The Oliphant coastline is complex of bays and a series of islands, known as The Fishing Islands. The islands and reefs protect the bays from intense wave energy. Due to this reduced wave action, the bays of the shoreline are fringed with coastal meadow marshes, or coastal fens, and narrow low sand beaches. The coastal fens here are considered globally rare and imperiled communities.
Due to the gradual sloping underlying bedrock, a 30 centimeter increase or decrease in water levels can cover or expose 200 to 300 meters of lake bed. Combine that with storm events, seiches, and yearly water level fluctuations, and you have a shoreline that is always changing.
The western shoreline of the Bruce Peninsula may be the most productive lake whitefish spawning shoals and associated larval nursery ground in Lake Huron. (Lake Huron Biodiversity Strategy reference document on coastal wetlands, March 23, 2009).
This area of the Bruce Peninsula is unique because of the rare combination of characteristics it possesses. It is a sensitive ecology that includes a series of dune grassland ridges, wetland and alvar-related species and habitats. These unusual physical features have created an environment that is rich in biodiversity.
Threats to the biodiversity exists here include the impacts of road and other construction, cottage use that encroaches on shores, and vehicle damage to the shore. These threats can result in genetic and reproductive isolation for species when habitats are destroyed and become fragmented, and create an altered moisture regime from drainage ditches and tire ruts.
Species at Risk in Oliphant and The Fishing Islands
Oliphant and The Fishing Islands still do support a number of species at risk:
- Tuberous Indian Plantain (species of special concern)
- Dwarf Lake Iris (threatened)
- Reptiles (endangered)
- Eastern Massassauga rattlesnake (Threatened)
- Monarch butterfly (special concern)
- Snapping turtle (special concern)
- The Piping Plover (last nested in Oliphant during times of low water in 2008 (endangered)
Most of the Fishing Islands are private property.
However, after your tour, you may wish to take a stroll on the Oliphant Boardwalk through the fens on the mainland. There is signage that will explain to you the many unique plant species you can spot on the walk. The Bruce Peninsula and these fens are known for their many species of rare orchids.
We hope you love this place as much as we do, will tread lightly on our shores and leave only your footprints!