Zinkan Island Cove

Zinkan Island Cove

This 12 acre (5 hectare) alvar on the west shore of the Bruce Peninsula was brought to NANPS attention by then Treasurer, Trish Murphy, in 2003. The purchase was brokered by the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, which now holds an environmental easement on the property.

Undeveloped shoreline is very rare on Lake Huron. Although the property is a designated Area of Natural or Scientific Interest (ANSI), the threat of development encroachment was very real.

There was some indication at the time of purchase that further land would eventually be made available in order to expand the initial area to be preserved. Although that has not yet happened, there are larger conservation properties nearby and other as yet unspoiled properties, preventing Zinkan Cove flora and fauna from becoming genetically isolated.

Most of the Cove is densely wooded with 360 metres (some 360 yards) of shoreline. Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) is the dominant tree species with quaking aspens (Populus tremuloides), white cedars (Thuja occidentalis) and white birches (Betula papyrifera) also very common. One provincially rare species, roundleaf ragwort (Senecio obovatus), was found in the woodland along with many sedges, mosses, grasses, woody plants, forbs and two species of ferns, lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and spinulose wood fern (Dryopteris spinulosa).

Menzies’ rattlesnake-plantain (Goodyera oblogifolia), an indigenous white-flowered orchid once considered rare in Ontario, also grows in the forest.

The shore consists of dolostone limestone bedrock, mostly mantled by a thin layer of rubble. It harbours two plants that are unusual on the Bruce Peninsula – larger Canadian St. John’s-wort (Hypericum majus) and large-leaved pondweed (Potamogeton amplifolius). The dominant plants here are twig rush (Cladium mariscoides), blue joint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis), hard-stemmed bulrush (Scirpus acutus), slender sedge (Carex lasiocarpa) and sweet gale (Myrica gale). The shoreline also provides habitat for a pleasant-smelling orchid known as hooded ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana).

Joe Johnson, a local botanist who a plant inventory of Zinkan Island Cove, noted that the NANPS parcel is “in good condition, not significantly altered by man”. He found only six species of biota not native to the peninsula, among them dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) and an alien orchid, helleborine (Epipactis helleborine).

As the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy holds the environmental easement on this property, our management responsibilities are limited to seeing that the EBC regularly reports to NANPS and upholds the conditions of the easement.


Alvars are limestone plains, containing distinct life forms, adapted to arid, calcium rich environments. Many rare plants and invertebrates are restricted to this habitat. Alvar habitat is quite rare, being found only in southern Sweden, northwest Estonia and around the Great Lakes in Michigan, New York, Ohio and Ontario and in Quebec.