Written by Jessica Adams (Nature Nerding)
Reading time: 5-6 minutes

We start every outing of the Massawippi Foundation’s Nature Education Program by gathering around the Scowen Park map. Once we are all huddled in close together, we take the time to say hello, to look back on our outing last season, and to revisit the guidelines to follow for a safe and respectful outing. When it comes to this last part, students proudly chime in with their take on “how to be” as we are walking through the forest. By the winter outing (the second of three throughout the school year), students are pretty clear not only on what the expectations are, but why they exist in the first place.

We make this discussion a priority not to restrict enjoyment, but to expand awareness. The idea is for these children to form an understanding of the part they play in a bigger system of interconnected beings. The message is that their actions matter. The hope is this will encourage new ways of thinking that will stick with them for a lifetime and influence their future interactions with the natural world.


This is the first in a series of articles meant to start a conversation around the principles underlying the guidelines common to so many trail networks. With the number of people enjoying the outdoors on the rise, it is more important than ever to view park guidelines not as limiting regulations, but as opportunities to mitigate our impact and be part of ensuring the natural environments we love so dearly continue to thrive for generations to come.

Part 1: Honouring the Trail

Trails as Pathways for Recreation & Conservation

“One of the main challenges of the planning, design, and management of natural areas is making decisions that will produce the best quality user experience, while protecting the ecological integrity of the resource base.” (Lynn and Brown, 2003)


Trails are one of the main vehicles for encouraging nature-based tourism. People walk and hike through nature for a variety of reasons, not least of which are the physical and mental benefits we experience by moving and breathing outdoors. There is little doubt as to the benefits trails have on their users… but is there potentially a benefit to the natural areas themselves? Indeed there is. The idea of conserving nature might not factor on the list of top priorities if individuals have never had the chance to experience it firsthand. To know something is to develop a love for it and, naturally, a desire to protect it. Trails provide access to natural areas where it might not have been granted otherwise, providing opportunities to build a relationship with the natural world.


How we enjoy this access to nature, however, can have consequences. If enjoyed in a way that is mindful, having access to nature will not only have a smaller impact on the surrounding ecosystems, but can be a gamechanger when it comes to connecting people with nature and encouraging pro-conservation attitudes. Conversely, if this access is enjoyed in a way that is careless, the impacts on the habitats through which the trails run could be potentially devastating.

The way the pendulum swings is up to every individual who sets foot on a trail. So what does it look like to enjoy a walk in the woods in a way that is mindful?


Trails Built with Intention

A lot that goes into building a trail. When done properly, everything is taken into consideration, from the trajectory it takes through the forest to the types of tools used. Generally, trails are designed to:

  • respect the natural area through which they run, meanwhile showcasing some of its most stunning features
  • withstand a reasonable amount of wear and tear (from walkers and from the elements)
  • keep trail users safe and on-track

In short, trails are built for enjoyment with hiker safety and conservation top of mind.

Sometimes we venture off trail because we want to see something up close, take a shortcut or find a more private lookout point…. As tempting as it might be and as harmless as it might seem, let’s consider the advantages of staying on trail.


By enjoying the trail and keeping to it, we avoid exposing ourselves to additional risks, such as:

  • Getting lost. “Wandering off trail is the number one reason, ahead of injury and bad weather, that adult hikers require search and rescue.” (Moye, 2019) Accidentally losing the trail can happen to the best of us, but whether on purpose or not, a stroll off into the forest can last longer than we’d like and potentially evolve into a serious ordeal.
  • Sustaining injuries. Trails are carefully built so walkers can get around with less risk of injury. They skirt more challenging and potentially dangerous terrain and have features like steps and boardwalks for areas that are trickier to navigate.
  • Rashes or burns. Trails are generally cleared of vegetation which means we are less likely to brush against Stinging Nettle, Poison Ivy or other plants with neat (but unpleasant) defense mechanisms.
  • Bites. Ticks don’t hang out in mud or gravel, but they do hang out in tall grass and leaf litter! Staying in the trail keeps them at a more comfortable distance and decreases the chances of one hitching a ride home with us.

Presumably, those of us who favour trail walking do so because of the beautiful environment. By enjoying the trail and keeping to it, we preserve the natural areas around us by:

  • Protecting sensitive and vulnerable life. This can range from avoiding stepping on plants to avoiding leaving behind our human smell that might signal danger (and cause undue stress) to critters living in the forest.
  • Maintaining the soil’s porosity and resistance to erosion: Untouched soil on the forest floor is protected by layers of plantlife and organic matter and has a certain absorbency when it rains. If the same areas are trampled time and time again, the top layers of the forest floor recede, revealing the soil beneath. With more trampling, this earth is compacted over time. Not only can water no longer be absorbed, but water running over it gradually erodes the surface, washing away soil particles and important nutrients.
  • Preserving the habitat integrity: The more traffic an area sees, the less favourable the soil is for new life to anchor in and get growing. Little by little, this can limit plant growth and the diversity of species.


