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Fenland Trail

Text and Photography © Mike Potter

Distance: Loop that can be started at several points.
Walk: 20 – 30 minute loop
Elevation Gain: Negligible
Maximum Elevation: 1380 m (4530 ft)
Topo Map: Banff 82-0/4 (trail unmarked)
Trailhead: The main trailhead is at the Forty Mile Creek picnic area, on the west side of Mt. Norquay Road 400 m north of the railroad crossing. Other trailheads are on the west side of Mt. Norquay Road 25 m north of the railroad crossing and again just south of the bridge over Forty Mile Creek, and on the south side of Vermilion Lakes Drive 600 m from its start off Mt. Norquay Road.

0.0 – Forty Mile Creek picnic area (elevation 1380 m). Cross footbridge and keep straight.
0.3 – Keep right; left branch leads to Mt. Norquay Road in 100 m.
1.7 – Keep straight; trail to left over footbridge leads to Vermilion Lakes Drive.
2.1 – Cross footbridge back to picnic area (1380 m).

The Fenland trail gives you insights into the ecology of this type of wetland. By definition, a fen is drier than a marsh but – perhaps surprisingly – wetter than a bog or a swamp. You can observe dynamic natural processes along this trail, for as well as fens there are areas in transition to swamp (the driest wetland, with white spruce trees, shrubs, mosses, and a spongy floor).

The biologically-productive mosaic of water, grasses, sedges, and shrubs found in a fen represents ideal habitat for creatures such as elk, beaver, and voles (little rodents that look like mice but aren’t).

Birdwatching along the Fenland trail is rewarding. You can usually sight such species as Canada goose, mallard, hairy woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, and yellow-rumped warbler. You might be fortunate to see, or at least hear, a barred owl or a kingfisher.

The belted kingfisher, to give the full name of the species found here, is so-called because of bands of different colours on the breast: blue on white in the male, blue and rust on white in the female. These intriguing birds, with what appear to us to be disproportionately large heads, are often first noticed by their rattling call.

Kingfishers dive head-first for fish from a perch over water, or from the air (sometimes hovering briefly over potential prey). Their nests are long burrows in stream banks, dug using their heavy bills and stubby feet. A belted kingfisher is pictured on the $5 bill.

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