Ride the new Nordegg bike trail to see how FireSmart works up close

We tend to think of wildfires and clear-cutting as destructive, but both have great significance in renewing forests. Alberta has a fire-dependent ecosystem and nature uses wildfire to clear out older trees, which are more vulnerable to disease and insects.

Our data shows that in the last 100 years, the forest in the Nordegg area would have naturally seen two or three wildfires if it weren’t for humans putting them out, making the forest unbalanced and at greater risk for larger, faster-burning wildfires. FireSmart helps us minimize the risk of these fires. And now, a new mountain bike trail in Nordegg provides a unique opportunity to see how these techniques look up close.

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Develop help build new FireSmart Ecology Trail

Alberta firefighters help build new FireSmart Ecology Trail west of Nordegg.

The trail runs 13 kilometres through both well-developed forest and areas where trees have been cleared away to mimic the size and shape of a wildfire. Our wildfire crews have applied various FireSmart techniques to different areas along the trail. Logging equipment was used to mimic a wildfire disturbance, while in other areas branches were pruned to reduce the risk of surface wildfire turning into crown wildfire. Crown fires involve the entire tree, including the upper branches while surface wildfires burn along the ground. Whether visitors return to the trail weekly, seasonally or annually, they can witness firsthand the various stages of a forest’s life cycle.

Since the project started three years ago, the numbers of grasses and smaller plants – which can’t grow in areas of mature forest – have flourished. The mix of these areas with older mature forest creates a mosaic of different ages and species of trees that are beautiful to bike and hike through – and also make the forest more resilient.

The trail, created in partnership with Frontier Lodge, is located west of Nordegg in the Fish Lake Provincial Recreation area. It’s open to non-motorized recreationists, including hikers, mountain bikers and cross-country skiers, so it can be enjoyed year-round. From the trail, visitors can access Frontier Lodge, the Fish Lake Provincial Recreation Area, and Gold Eye Lake.

trail map

The trail took about 1,500 hours of labour to build and incorporates approximately 900 feet of new boardwalk. It’s a great example of how many organizations have come together to bring a project to life. Sponsors for this project include:

  • Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
  • Mountain Equipment Co-op
  • The Western Heritage ATV Association
  • West Fraser
  • Clearwater County
  • Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation

3 thoughts on “Ride the new Nordegg bike trail to see how FireSmart works up close

  1. Good on AESRD for this attempt. Fire control enhanced the ski trail experience at the Canmore Nordic Centre through selective cutting. In contrast there was conflict between biking and conventional logging in Bragg Creek. The desired outcome appears more likely where the land manager treats recreation as a core use to be planned and developed rather than as an afterthought to other industries. I have seen an effective mix of forestry, official trails, and private lodge operation in BC where such a management approach appears more established. The diversity of sponsors suggests there is much promise here.

    • Hi and thanks for the question. The trail is currently open and another 6 km is anticipated to be complete by the end of the summer. Right now you’d want to head to the Fish Lake Provincial Recreation Area and park at the day use area. Follow the south shore of the lake and you’ll meet up with the 13 km of beautiful trail. Hope you have a chance to visit!

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