The opening discussion with students can go in a variety of directions, but we always come back to the notion that guidelines don’t exist to take away the fun, but to protect the natural areas we love so much. A reframe, if you will: by not doing something small… we are doing something big. By choosing to stay on the trail we are taking responsibility for our safety and we are actively investing in the health of the places we are visiting. As visitors, we are part of the natural systems, even if for a brief moment, and we get to choose whether our impact is positive or negative. How wonderfully empowering.

Stay tuned for more information on other common guidelines and how they help us protect the natural areas we enjoy.



Alain Lessard

How did you find out about the Sentier Massawippi trails, even though you are not from the Eastern Townships?

A friend of mine, a resident of North Hatley, introduced me to the Sentier Massawippi and Scowen trails.

She and I are both active people, and we have been going regularly, about twice a week, for a little over two years now, on one trail or the other.

In addition to offering a calm environment with its forest, mature trees, streams, birds and deer, the trails are safe, well-maintained and the Sentier Massawippi offers us as well, access to the Lake.

Moreover, as an added bonus, it is always a pleasure to cross paths with other hikers and salute them on the way.  

Last fall, my hikes in these exceptional natural sites sparked the idea of undertaking a long-distance adventure.

After a bit of research on the Internet, and because of its reputation as one of the most difficult but also most magnificent hikes in Europe, my choice was made….the GR20 in the mountains of Corsica!

And yes, with its total length of 180 km length and its 11,000 metres of positive vertical drop, you mustn’t be afraid of a challenge to tackle this great hike, especially if you are a 70-year-old! For me, it’s now or never!

With 15 refuges along the way, 15 days is the standard time to complete the hike. The more athletic hikers will do it in less than 10 days, which is not my case, wisdom, prudence and humility being my motto for this great adventure!

I am planning to start at the beginning of May, but the refuges don’t offer accommodation, catering, repair services, tent rental, etc. until May 22. Traffic and hot summer temperatures are the reasons for my choice of early May. So l will have to carry everything I need in my backpack to enable me to sleep as soundly as possible and to have the food I need to give me the energy required to successfully meet this challenge. I’ll spare you the long list, which amounts to a payload of around 25 kg. 

So, to get back to the Sentier Massawippi trails, they naturally become a perfect training site. With a potential vertical drop of over 400m and a possible distance of around 10km, hiking the trails is an excellent workout that can be enhanced by adding weight to your backpack.

This physical exercise also enables me to test the hiking equipment that I will be using in Corsica: hiking boots and socks, crampons (there will be snow and ice in the mountains in May), hiking poles and backpack. Between now and my departure, I plan to hike other trails such as Mont Chauve via David Creek, 12.7km and 550m ascent, Mont St-Hilaire closer to home, 12.7km and 537m ascent, and Mount Mansfield in Vermont with its 12.4km and 880m ascent.

I am aiming to be ready by mid-April in terms of my training. This allows for a week’s rest and time for final preparations before departure, as my flight is scheduled for April 27.

And then, off we go for a great adventure!!




Written by Jessica Adams (Nature Nerding)
Reading time: 5-6 minutes

There is an interesting duality to the month of January. On the one hand, the new year feels ripe with possibility and promise and on the other it often comes with a post-holiday slump only made worse by the gloom and cold of winter. What does the new year signify to you? When considering potential resolutions, what came to mind? According to Forbes Health/OnePoll survey, improved fitness and improved mental health factor in to the top three resolutions made in 2024.


Investments in our goals to improve physical and mental health can look like a variety of things: memberships, equipment, supplements, consultations… and the list goes on. Not surprisingly, many businesses have caught on and are poised to capitalize on this annual wave, ready to offer you exactly what you need at exactly the right time- for a fee, of course. Profiting from trends aside, what matters most, is that what you choose supports you in achieving your goals. So if improved fitness and mental health factor into your list of top resolutions, perhaps there is a highly effective resource, that is readily available, low-cost and with little to no negative side-effects, available to help you achieve those objectives…


The Biophilia Hypothesis posits that humans have an innate desire to connect with the natural world. Considering we had a direct and very concrete dependence on this connection for the better part of our evolutionary history, this makes a lot of sense. Why wouldn’t we have an affinity for and awareness of what sustains us? That instinctual tendency to connect lingers in our biology to this day and is very much intact when we are younger. The opportunities for nurturing this tendency throughout our lifetime, however, are fewer and farther between (just one of the reasons why we are so passionate about our Nature Education Program). This modern day reality has noticeably affected us mentally, emotionally and physically… to the point we are at a time where the concept of a “prescription for nature” is a legitimate thing!


There is a large body of research demonstrating the profound positive impacts nature can have on our health and wellbeing. With health on so many people’s minds, especially at this time of year, we thought it would be the perfect moment to outline some key bits of compelling information and some practical suggestions around the topic of making more time for nature in support of a healthier lifestyle…


Who benefits from time spent in nature? The short answer: everyone. At any age there are benefits to not only taking time to be in proximity to nature, but to intentionally engaging with the natural world.


