Environmental Restoration at the Pinhey Sand Dunes

Cette promenade a également lieu en français.

The Pinhey Sand Dunes are an unusual micro-environment and a rare feature of Ottawa's ecology.  These restored open sandy areas represent only a small fraction (about 1%) of the original four square kilometer inland sand dunes system, one of the end products of the prehistoric Champlain Sea. Most importantly, a rare and unique dry-land habitat and ecosystem have been restored to enrich the biological and habitat diversity of the the National Capital Greenbelt.

The dune organisms are mostly insects, spiders and other arthropods, which have developed an extraordinary ability to live in an extreme dune environment where during the summer (i) the sun is fiercely bright and hot; (ii) sand temperatures can soar to 70–72 C; (iii) winds can be at times gusty enough to cause local dust storms and dust devils; and (iv) the insects and plants are constantly being bombarded with abrading sand grains or buried under shifting sands.

It is a bit too early to see activities of dunes organisms. If we get a warm sunny day, we may see some insects such as the Big Sand Tiger Beetle, Cicindela Formosa, running here and there. In any case, you will enjoy seeing and learning about the Pinhey sand dunes, how they were formed, and the restoration process.  A walk across the dunes and through part of the Pinhey Forest will reveal the early spring wildflowers on the forest floor.

The Pinhey Dunes is an unusual habitat requiring our help to maintain it, as otherwise it would soon disappear, as indeed it nearly did. You can learn more about the Pinhey Sand Dunes online here. A lovely photo essay on plant and insect species living in the dune can be found here, including two short videos. 


We will walk through the dunes along a visitors' trail.  We suggest that people wear hiking boots or sturdy walking shoes.

Parking is available along the street near the corner of Vaan & Pineland.

About the walk leader

Henri Goulet is a retired scientist from the Canadian National Collection under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, with a specialty in biodiversity and conservation. He is interested in many facets of the natural world.

Pete Dang is a retired scientist from the Canadian Forest Service and Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada.  He is president and founder of Biodiversity Conservancy International (BCI), and director of the BCI Sand Dune Conservation Project, as well as founder of the international scientific journal Biodiversity.  His research specialty is in Microlepidoptera, including leafrollers, budworms, and ladybird beetles. 

In recognition of BCI's achievements towards restoring the unique Pinhey Dune habitat in the National Capital Greenbelt, in 2012, they were given a Conservation Award from the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club.  


Henri Goulet, Pete Dang, and Joanne Hakkaku

Date:Sun May 5, 2019
Time:12:00 PM
Duration: 1 hour
Language: English
Start:Vaan Drive & Pineland Ave, near Woodroffe & Slack Rd.
Area:Merivale Gardens
Distance:1.0 km

Much of the walk will be through the deep soft sand of the dunes or along a trail through nearby woods.  (Wheeled vehicles are not allowed on the dune.)

A Jane's Walk group at the Pinhey Sand Dune. The Ghost Tiger Beetle's colouring gives it almost perfect camouflaged against the sand, where it is nearly invisible. The pink ladyslipper orchid can be found in the sandy soil in the forests and near the edges of the Pinhey sand dunes.  They bloom in late May and early June.
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