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Giant Cedar Boardwalk

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

Home to some of the oldest trees in the Columbian Mountains, this boardwalk weaves through a rare stage of forest development known as old-growth. This is the only place in the world where a temperate rain forest exists this far from an ocean coastline.

Distance: .5 km. Time: 15 minutes

There is no significant elevation, but there are steps and stairs that may make this hard for those with mobility issues.

If you packed a meal for your road trip, this is a great place to pause and enjoy a picnic. Several picnic tables are located just before the boardwalk entrance. There are also washrooms and garbage bins available.

From the educational plaques in the forest:

As Christopher Columbus was crossing the Atlantic on his first voyage to the New World (1492), many of these cedars and hemlocks were seedlings. By the time Leonardo da Vinci’s last brush stroke on the “Mona Lisa” had dried (1506), these seedlings had become saplings. As audiences watched the inaugural performance of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” (1595), the giants had already been alive for more than a century. Some of the western red cedars are now over 500 years old.

Here the cathedral-like splendour of the interior Cedar-Hemlock forest has been perfected over centuries of patient growth. Above, moisture carried by winds from the Pacific Ocean crosses the Columbia Mountains. As the air cools, it drops abundant rain in the summer and snow in the winter, nourishing lush forests of Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock. The latest members of this forest are the shaggy-barked western red cedar and the furrowed, dark brown western hemlock. This is the only place in the world where temperate rain forests exist this far from an ocean coastline.

Old-growth forests are dynamic, natural communities operating on timetables very different than our own. Balancing the needs of people with those of nature is a complex decision anywhere, but it is especially challenging in National Parks. Everything in nature is connected, and the impact of a small change can spread like ripples in a pond. Although the old-growth forests of Mount-Revelstoke National Park are essential protected areas, they represent a little slice of the Columbia Mountains.  

The old-growth forests of Mount Revelstoke National Park are un-managed landscapes cultivated by time, where natural processes have created a collection of old and new, large and small, living and dead trees. This delicate balance of age and form took centuries to evolve. They are home to hundreds of species, living in fragile equilibrium that would not exist in younger forests.

As forests age, weaker trees die and create gaps in the canopy for sunlight to reach the forest floor. Disturbances such as forest fires, windstorms, insects, and forest diseases are a natural part of forest evolution. By opening holes in the canopy, they allow more sunlight to reach the floor.

Although gaps are vital for trees to grow up, they are equally important for trees to grow out. Gaps encourage thick undergrowth. Over time, new holes in the established canopy encourage growth in younger generations of trees and create a layered forest of different-aged stands. When an old-growth tree finally falls, it plays a new roll in the lifecycle of the woods. Old trees can be seen along the forest floor decompose into soil. They give the appearance of slowly melting into the ground. Each layer provides habitats for a vast community of creatures living together and dependent on each other.

Western Red Cedar snags (standing dead trees) can remain virtually intact for up to 125 years. These large snags provide habitat for many cavity-nesting birds and mammals. Many species that require snags for habitats also prey upon insects that use trees.

Devil’s Club: This lush environment promotes the growth of devil’s club. Its prickly leaves and stems were the scourge of early travellers, including Major A.B. Rogers, during his quest for a mountain pass beyond this valley.

Bats: The northern long-eared bat is a medium-sized bat that lives in the under-story layer of this forest. It can be recognized by its long rounded ears, which extend beyond the tip of the nose when laid forward. Research at this site found that the northern long-eared bats need large old trees with cavities, cracks or peeling bark, for a place to roost during the day. Females are especially picky about roost sites, requiring a place where infant pups can cluster together for warmth while the mothers are away gathering food at night. Bats, the only mammals that fly, emerge shortly after sunset to hunt.

Voles: Red-backed voles resemble large, plump mice. These common forest mammals eat truffles - a type of fungus that lives underground. After digesting the truffles, voles spread this fungus around the litter layer of the forest through their droppings. In a truly symbiotic relationship, the truffles help tree roots absorb oil minerals, and the trees produce sugars necessary to the truffles. These cedar and hemlock trees require this alliance with the truffles and voles to grow so large in nutrient-poor soil. Woodpecker: The beak of the Pileated Woodpecker, North America’s largest woodpecker, is capable of chiseling large rectangular cavities in the shells of hollow or decaying old-growth trees to hunt carpenter ants. A ten-centimetre long tongue with a barbed tip enables these wood-pacers to spear ants in hard to reach places. Large oval cavities are used for nesting in spring and roosting in winter. Cavities created by pileated woodpeckers are important to other tree cavity-dwellers unable to create their own, such as flying squirrels, red squirrels, weasels, martens, bats, pygmy owls, saw-whet owls, boreal owls, and tree-nesting ducks like buffleheads and goldeneyes.

Bears: Black bears sometimes use the hollow cores of large old-growth cedar trees for winter den sites. Small sleeping areas are enlarged by scraping, and the resulting wood chips can serve as bedding. Females give birth to cubs while still in the den. A mother bear often protects her cubs by keeping them near a large tree to serve as shelter - if threatened, the cubs may climb the tree. Cubs also spend time in trees playing or resting in the sun.

Caribou: Most of the world’s 1,800 mountain caribou live in the Columbia Mountains of south-eastern British Columbia. As an endangered species, their numbers are in decline across the southern portion of their range. What is the connection between old growth rain forests and mountain caribou? During the early winter, caribou feed on mountain boxwood shrubs, which are sheltered from early season snowfall by the thick cedar and hemlock canopy layer. Unlike most animals, mountain caribou move higher up the mountains as the snow gets deeper, seeking new food sources as the boxwood is buried. By mid-winter, caribou are high in the sub-alpine forests feeding on tree lichens. Mountain caribou head back down to the valleys as the plants begin to green up in the spring.


Latitude: 51.1069   Longitude: -117.9077


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