Just some of the ways time in nature can benefit us at all stages of life:


  • For children, it can help improve attention and memory as well as the ability to cooperate with others, all of which support a child’s ability to learn and thrive in social settings. On the physiological side, time in nature can encourage lung function and make them less likely to develop allergies, not to mention supporting motor skill development.
  • For adults, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and play a roll in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar.
  • For all, time in nature inherently involves fresh air and often involves movement – both of which are beneficial to our physical and mental wellbeing.


For more insight into the ways we are better off for connecting with nature, visi PaRx: A prescription for nature and this article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.


What does connecting with nature look like? Just being in nature can affect us in a positive way, no agenda necessary. This is a great place to start, particularly for those who are not accustomed to spending lots of time outside. If you want to take it further, key things to keep in mind are the presence and intention you bring to your experience of the natural world. “Stopping to smell the roses”… or “Pausing to observe the lichen”… or “Lingering to listen to the chickadees flitting around the feeder”. In short, slow down, notice and appreciate the everyday things.


Where can I connect with nature? Anywhere. Nature is in the snow that falls gently outside your window and in the life that grows on the bark of your favourite tree in the nearby park as much as it is in the remote depths of the wilderness. The beauty of this is that you don’t need to go far to incorporate nature into your life.


5 Prompts for Making More Time for Nature


1: If you’re even the slightest bit intrigued, make a commitment to yourself by setting a realistic objective! With as little as two hours a week, spread out in increments of 20 minutes or more, you can experience the benefits of connecting with the natural world. How can you incorporate those nature breaks into your schedule in a way that feels feasible?


3: Consider your current activities and hobbies – can you adapt them so they can be done outside? If not, can you occasionally swap an indoor activity for one outdoors? Families, for example, might want to try getting bundled up and doing storytime outside every now and then. Those who enjoy working out at the gym could occasionally save the cardio portion for a fast-paced walk or hike in a nearby trail network.


2: Make a list of five places you can visit without too much planning or preparation. Whether around the home, in the neighbourhood, or a short distance drive away, identifying places that you know and are easy to get to increases the likelihood of following through. If you’re feeling adventurous, maybe add one place you’ve never been before and set a goal to visit it sometime this year.


4: If you are feeling uninspired or just curious to hear some ideas, consult resources for prompts on different ways of engaging with the natural world. You can start by referring to our Nature Advent Calendar published in our December newsletter because these ideas work all winter long! Be Outside, Idaho also has a list of 101 Things to Do Outside in Winter.


5: Check in and celebrate. Whatever your new nature routine looks like, take time to notice how it lands. As part of your routine, before you go out, take inventory of how you are feeling both physically and mentally. Then check back in after. Recognize even the tiniest shifts that take place and congratulate yourself on every opportunity you seize to spend time outside.


Whether you are riding the high of New Year possibilities or feeling the weight of the post-Holiday slump, take comfort in knowing the natural world is always there to support you in leading a healthier lifestyle. From taking breaks from the computer and directing your gaze more intentionally out the window to taking a long meander through the woods on a Saturday morning, there are countless benefits to be enjoyed for the body, mind and soul.




We are pleased to announce that we have acquired a new property to protect in perpetuity and helped Blue Massawippi at the same time by purchasing this property which will give Blue Massawippi an infusion of cash for their important work on the lake. We would like to thank Christine Crowe and Denis Peticlerc along with MCT Trustee Margot Graham Heyerhoff who signed the deed of sale on December 19th, 2023.

Long before the Trust was established, Lake Massawippi Water Protection Inc. (Blue Massawippi) was given this 3-acre lot on the lakefront because the owner wanted to see it protected.  It is zoned ‘white’(developable). Had the MCT existed at the time, the Trust would have been the recipient of the land as Blue Massawippi does not have a mission to conserve and protect land in perpetuity.  Its mission is to protect the health and water quality of the lake. They work on issues such as invasive species such as zebra mussels, the recurring blue-green algae causes, and many other lake issues.  Blue Massawippi needs to focus all of its attention on the lake.

The members of Blue’s Board of Directors were very happy to know that this wetland, a carbon-capture environment close to Lake Massawippi, will, thanks to this transaction, be protected in perpetuity and thus continue forever to play its role as a natural habitat for flora and fauna. In addition, during periods of high water, it will help regulate the water level of Lake Massawippi. 

The Trust protects land adjacent to Lake Massawippi and its tributaries by:

  • Acquiring land through either purchase or donation 

– We purchased the wetland from Blue.

  • Establishing servitudes on land

– We have several properties under servitude and others being added in the near future.

  • Helping landowners understand the ecological and tax benefits of limiting the types of activities permitted on their properties.

– Access to the expertise of Corridor Appalachien as a member organization.

  • Helping landowners understand the potentially disastrous effect of over-development on the overall well-being of the Massawippi watershed. 

– As witnessed by residents and visitors alike, the protected green ridge has had a positive effect on the quality of life on the lake due to the many streams that flow into the lake that will never be disturbed.

How do the two organizations work side by side? 

What are the differences?

See below how we complement each other.

