Government of Nova Scotia Government of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada


Protected Areas


Economy River Wilderness Area

painting by Alice Reed

Economy River Wilderness Area protects a large patch of forest wilderness in the heart of the Cobequid Mountains. It straddles the top of the Cobequid range, extending over 20 km from the south-facing foothills near Economy and Minas Basin to the north-facing slopes above Springhill. Highlights include Economy River and its renowned falls, several small lakes, showy spring flora such as purple trillium and trout lily, and a network of trails.

An unbroken mantle of mature forest blankets most of the wilderness area. Hardwood forest uplands and conifer flats alternate with steep-sided mixed forest ravines and canyons.

The intact woodlands provide a refuge for endangered mainland moose in a region where they have historically been abundant but are now in decline. Black bear, fisher and bobcat also roam here, and the rivers are considered critical habitat for the endangered Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon.

The wilderness area contributes to representation of Nova Scotia’s Cobequid Mountain and Cobequid Foothills natural landscapes within the province’s protected areas network.

The scenic and hilly terrain is suited to four-season trail use and other outdoor recreation in a wilderness setting, including hunting and some angling.

A great way to explore the wilderness area is to hike the Kenomee Canyon Trail System, managed by the Kenomee Trail Society under an agreement with Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change. This trail network extends over 25 km through the wilderness area. A small number of designated backcountry campsites make the trail network available for overnight tripping. Day use hiking can also be pursued on shorter trail options centered around Economy Falls. Additional information on the trail system is available on the Municipality of Colchester’s website.

Several off-highway vehicle (OHV) routes are managed by the Snowmobilers Association of Nova Scotia (SANS), All-terrain Vehicle Association of Nova Scotia (ATVANS) and Nova Scotia Off Road Riders Association (NSORRA) under agreements with Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change. This includes River Philip Road (SANS, ATVANS, NSORRA) and route #104 (SANS only), where these pass through the wilderness area. Bicycle use is also permitted on River Philip Road.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change can authorize access to private parcels which are surrounded by the wilderness area.

About 20 long-established campsite leases occur within the wilderness area.

Part of the Leamington Brook watershed is within the wilderness area. This watershed provides drinking water to Springhill. Protection of these lands supports the municipality’s efforts to protect its drinking water supply area.

Economy River Wilderness Area was designated in 1998, with two additions since. A small parcel was added in 2004. An expansion by 5,495 hectares in 2022 nearly doubled its original size.

The potential future designation of an additional 372 ha adjacent to the southeastern end of the wilderness area has also been approved by government. These lands are being held for possible mineral exploration. They will be added to the wilderness area if no mineral rights are granted within one year of government approval of the 2022 addition or once any new mineral rights that may be issued expire.