Bowater on Trailforks

Hey I’ve ridden Bowater a few times the last few weeks. Any reason why the full system or any part of it are not on Trailforks? It’s a great place to ride when conditions are good. I know I don’t know all the trails and it would be nice to be able to explore the area. I know they’re not sanctioned but neither is Whooper but yet we can find it.

Anyone? A little clarity or info?

1 Like

From 2020:


Ok, so the owner is not the crown? I thought that was all crown land? So the government actually said keep the trails on Trailforks but hide these new trails from the public? Maybe someone can clarify? Who has the ultimate say that these go public or not?

If these guys that caused a major scare got in so much shit then why hasn’t the government stepped in to stop the old guy from building?

Do they actively enforce and get the motos out?

@bent6543 any insight?

Doesn’t make much sense to me.

1 Like

Here is a map of crown land:
Crown Land | Open Data | Nova Scotia


I can offer a little insight based on what I know. The area we all refer to as Bowater is part of a 1.5 million acre parcel of land the province purchased from the Bowater Mersey Paper Company around ten years ago. It’s officially called the Western Crown Lands. Western Crown Land - Background |

In 2013 the province held a round of public consultations to gather input on how the people of Nova Scotia wanted the lands utilized. Unfortunately there wasn’t much input from the MTB community, even though mountain biking had been happening in there for a long time. At one time BNS held races in there and some of the old trails and logging roads can be found in Randy’s trail guides (“It’s too cheap not to get” - DH).

There is an existing network of trails on Hiking Trail Rd. called the Old Annapolis Rd trails (NW corner of map). These trails were built by Bowater Mersey in the 1970s. Since the land was sold to the province these trails have fallen into disrepair and have been mostly taken over by the ATV crowd. Which is unfortunate because they pass through some really beautiful terrain. I contacted DoE about these trails last year and found out that there is currently no management plan in place for these trails, and that one of these trails (Rees Lake) passes through the Old Annapolis Rd. Nature Reserve. Nature Reserves are the highest level of protection in the province and the only permitted activity within them is hiking.

There is also the network of unsanctioned trails on the east side of Sandy Lake. These are the trails commonly referred to as Bowater. The majority of these trails are built on Crown Land, although some of them are built on NS Power property (red shaded polygons), but I’ve never heard of anyone having a negative interaction with NS Power staff while riding in there. The rest of trails are built on Crown Land, and Lands and Forests and Dept. of Environment are aware of these trails and have visited them.

Currently the trails are used by hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and the dirt bike crew. Just after Christmas I ran into a group of birdwatchers on the trails who were there as part of the Christmas bird count. Here’s a screen shot of the trail usage statistics from Trailforks (please note that this only reflects trail users that are syncing data to trail forks, that this is only MTB data, and it only shows when someone has travelled on one of the visible trails):

Some of you may be aware of the proposed Island Lake Wilderness Area. Here’s a link with more info Consultation:Proposed Ingram River Conservation Lands-CLOSED but in a nutshell the local stewardship association has been working with the province the have a portion of the crown land near St. Margarets Bay designated as a Wilderness Area. The province held a period of public consultation last summer and is now working on there next steps. Hopefully we see a new Wilderness Area out there soon.

There is a small group of us local trail users that have been working to form a trail association (Upper Tantallon Trails Association | Facebook) but we need more help. Our goal is to build a sanctioned trail network in the Upper Tantallon area, whether that is in the Wilderness Area or on another piece of land remains to be seen. So far things are looking good, we’ve met with staff from Dept. of Environment Parks and Protected Places and received some great insight from them.

Personally I’d like to see the trails that are on crown land, but not on NS Power property made visible on Trailforks. The proverbial cat is out of the bag, the majority of the hiking, trail running, and mtb communities know of these trails and many have used them. Making the trails visible would make riding there safer, and it would also allow us as a trail association to demonstrate to the land managers (the province) and potential funding sources that there is a demand for a sanctioned single track trail network in the Upper Tantallon/SMB area.