Massawippi Conservation Trust (LAND) Blue Massawippi (WATER)
Est in 2011 as a registered Canadian charity. Est in 1968 as a registered Canadian charity.
Mission : To conserve the natural state of the land adjacent to Lake Massawippi and its tributaries, and to provide stewardship services for that land in perpetuity. Mission : To inform, educate, influence and act on environmental issues that threaten water quality, the health of Lake Massawippi and the quality of life of its residents and users.
Description : The Massawippi Conservation Trust (MCT) was established to conserve land adjacent to Lake Massawippi and its tributaries and provide stewardship services in perpetuity. Starting with the lands on the western ridge of the lake because the government of Quebec identified this particular area as containing old growth forest with a rich biodiversity, including rare and endangered flora and fauna documented by biologists from Appalachian Corridor Association The Trust is now expanding its conservation efforts to include wetlands and agricultural lands in the entire watershed.

It is a registered not-for-profit organization that can issue tax receipts for donations.

Description : Bleu Massawippi is an organization dedicated to preserving and improving the ecosystem health of Lake Massawippi and its watershed. It works in close collaboration with its various partners, applying its very limited, non-coercive powers to ensure constant vigilance over conditions that threaten water quality, and to raise awareness among users, municipalities and government bodies of best practices based on scientific evidence. With its capacity to mobilize citizens, its credibility with regulatory authorities and the support of its partners, Bleu Massawippi is setting up structuring initiatives for the protection and conservation of Lake Massawippi with the objective of contributing directly and sustainably to the quality of life of users and the community.
Its sister organization, the Fondation Massawippi Foundation (FMF) whose mission is to:

  1. Preserve the Massawippi Valley’s unique ecosystem; 
  2. Fundraise and principally, but not exclusively, financially support the Massawippi Conservation Trust in its operations; 
  3. Support community-based initiatives that are ecologically, socially, culturally and/or educationally valuable to the Massawippi Valley. 
  4. As a fund within the Ottawa Community Foundation, it can also receive charitable donations directly.
  5. The FMF and MCT are focused on the land in the watershed of Lake Massawippi, an area of 586 square kilometers.
Blue Massawippi was incorporated as the Lake Massawippi Water Protection Inc.

It is a registered not-for-profit organization that can issue tax receipts for donations.


It’s mission is:

To inform, educate, influence and act on environmental issues that threaten water quality, the health of Lake Massawippi and the quality of life of its residents and users.

The lake has an area of 18.7 km2 and a perimeter of 38 km.


The land contains 2 rivers, countless streams and tributaries as well as underground water that all flow into the lake. By protecting the land in the watershed we are helping to reduce the flow of sediments and pollutants into the lake. The lake is the main source of drinking water for several communities as well as a biodiverse body of water at the center of 5 communities and a major tourist attraction for the region.
The Trust has added 12+ kms of natural trails to our protected properties in order to give the general public free access to the benefits of walking in nature. One trail goes down to the lake via Ethan’s Beach. 

The Foundation sponsors an outdoor education program which takes place at Scowen Park

With a target of 5 tonnes in 3 years, Bleu Massawippi devotes four weeks a year to removing the waste in the lake with a team of divers. 

A grand total of 4885 pounds (2216kg) of tires, bottles, car parts and concrete blocks and other objects were collected in 2023. It’s primary focus is the removal or reduction of zebra mussels, an invasive species.

The MCT authorizes research activities on its lands, which are part of the 4 tenets of conservation which it follows: Protection, Research, Recreation, Education.   Blue Massawippi runs an education program for boaters in order to help reduce or prevent invasive species from entering the lake, to provide a better control on conserving the riparian strip, and help keep the boaters safe
Current projects of the Massawippi Conservation Trust: 

● Agricultural research project with master’s students from Bishops University 

● 2 scientific studies in progress on our protected properties.

● A nature education program currently for students from grades 3 & 4. 

● Project 27. A targeted conservation project aimed to protect over 785 acres of vital wetlands at the southern end of Lake Massawippi. These lands are the kidneys of the lake.

Current priorities: Control zebra mussels in the lake and removal of veligers (scientific study ongoing)

  • Developing a scientific diving program 
  • Waste removal in the lake
  • Revegetation of the Tomifobia river
  • A scientific study of the lake currents
  • Water quality surveys

Sometimes people confuse the two organizations, thinking that we are one and the same, or they ask why we don’t merge.


The answer is simple. We each have our sphere of influence and focus so that we can accomplish parallel goals. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done to protect the land and the lake for our community.  Each entity is able to focus all of its resources and energy on the mandate established at the time of their founding. Each of us are specialists in our own domains, effectively working to protect the valley we love, be it land or be it water.


Perhaps you noticed a group of individuals wearing orange helmets and vests while walking on the trail on Saturday, October 21st? They were volunteers from a search and rescue organization who used the site for their training. Here is some information about our community and a summary of our day.


Who are we?

The group was founded in 2003 under the name Recherche et Sauvetage Sherbrooke Haut-Saint-François (RSSHSF). The original members, some of whom are still active, have over time provided valuable assistance through their life experience and deep involvement, and have gained recognition for the group’s expertise in search and rescue. In the fall of 2021, the board of directors initiated a process to better represent members from all over Estrie. The new name Recherche Sauvetage Estrie was adopted, along with a new logo. What hasn’t changed, however, is the desire and commitment of our members to help others!

