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-kilometre inland sand dune system, a consequence of the prehistoric Champlain Sea. Through the efforts of the Biodiversity Conservancy , 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; (i) sand temperatures can soar to over 70°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.

The first week of May is a bit too early to see activities of many sand dune 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. Some of the dune wildflowers may have started already due to the warm weather this year, and some of the spring insects will likely be visible, including some bees and butterflies. 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 photo essay on plant and insect species living in the dune can be found here, including some short videos.

Carte indiquant le point de départ

We will meet at the edge of Pinhey Sand Dune Complex Site 2, which is about 100 metres south of Slack Rd along NCC Trail 32B.

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

You can park on the shoulder of Slack Road. If you prefer to park off the road, NCC lot P15 is about 300 metres east along Slack on the south side of the road. You can walk west along Slack Road to reach NCC trail 32B (please note that NCC trail 32E, which runs parallel to the road, is usually flooded and impassible at this time of year). Turn left (south) on Trail 32B to reach the meeting point.

Accessibility: Much of the walk will be across the deep soft sand of the dunes and a trail through nearby woods. Wheeled vehicles are not allowed on the dune. The wheels of wheelchairs, scooters, or strollers get stuck in the soft sand.

Au sujet du guide

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. Pete's research specialty is in Microlepidoptera, including leafrollers, budworms, and ladybird beetles. 

In recognition of their achievements towards restoring the unique Pinhey Dune habitat in the National Capital Greenbelt, in 2012, BCI received a Conservation Award from the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club. 

Griffin Wright-Brown is a graduate student in Environmental Studies at York University. He has been closely involved with the habitat restoration work at the Pinhey Sand Dunes since the early stages of the project over a decade ago.

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, Griffin Wright-Brown et Henri Goulet

Date:dim 5 mai, 2024
Durée: 1 heure
Langue: anglais
Début:NCC Trail 32B, south side of Slack Rd. near Vaan Dr.
Quartier:Merivale Gardens
Distance:1.0 km

Wheeled vehicles are not allowed on the dune.

Galerie d'images
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. The Ghost Tiger Beetle's colouring gives it almost perfect camouflaged against the sand, where it is nearly invisible. A Jane's Walk group at the Pinhey Sand Dune. Walk Leader Henri Goulet talks with a Jane's Walk group about the environment in a forested area alongside the Pinhey Dunes..
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