The Quartzite Barrens are divided into two sub-Units:
Geology and Landscape Development
The mantle of quartzite till ranges in thickness from 1-10 m in this Unit but averages less than 3 m. There are several large areas of exposed rock where the till has been scraped
off by glacial ice. Specific localities are:
- north and west of Mount Uniacke
- around the Halifax International Airport
- around Anderson Lake in Dartmouth
- several areas from the Liscomb Game Sanctuary to Country Harbour River
The bedrock-dominated topography of these extensive barrens is best described as "ridge-swamp-swale" in seemingly endless repetition (see Figure 11). Where greater
thicknesses of glacial till have accumulated, drumlins and drumlinoid till features are found.
Click to enlarge
Welt-shaped drumlins of reddish Lawrencetown Till (sub-Units 435a and 435b) are scattered throughout. This glacial material is derived predominantly from the reddish
sandstones and siltstones of the Carboniferous and Triassic areas to the north but also includes material from the Cobequid Hills and Pictou-Antigonish Highlands.
Additional small patches of "unmoulded" red till are found in central Guysborough in association with small glacial outwash deposits. At Indian Harbour River, the valley is filled
with thick layers of outwash sand and gravel.
In the Halifax-Guysborough area the many long sub-parallel faults create linear valleys which are followed by rivers and sometimes filled by lakes; for example, Porters Lake,
Lake Charlotte, Sheet Harbour River, Indian Harbour, and St. Marys River.
The many glacial lakes in this Unit vary in size and tend to be dystrophic. In the more developed areas, eutrophication is common. The scattered wetlands, mainly bogs and
swamps, tend to be biologically productive. Bogs are raised and associated with flat fens. The Sackville River has an extensive floodplain.
The pH levels have been recorded as low as 5.0 in Beaver Lake and as high as 7.5 in Lake William (sub-Unit 413a). The average pH tends to be around 6.5. Conductivity
ranges between 12 micromhos/cm in Indian Lake (sub-Unit 413b) and 98 micromhos/cm in Micmac Lake (sub-Unit 413a).
Halifax (sub-Unit 413a)
Much of this area is covered by Halifax
soils - well-drained, stony, sandy loams, developed on till derived principally from quartzite. The poorly drained associate Danesville occurs
in areas of low relief, together with Aspotogan soils and peat. Some Bridgewater soil, derived from slates, is also found. Scattered Wolfville drumlins occur, with larger areas of
continuous Wolfville soil in the Beaverbank and Dollar Lake areas (see Unit 436).
Click to enlarge
Guysborough (sub-Unit 413b)
Halifax, Danesville, and Aspotogan soils again predominate. Scattered Wolfville drumlins occur, concentrated in the central part of the sub-Unit (see Unit 435). Hebert, Cumberland,
and Chaswood soils have developed on alluvial and outwash material along the St. Marys River.
In this Unit the higher and broader ridges are capped by American Beech, Yellow Birch, Red Maple, and Sugar Maple. On the hardwood hills around Liscomb, big Sugar Maples and
Yellow Birch occur. Mixed stands of Red Spruce fringe these hardwood hills with some Balsam Fir, Yellow Birch, Eastern Hemlock, and White Spruce. In the depressions, swamps
dominated by Black Spruce and larch alternate with patches of sand with some White Pine. Slow-moving streams are bordered by broad, swampy areas with Balsam Fir, Red Maple,
and Black Spruce. Extensive shrub-dominated barrens occur, with Wire Birch, Red Maple, and aspen. Scattered Black Spruce and White Pine are also found on the barrens, depending
on soil drainage conditions. Bog vegetation includes various species of grass, bulrushes, and low ericaceous shrubs.