Our mission 

We are a non-profit organization, bringing together volunteers from various backgrounds who dedicate their time to respond to the needs of different authorities. Our accredited ground search and rescue members are always ready to intervene to save lives. Our main mission is to provide assistance in finding missing persons, those lost in the forest, or in distress.


Trained and qualified

The group responds to requests from the Sûreté du Québec, Civil Protection, and other organizations or citizens requiring our services. We are recognized and accredited by the Association québécoise des bénévoles en recherche et sauvetage (AQBRS). In order to fulfill our mission, all our volunteers receive training in areas such as search and rescue basics, profile of a missing person, ground search techniques, map and compass skills, crime scene preservation, GPS, radio communication, etc. Volunteer training is ongoing.


Massawippi Trail

Our volunteers typically train in the area around Sherbrooke Airport, where the terrain is flat and well-known to group members. Seeking a different location for a search and victim evacuation simulation, one of our board members, familiar with the Côte du Piémont trail, suggested the location. Immediately, the President of RSE contacted the responsible party at the Massawippi Trail to request permission for our upcoming training day. The site’s topography, quality of trails, and cleanliness of the forest allowed us to practice both practically, theoretically, and physically.


The course of the day 

We arrived in the parking lot at 8:30 am. We had just enough time to unpack our equipment when it began to rain, and it continued throughout the day. So, we set up our shelter, and by 9 am, we gathered under the tent to receive instructions. Despite the bad weather, we were a group of 15 individuals practicing search and first aid techniques. Once teams were formed and directives given, volunteers dispersed into the trails. One member remained at the command post in the parking lot. This task is crucial because this person manages communications and monitors the trailer where all our rescue equipment and victim transport gear are stored.


We began with a trail search. To do this, we divided our group into teams of 3 to explore different trails (except for the beach trail). This search technique involved placing one searcher who walked directly on the trail, while the other two walked on either side about 10 meters into the woods. Their common goal was to find clues, tracks, or objects belonging to the lost person.


A clue was eventually found in the late morning between points 4 and 5 on the trail map. From that location, a search operation was launched with all the volunteers. We formed a search line south of the old Wippi South trail, and the search was conducted within an area approximately 200 meters deep and 300 meters wide. When the team found the person (an actor simulating spending the night in the forest, suffering from hypothermia, and having severe back pain), to add to the challenge, they spoke only in Spanish! Our volunteers had to adapt to communicate with the victim and use our stretcher with a backboard and the mule (stretcher transport system) to evacuate the injured person.


The exercise was a success, and everything was carried out professionally and with a good spirit. After returning to the command post, it was time for lunch. This was followed by an evaluation of the activity to discuss the positives and areas for improvement. Everyone agreed that the Massawippi Trail is simply beautiful! In addition to being perfect for this type of scenario, it provides good physical training. We will definitely return. In the afternoon, it was time to pack up the camp and head back home.


How to become a volunteer?

For more information about our group or to join the 40 volunteers who are at the heart of our mission, please contact Mr. Dany Chaput, the president, at 819-571-7313 or email him at [email protected]. The next training session starts on January 17, 2024, and there’s still time to sign up. Give us a call!

We want to thank the organization for allowing us to use your fantastic terrain!


What an exciting place to learn about history from a cultural, industrial, environmental and anthropological point of view.

In September, the Massawippi Conservation Trust signed a deed of servitude with the municipality of Stanstead East in order to protect the land immediately adjacent to the falls. This land and the Niger river that flows through it, have been central to our local history for thousands of years. They are in the Appalachian geological corridor of Quebec. 

This is the traditional territory of the Abenaki people. Thanks to recent archaeological digs, we have concrete evidence of their passage and presence along the Niger River. Abenaki archaeologists have studied the land above the falls all the way back to Lake Lyster from where it flows. The flat plains were good for hunting and fishing, a dry place for the semi-nomadic people to move through season after season. The river was the passageway to travel from the south to Lake Massawippi, another rich hunting and fishing ground. 

“We had a cursory archaeological dig done to see what was on the Abenaki territory. We found a striker that dates back thousands of years. We also found quartz from Mount Pinnacle,”  recounted Pamela B. Steen, municipal councilor (now Mayor) in La Tribune April 2021 article. Quartz was a type of mineral that was used for barter. 

Zoom forward past the arrival of the French and English fur traders to the period of colonial settlement. Other people started arriving in the region in the latter half of the 1700s. Some were Europeans, others had official land grants and many arrived on foot, from the northeastern United States, people who were in search of land. Like those before them, the settlers recognised the river as a rich source of food, transportation and power.  We do not know much about the Tatton family, a black family that came here in 1804. But it seems that the river, originally called the Negro River, derived its name from them. The river`s name changed over time from Negro to Nigger and finally to the Niger River. The current name “Niger River” is first reported in 1863 on the Map of the “District of St Francis (Putnam and Gray)”. The word “niger” comes from the Latin form of “black”. The toponym “rivière Niger” was made official on September 14, 2006, at the Commission de toponymie du Québec. 

