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


Protected Areas


Tobeatic Wilderness Area

painting by Alice ReedSpanning parts of five counties and nearly 120,000 hectares, Tobeatic Wilderness Area is the largest protected area in the Maritimes. It protects the headwaters of nine major rivers which flow to both the Atlantic and Fundy coasts, and is among the most significant and undisturbed places for wildlife, biodiversity conservation, and wilderness recreation in Nova Scotia.

Often referred to as “The Tobeatic,” the heart of this wilderness is a semi-barren landscape, surrounded by more productive woodlands. Eskers, moraines, kettles, huge erratics, outwash plains and other glacial features are found throughout. Expansive wetlands, long stillwaters, fast flowing river and more than 100 lakes provide diverse aquatic habitats. Forest cover includes dense conifer and deciduous forests, including pockets of old-growth pine and hemlock. Most impressive are the old forests at Silvery Lake and Sporting Lake (also designated as Sporting Lake Nature Reserve). The extensive, old fire barrens are also striking.

The lands that make up Tobeatic Wilderness Area have long been recognized as a refuge for wildlife. A portion of the area was designated as Game Sanctuary in 1927, and later as Wildlife Management Area in 1968. To better protect habitat, Tobeatic Wilderness Area was designated in 1998. A variety of small inholdings were acquired and added in subsequent years. In 2015, almost 16,000 hectares were added to better protect waterways, intact forest, endangered species habitat and public access points.

Today, the wilderness area continues to protect our native biodiversity, including an important subpopulation of endangered mainland moose, abundant black bear, re-introduced American marten, and rare snakes and turtles.

The Tobeatic’s interconnected lakes, streams, and river offer outstanding wilderness canoeing, angling and camping opportunities. It is a storied region of the province known best for its moose, trout streams, and rugged canoe routes through rocky lakes and wild rivers. These routes and portages, first traveled by the Mi'kmaq, supported a world-class "sportman's" guiding tradition through the late 19th and early 20th century. They include much of the “Tent Dwellers” canoe route, made famous by Albert Bigelow Paine’s 1908 account of backcountry guiding and sport fishing adventures in this region. The traditions of hunting, fishing, trapping and guiding are alive today. The Tobeatic’s historic travel ways are frequented by recreational enthusiasts, youth organizations, and professional outfitters alike.

The southeastern portion of the wilderness area overlaps with part of Tobeatic Wildlife Management Area. This designation and the associated regulations, administered by the Department of Natural Resources, are not affected by the overlap with the wilderness area.

Together, Tobeatic Wilderness Area, Shelburne River Wilderness Area and Kejimkujik National Park form a major part of the protected core of the UNESCO Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve designated in 2001. This international designation is reserved for globally important terrestrial, coastal or marine regions, where efforts are being made to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

In 2014, Tobeatic Wilderness Area was designated as a starlight reserve by the UNESCO-recognized Starlight Foundation. A starlight reserve is a protected natural area where a commitment to defend the night sky quality and the access to starlight has been established.

The wilderness area surrounds a number of private lots to which the Minister of Environment can authorize access. A number of campsite leases are also found here.

A short stretch of forest access road north of Ninth Lake, old roads to Crain Lake and Silvery Lake, and a road to the south end of Lake John are not within the wilderness area. Vehicle access is unaffected by the wilderness area designation here.

The designation of an additional 889 hectares near Little Tobeatic Lake and Black Duck Lake as wilderness area will come into effect if no new mineral rights are granted in 2016. Such rights would replace recently expired rights.

Other Information

  • Paddling the Tobeatic, by Andrew L. Smith : a 368 page guide book to canoe routes of the Tobeatic
  • Tobeatic Canoe Routes : an on-line paddling guide created by local paddling enthusiasts