The rain was steady but light as my coworker, Laura, and I drove the 11 kilometre gravel road to the Kokanee Old Growth Forest Trail. The road is well marked from Highway 3A and the left turn (if coming from Nelson) is shortly after the Kokanee Creek bridge. A high clearance vehicle is recommended but the road is maintained and a 2WD would make it to the trailhead. A sign and large boulder mark the small parking pullout and trailhead.

We enter the forest and a short jaunt amongst gigantic moss covered boulders, deposited eons ago from a retreating glacier, brings us into the valley bottom. The trees are so tall they almost disappear into the low hanging fog. They stand like natural skyscrapers which have been growing for centuries. The forest floor is dark and spongy and covered in pine needles with a few white mushrooms pushing their way up through the dead leaves and rich soil.

It fascinates me that these trees are all connected by miles and miles of tiny fungi threads, called mycelium, below the surface. This network of connected fungi is integral to the health of the forest ecosystem by carrying water and nutrients along its miniscule mycelium pathways. How significant this connection is is likely not fully understood. However, evidence is growing around the notion that big old trees with deep roots which have established the most mycelium connections are able to detect nearby trees which are under distress and send those trees the needed nutrients. Trees communicating. Big, old trees integral to forest health. We are still learning so much about how old growth trees and forests are integral to the health of all forests and how these forests are integral to our health. 

The trail meanders along the valley bottom for about 2 kilometres and includes a short loop. It is well maintained and easy to walk. There are interpretive signs along the trail explaining the ecology of a “climax” forest – a forest which has reached its final stage of growth – and the species that live in this forest. The rushing water from Kokanee Creek can always be heard and sometimes be seen along the trail. 

On this rainy day, the greens are so bright and dreamy to photograph. I feel as though I’ve entered into an ancient world, uninterrupted by humans. In fact, this area was logged decades ago and there are huge decaying tree stumps marking where giants once stood tall. Many of the trees were left, cedars so huge hugging them feels like hugging a wall. These giants are 800 years old! 

It worries me to know that this area is not protected. It is not within the Kokanee Provincial Park. In fact, logging is happening just down the road from the trail area. As we drove by, the muddy logging road looked like it was just being built. How will this road building logging affect the old growth forest in the valley below it? With such steep slopes and water running down the slopes in streams it’s hard to imagine how it wouldn’t. Just this year there was a landslide that temporarily closed the road we were now driving on. 


Kendra Norwood is EcoSociety’s Conservation Program Coordinator.