One man, Stephen Burroughs, famous for his ability to adapt to the times, became the namesake of the falls. His infamy comes from his skills as a counterfeiter. He was born in New Hampshire in 1765 and according to his own memoires was `the worst boy in town`. He was a swindler and prankster. During the American revolution he impersonated a doctor when he shipped out on a Yankee privateer. Later he stole his father`s sermons (his father was a Presbyterian minister) in Massachusetts and he impersonated a preacher performing marriages, baptisms and more. Finally, he saw a potential in counterfeiting coins and paper money. He eventually ended up in Stanstead Township in 1799 with his wife Sally and their children. Like others, he cleared land and built saw and grist mills. He was possibly the first to build a mill on the river. He was well regarded  by his neighbours. The colourful story of his life is well documented in American and Canadian articles (see bibliography below).

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the site passed through several hands as agriculture and forestry formed the basis of the economy in northern Stanstead Township. In 1854, a sawmill, a blacksmith shop, a bridge and farm buildings were located near the site. Just above the falls, a house was built between 1883 and 1906, accompanied by a barn-stable. Evidence of these human activities have been corroborated by archaeologists.

Another important part of the history of Burrough`s Falls is it`s hydro power. The Niger River had many mills along its banks and in 1929 a hydro station was built by Southern Canada Power Ltd (SCP). There was a 2,000 HorsePower mill operating in 1930 according to the SCP annual report. 

The construction of this small power station was of strategic importance to Southern Canada Power Company, which wanted to be closer to the industrial development of Rock Island, which was more than 100 km from the Chute-Hemming power station. What’s more, the new power station would also make it possible to secure the southern grid in the event of a power distribution problem.

With the nationalization of Quebec’s hydroelectric network in 1963, the power station became the property of Hydro-Québec. In the 1980s, several installations were dismantled, including the barn.

In 2010, a major break occurred in the penstock, resulting in the permanent shutdown of electricity production. Between 2014 and 2016, the balance stack and penstock were dismantled.

In 2021 the municipality of Stanstead East acquired the site from Hydro Quebec for future recreational purposes and to protect it from further transformations.  It had the hydro station recognised and registered as a heritage building.

The heritage site is also of interest for its landscape value. The site is marked by the presence of the 55.17 m-high Burroughs Falls, part of the Niger River. The property, which is largely wooded, also features several types of forest stands: cedar, hemlock, maple, and tall pines planted along the access road.  

The newly renamed property, Parc des Chutes-Burroughs, is home to several types of habitat: forest environments; aquatic habitats comprising the Rivière Niger, its waterfalls and certain streams; and treed swamps, some of which are located in flood-prone areas. Some streams are home to a species of salamander likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable in Quebec, the Northern Dusky Salamander.

As for the plant species present, Canada fleabane, two-leaved toothwort and ostrich fern matteuccia are species vulnerable to harvesting, while Provancher’s fleabane is a threatened species in Quebec.

In September 2023 the Massawippi Conservation Trust signed a conservation servitude to protect the 36 acre property in perpetuity. Part of the site will continue to thrive as a park and recreational area. The municipality intends to open the space to visitors with an exhibit at the hydro station and allow walkers to enjoy the forests and river`s edge in late 2024 or early 2025.









Written by Jessica Adams (Nature Nerding)
Reading time: 5-6 minutes

(Ph: Guillaume Levesque)  Though we didn’t have any luck finding Monarch eggs or caterpillars at Scowen, following our “Monarch Moving Day”, Guillaume Levesque and his family spotted this little one. In his own words: “It’s interesting because it was on the [milkweed] plant closest to the road! Thank you for sharpening our observation skills!”.

A project months in the making officially came to a close on September 7 as the Scowen Park Monarch Butterfly was released into the wild. Overwhelmed with joy for having participated in such a wonder-filled project, our “Butterfly Brigade” members are so grateful for everything we experienced and learned this year and we are already excitedly thinking about how we can build on this project next year…

The Massawippi Foundation’s Monarch Butterfly project, coordinated by Nature Nerding, took place for the first time this year starting in July. Our overarching goals were to: bring awareness to the fields of milkweed at the entrance to Scowen Park, collect data on the presence of Monarchs at Scowen and momentarily capture and share the wonder of a metamorphosing butterfly by installing a live exhibit in the form of a butterfly nursery. We could not be happier with how things unfolded.






Recap: Why a Monarch Butterfly Project?

The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has experienced an 80% decline in numbers over the last couple of decades and has been designated as Endangered. It is hardly the only insect of value in an ecosystem and sadly, it is far from the only insect facing challenges. However, from a conservation standpoint, there is a rationale behind choosing to shine the spotlight on certain key species.

In the case of Monarchs, there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, they are considered an umbrella species which means taking action to protect Monarchs can have an impact on various other species sharing the same habitat or some of the same requirements for survival. Secondly – and most of us who have had the privilege of getting acquainted with them can attest – Monarchs evoke genuine fascination. From their stunning colouration and complex life cycle to their epic migration down South, we are compelled to learn more about this charismatic species and be a part of protecting them. Together, these elements make Monarchs the perfect “spokes-insects” for raising awareness of and encouraging participation in conservation efforts for smaller wildlife.