This impoverished forest area was characterized in the early twentieth century by C.D. Howe. Since he wrote, there has been a reduction in the number of fires and a
consequent improvement in forest conditions. His description in 1912 was: "In the western portion, the country has the appearance of a plateau, in which the low narrow ridges
have nearly vertical strata, bare of soil and bare of trees except in the crevices of the rock. The depressions between the ridges are filled with patches of sand, on which are
pine stands alternating with swamps in which balsam fir and black spruce predominate. The broader and higher ridges are capped with hardwoods and mixed stands are found
on the lower slopes. Most of these are now in a severely culled or second growth condition. The slow moving streams are bordered by broad, swampy areas in which fir and red
maple form two-thirds of the stand, the other third being made up of black spruce, yellow birch and black ash in about equal proportions. ... (To the east) the ridges are farther
apart and have more extensive sand deposits and bogs between them. ... The fire barren on the quartzite east and northeast of Halifax harbour is covered to the extent of 80
percent with wire birch, the rest being red maple with scattering yellow birch and beech. Fir prevails along the margins of the numerous lakes and ponds and it frequently covers
the tops of low ridges. Overtopping these are scattered mature white pine and an occasional red pine. ... For the most part the surface is strewn with boulders and the soil is
sandy, although the greater part of the volume is occupied by pebbles and boulders of various sizes. ... It is evident that such soil does not encourage heavy forest growth, even
when not pauperized by frequent fires."
Extensive forest cutting has provided good browsing habitat for deer and Snowshoe Hare. The abundance of hare also supports a good population of bobcat. Small-mammal
diversity is moderately high in well-drained mixed and hardwood forest habitats, especially along rivers and streams; elsewhere it is quite low. St. Marys River is an important salmon
river. Typical fish species include White and Yellow Perch, White Sucker, Brown Bullhead, Brook Trout, Banded Killifish, sticklebacks, Golden Shiner, Lake Trout and American Eel.
The Quartzite Barrens have been the most productive area in Nova Scotia for gold mining during the past century, with mines at Goldboro, Goldenville, Waverley, Moose River,
and other sites. Hydroelectric power is harnessed at Malay Falls and Ruth Falls.
Loyalist refugees settled in this area, and communities such as Sheet Harbour became prosperous centres for the lumber industry. Black Loyalists settled in Preston (sub
-Unit 413a) on small lots situated in swampy areas or on barren, unproductive soil.
The Shubenacadie Canal attempted to provide a link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Fundy.
Woodlot management occurs in this Unit, and there are two game sanctuaries: the Waverley Game Sanctuary in the Halifax Quartzite Barrens and the Liscomb Game Sanctuary
in the Guysborough Quartzite Barrens. St. Marys River is an important site for salmon and trout fishing and other outdoor recreation.
Sites of Special Interest
- Indian River - fault valley filled with glacial outwash deposits
- Route 101 to Mt. Uniacke from Halifax - bedrock ridges overlain with a veneer of quartzite till; an occasional crosscut drumlin
- Liscomb Game Sanctuary-Abraham Lake (IBP Proposed Ecological Site 31) - mature Red Spruce forest
- Melrose (IBP Proposed Ecological Site 27) - old Eastern Hemlock forest
- St. Marys River
- Sherbrooke Village Restoration - heritage village museum
- Fairbanks Centre, Dartmouth, Shubenacadie Canal interpretation
- Hemlock Ravine - urban park of historic and national significance
Provincial Parks and Park Reserves
- Uniacke Estate Museum Park
- Cockscomb Lake
- Rocky Lake
- Lake Echo
- Lake Charlotte
- Sheet Harbour
Proposed Parks and Protected Areas System includes Natural Landscapes 30a and 35b and Candidate Protected Areas 15 Liscomb River, 16 The Big Bog, and 17 Alder Grounds.
- Middle Country Harbour Provincial Park (sub-Unit 413b)
The Avalon and Meguma Zones
Terrestrial Glacial Deposits and Landscape Features
Geology and Resources
Plants and Resources
Animals and Resources
Hardwood Forest (Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, Beech Association)