In summary, the land ownership situation out here is complex and the trails are unsanctioned, but so are most of the trails in Halifax and many of the sanctioned trails started out as unsanctioned. Making the trails on crown land visible on Trailforks would aid in demonstrating that there is a demand for a sanctioned trails. If you are out on the trails please be a good trail steward and respect the land. Also, if you are interested in getting involved with our trail association please check out our facebook group.

PS: folks please stop messaging for a trail map lol.


Bowater is the Wild Wild West.

Where else can you combine every trail sport there is including horseback riding, trapping, bird watching, ATVs and sporadic gun fire all in one controlled area?


You forgot poaching, illegal dumping and burning cars lol.


Ya I almost forgot about the mass deer grave-sights.


At the end of the day, you want to keep land owners happy.

1 Like

@supercraig thanks for that info!

If I’m reading between the lines correctly from yours and @bent6543 ‘s posts…. unsanctioned trails that pre-date trailforks are visible to the public, but if they were built since then, they are hidden.

Is that a trailforks policy or at the local admin’s discretion?

What if the trail is technically unsanctioned but the landowners know the land is being used and have no issues with it (as is the case with Bowater)?


@Rolls I think you have summed up the rationale behind keeping them off the (public) map. Yes there are unsanctioned trails on Trailforks the vast majority pre-date Trailforks, I call these legacy trails. There are exceptions like Skull, or Wentworth Hostel trails, the landowners requested that they be removed. Evil Birch for instance involved going through an active rock quarry and became so popular the quarry took steps to stop access, like blowing up the original entrance. There is no official Trailforks policy on hidden or visible trails. They leave it up to local admins to assess the situation/politics of the area.

I gave @supercraig admin rights for Bowater because he is directly involved in trying to sanction trails there and I feel that ultimately we are on the same page.

My opinion is that Bowater is a new zone and has only really gained popularity in the last few years. The trails are being built without permission and for now the landowners are turning a blind eye.

Yes, many people know about these trails but not everyone. As soon as they go on a globally visible map the traffic has the potential to overwhelm what these trails can handle in their current state. I have been there and in my opinion some of those trails are poorly planned and go through areas that can not sustain large volumes of traffic and will be blown out garbage if they see tons of traffic or if/when the moto guys get to them. I absolutely understand the safety argument for making them visible but I think if you want to keep riding here before they are sanctioned it is best not to show every single person in the world where they are.

Your opinion may differ but in general new, unsanctioned trails will not be showing up on Trailforks out of respect for the builders and to those people who are currently enjoying those trails and would like to continue doing so.

If you want Bowater or any other place on the map, get involved with the trail groups talking to the landowners and the government, trying to get these places sanctioned so that everyone can enjoy them.


Can someone speak to how making a trail visible makes it safer? I don’t understand, but would like to.

If you get lost, you have a reliable map linked to GPS to help find your way out again

1 Like

Thanks @bent6543


Ah okay, I was hoping that wasn’t the reason. Thankfully not many mountain bikers end up lost long enough to cause concern.

Why? It’s an area with really good cell phone signal and a labirynth of very similar looking trails. There has already been one incident of a moto-rider getting hurt in a crash back there with no way of knowing what trail he was on or exactly where he was. People are already using Strava or word of mouth to locate the trails, it would be safer to have an accurate digital map with a fairly accurate geo location system on a device that everyone carries in their pocket than nothing at all.


Because electronic devices should never be what you rely on to get you out. They are inaccurate and tend to lead people astray. If in an area that isn’t easy to navigate, bring a map and compass. Sincerely, Search and Rescue.

To add, we hear a lot of “well its never failed me before”. This is an anecdote, we can provide stories of how and when they fail. Because we get the calls to help those people.

1 Like

How many mountain bikers that you know are going to carry a map and compass on a ride, let alone know how to use them? Everyone has their phone in their pocket these days.


That does not make it the appropriate thing to do.

1 Like

Beyond the Bowater Discussion, why does one person have so much control over Trail Forks? How is this even a thing? So many questions.