The Butterfly Brigade & the Monarch Life Cycle

Our first Butterfly Brigade (BB) meeting was held early in July and a handful of dedicated volunteers continued to meet every two weeks for the next two months to see the project through.

Home to various species of native wildflowers, the lower fields flanking the entrance to the Scowen Park trails constitute an incredibly valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife. The abundance of milkweed in these fields is of particular interest as this humble plant is critical to the Monarch Butterfly lifecycle. And so in our first meeting, we began by learning how to recognize milkweed.

This is a focal point of the project since it is the only plant a Monarch caterpillar will feed on making it essential for Monarch reproduction. Though there are several species of milkweed, the only species present at Scowen is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). After taking inventory of what Common Milkweed looks, feels, and smells like, we proceeded to mark a handful of data collection sites throughout the fields.

At our next meeting, we learned more about the Monarch life cycle and how to go about collecting data. Because Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, adult butterflies lay their eggs on this plant. There is typically one egg per plant and most often the egg can be found on the underside of the velvety leaves. Roughly the size of a pinhead, these eggs can be hard to detect and are easily confused with other things such as globs of congeled milkweed sap. Needless to say, collecting data required keen observation and a significant amount of patience!

Despite the abundance of milkweed at Scowen, we were surprised and slightly disappointed to find no eggs and no caterpillars (larvae) in several weeks of scouring the plants at our study sites. We wondered why that was. Had we simply overlooked the eggs because they were so tiny? Was something predating the eggs and caterpillars? Was there something else at work making this breeding ground less favourable than we had hoped? Though we were perplexed, we reminded ourselves that recording the absence of Monarchs was important data nonetheless. And so we carried on completing our Observation Forms (courtesy of Espace pour la vie’s Mission Monarch), data we would later upload to their database.

In August, we turned our attention to the installation of a nursery under the shelter at the park. Made entirely out of recycled materials, this screen structure was installed early in the month with the intention of having at least one caterpillar move in. Due to the fact we did not come across any monarch caterpillars at Scowen, we decided to “import” a caterpillar from the Brome Lake area. We highlighted this event as “Monarch Moving Day” and invited the public to attend to celebrate with us as we set our special guest up in his very own nursery, fresh milkweed sprigs and all.

We had members of the BB visiting the nursery every day thereafter to keep tabs on how things were going. Once moved in, the caterpillar kept busy feeding on milkweed while leaving impressively large quantities of frass on the nursery floor. A couple of days later, he had inched his way up to the roof of the nursery and just a day after that, was suspended from the roof, ready to pupate. By Sunday, August 20, we officially had a chrysalis!

The pupa stage “lasts eight to fifteen days under normal summer conditions” (monarchjointventure.org). You may recall the cool spell we experienced later in August and our little friend certainly seemed to have noticed as well! He stayed cozy in his chrysalis until a total of 18 days later when he emerged as a healthy adult butterfly (at this point, we were able to confirm he was a male based on the dark spots on his hind wings). He was released, free to forage on the nectar from a variety of wildflowers, all in preparation for his long journey south to Mexico.


The Role of the Nursery

When discussing the various components of the project, the following (and very valid) question was raised: What is the point of a nursery?

Human intervention can be a contentious topic when it comes to conservation efforts. How can we be certain we are doing more good than harm? Are we preventing nature from “taking its course”? These questions can be debated at length and conclusions are typically drawn on a case-by-case basis.

Simply put, the main goal of the Scowen Park nursery was to share the wonder. By creating a location where at least one Monarch could complete metamorphosis undisturbed, we were able to showcase the fascinating intricacies of this living being’s lifecycle. We were able to display and honour a small piece of the natural magic happening all around us.

Whether folks were closely following the project or only catching glimpses here and there, “wow moments” were had. This may seem trivial, but these “wow moments” are powerful. They are the foundation for gradually developing a sense of concern for the species with whom we coexist. Naturally, this sense of concern can have an impact on shaping our values and attitudes towards the natural world, trickling down into our everyday habits. While it is not a direct, linear path, it is a very natural one and is based on the premise that we tend to protect what we love… and we can only love what we know.

Taking in the pleasant smell of a milkweed flower for the first time, learning about the relationship between milkweed and Monarch caterpillars, catching glimpses of other neat invertebrate life on milkweed plants, watching a caterpillar pupate in real time, seeing a chrysalis for the first time, discovering you’ve been confusing Viceroy Butterflies (Limenitis archippus) for Monarch Butterflies this whole time… This project provided countless opportunities for learning, for wonder and for creating a closer connection with the natural world.

On a final note, we would like to recognize the immense value of the information and resources made available (for free) by Mission Monarch (Espace pour la vie), Monarch Joint Venture and the Butterflyway Project (David Suzuki Foundation). The overall project also relied heavily on the contributions of our super team of “Butterfly Brigade” volunteers who devoted hours to data collection and nursery surveillance, among other things. We are so grateful for every aspect of this year’s first Monarch Butterfly Project and eagerly anticipate its continuation in 2024!


Build Your Nature Vocabulary

Use the text and search the web to build your nature vocabulary and try using it the next time you’re out and about in nature, either making observations by yourself or with friends!

