles. This wide section of trail extends for 3km, running alongside a rock aggregate depot on the way to Aeortech Business Park and Old Guysborough Road and Halifax International Airport 5 kilometres from the end of Perrin Drive.

Johnson River Falls Hiking Trail     You’ll walk this ATV trail straight for 330m until branches begin veering off of this trail. Some of these branches are wetter than others, so the route you take will likely be dictated by that. Through this section of slightly confusing ATV trails it’s best to stick to the right if possible, as you’ll need to take a sharp right into the woods at the 500m mark.  This trail has no signage or markings, but it’s a well-used, obvious one into the woods despite the confusion at its trailhead.

     150m into this wooded trail you’ll come to a stream and makeshift ATV bridge. After the bridge begins some of the first muddy sections of trail that will continue throughout. A steady incline is then followed by a steady decline and more puddles to navigate. This up and down nature continues as the trail gets softer and narrower. As the trail progresses the surroundings grow more dense with trees, including one section with tamarack trees, a unique conifer that turns bright yellow in autumn.

     1km into the hike, the trail reaches an especially wet spot where a new trail navigates around the left side of it.  This spot can be a bit confusing as immediately after this side-track, the trail splits. If you’re not paying attention at this point in the hike it can be easy to go off onto the wrong trail, so be sure to keep right to head toward the falls. 

     300m before the falls, the trail gains elevation and opens up with wider views.  70m before the falls stands a lone White Pine that escaped the fate of its surroundings and now towers above this section of young growth.  This part of the trail shows a clear dilineation between sections of forest that were recently logged, and a few meters onward that were not. As you head into this untouched section of tall, dark, dense woods you hear the falls and are treated to the full beauty of this area.

See Also:  Terence Bay Wilderness Area - Sorrow's End

Johnson River Falls

     2km from the start of your hike you’ll reach your scenic destination; Johnson River Falls.  A treat to the senses, the modest 10ft high waterfall is fastest flowing in early Spring and the flow can vary drastically depending on conditions. Nestled in a corner of a steep-sloped ravine, the waterfall takes a path though, over and around the large basalt rocks which frame the river.  Best viewed a few meters downstream where the river’s cold, dark water steps down into a ravine, you can rest by the water’s edge and absorb the ambience.  This part of the river is enclosed by walls of basalt rock carved by the river as though it were quarried.  A collage of pines perfectly frames the falls as if placed by the deliberate strokes of a painting. In summer, dense foliage conceals much of its rocky essence but adds more colour to its otherwise earthy palate. 

     The falls are a fairly popular destination so you may have to share it with others, especially if you visit on the weekend. Fortunately, there are a few different spots with views of the waterfall. The falls are but a slice of the beauty of this area and you can explore up or downstream of them. Both up and downstream sections of river are considerably wider than the area around the falls, and both are surrounded by dense forest.Johnson River Waterfall

Trip Tips

     Though the hike only took just over 1 hour at a leisurely pace, I plan to spend 2 hours to fully enjoy the falls. This hike has no significant hills but a lot of ups and downs as you can see in my elevation profile graph. You can extend your trip by exploring further along the river until it reaches Soldier Lake which is roughly 1km downstream from the falls. I’ve not done the hike to Soldier Lake, so I can’t offer any tips other than to caution that it is a remote wilderness area.

     Extremely muddy conditions are the norm along the extent of this hike with some sections of puddles that require navigating around. Plenty of trail braiding is occurring due to the mud and the footing on these off-trail extensions can be tricky.  Waterproof hiking boots are a must for this hike unless conditions are unusually dry.

     Especially in Spring, there will be bugs. With plenty of standing water along the trail, some sections will be have clouds full of them so you’ll definitely want to bring some bug protection. As with most places in Nova Scotia, ticks are active whenever temperatures are above 4°C so be sure to do regular tick checks & follow basic tick-protection protocol like I’ve outlined here.

     The Johnson River is also part of an extensive, rugged canoe route through the wilderness area that intrepid local paddler Tristen Glen has mapped. The extensive wilderness area has plenty to explore, but none is marked and should only be attempted by experienced outdoor adventurers.

     Numerous restaurants are nearby in Fall River, less than 10 minutes from the Johnson River Falls trailhead. There are also a few hotels and places to stay nearby including the beautiful Inn On The Lake which has been a popular place for weddings and special gatherings since its opening in the 1970s.

    Other nearby parks and trails include the extensive trails at McDonald Sports Park and the recently opened Lake William Trail. Both locations are roughly a 10-minute drive from the Johnson River Falls trailhead.

     Did you recently visit Johnson River Falls? How were the conditions? Let us know by leaving a comment.
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