  • Endangered
  • Umbrella Species
  • Larvae
  • Frass
  • Pupate





My birding Walk and Talk at Glen Villa, in the pouring rain on Saturday June 17th

Was it worth it? YES! 

With a pair of binoculars and some patience I observed and learned that you need to:

1) listen to its song

2) observe the flight patterns

3) study the habitat

4) look at the size and colour of the bird, shape of the tail, shape and colour of the beak and any other distinguishing marks to identify the bird.

As a participant, I was amazed at how quickly the guides (Camille and Jean-Paul, both members of SLOE and veteran bird watchers) identified birds in flight. They could spot the Blue Bird and the Swallow who often share the same size bird house and might even fight over who gets the box to build their nest.

Jean-Paul and Camille both have life lists which they share on E-Bird. Jean-Paul said he had several lists, one for Quebec, one for North America, others for different countries.

This information is available to scientists who track birds and study their patterns.

Camille wrote to us after the visit and said:

We saw, among others, a ruffed grouse and its young, a yellow-throated vireo (very rare) and three American Woodcocks (hard to see usually).

In all, 25 different species observed in the rain and dripping leaves.

If you want to know more about birding, I would encourage you to join La SLOE or the St. Francis Naturalist Club, These are two wonderful groups in our area, to help you find out more about birds and go on other great guided tours next year.

The activity at Glen Villa was organized in the context of the fundraiser for the Massawippi Foundation.

More guided Walks & Talks will be held on July 15th and August 12th, 2023 

Click here for more details.

Written by Nicolas Bousquet, Biol.
Field Project Coordinator

Reading time: 5-6 minutes

The Lake Massawippi watershed is home to several species of salamander, particularly the stream  salamander. There are three species of stream salamander: the two-lined salamander, the northern dusky salamander and the purple salamander. The presence of numerous streams in forested and mountainous areas favours the presence of these species around Lake Massawippi.

Stream salamanders are very discreet but fascinating little creatures! These amphibians live mainly in small, cool, well-oxygenated streams. Surprisingly, this group of salamanders has no lungs, and breathes through its skin and larvae using gills. For this reason, stream salamanders must constantly keep their skin moist and live mainly in the aquatic environment. Although adults may venture a few meters from the stream into the terrestrial environment, they are usually found buried deep in the stream under rocks or other shelter such as branches. As for the larvae (juvenile salamanders), they are totally dependent on the aquatic environment, due to their gills.
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Because of their dependence on the aquatic environment, stream salamanders are very fragile species. In fact, the Northern Dusky Salamander is likely to be designated as threatened or vulnerable, and the Purple Salamander is designated as vulnerable under Quebec’s Act respecting threatened and vulnerable species. There are many conservation issues for stream salamanders, and generally speaking, they can be greatly affected by changes in the quantity and quality of the water in their habitat. Changes in the flow of a watercourse, deforestation of the riparian strip, sedimentation, contaminant inputs and the draining or drying up of watercourses are all factors that can considerably harm stream salamanders.

It’s interesting to note that some of the Massawippi Conservation Trust properties have been included in an extensive long-term monitoring program for stream salamanders. There are currently two studies underway. Indeed, as these properties are free of anthropogenic threats, it is interesting to see the evolution of populations in this sector over a 10-year period. This data can then be compared with sites undergoing significant pressure, such as those under forest management. In addition, the project aims to understand the potential impact of climate change on stream salamander populations. It is possible that climate change will have an impact on stream salamanders, particularly with increasingly frequent and intense dry spells in summer.


This long-term monitoring project stems from a problem often observed in the acquisition of rigorous data for population monitoring, particularly for species with precarious status. Indeed, the lack of funding for knowledge acquisition often results in significant gaps in our knowledge of population trends. The project sponsor, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, has therefore set up a long-term (10-year) monitoring program for the purple salamander throughout the Estrie region. Some ten conservation organizations are involved in the project, including COGESAF. Each organization is responsible for monitoring a small number of streams, thereby reducing project costs and workloads. COGESAF’s role in this project is to monitor two streams on sites designated as “no or low impact” by human activities on the properties of the Massawippi Conservation Trust. As a herpetology enthusiast who has been working as a biologist for COGESAF for the past 5 years, this project is particularly close to my heart. Finally, I’d like to highlight the collaboration of more than a dozen conservation organizations working together to improve knowledge of the purple salamander and protect it more effectively… in the hope that this project will inspire other initiatives like it for other species or other regions!


About the author: Nicolas Bousquet is a biologist and has been field project coordinator at COGESAF for over 5 years. His fields of expertise are invasive alien species control and biodiversity conservation. He worked as a research professional at the Université de Sherbrooke, before pursuing his career with an environmental and forest management consulting firm, then as an external consultant with the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs. For several years, he has specialized in the study and conservation of herpetofauna, mainly turtles and stream salamanders. He has participated in a number of projects involving inventories, population monitoring, identification of threats, monitoring of egg-laying sites and the creation of facilities. He also enjoys sharing his knowledge, notably through lectures and writing articles.