West Souris River Conservation District
   Updated March 29, 2014

Canupawakpa Trail
( a self guided nature trail)

trail map

Pipestone Creek appears as a long slender "ribbon-of -green" flanked by agricultural land. These lush strips of vegetation bordering creeks, rivers, lakes and sloughs are "riparian areas".
     Here, the riparian area contains mature river bottom hardwood forest. For wildlife, this is an added benefit because it provides thermal cover for mammals in winter, especially white-tailed deer. As you follow this trail, watch for burrows, nests, tracks and other wildlife sign.

This forest has four main layers; canopy, under storey, herb layer and ground surface. Each layer plays a different but interrelated role in this ecosystem.
     The upper layer or canopy consists of leafy upper branches of tall trees. Beneath this canopy is the under storey, made up of shade-tolerant vegetation.
     A layer of herbs, grass, wildflowers and other soft-stemmed plants grows above the ground level. Some of these adapt by flowering early, while sunlight can penetrate before leaves close the canopy. The fourth layer is the forest floor. 
     Can you spot the vines here?  While rooted in the lowest layer, these vines stretch up to reach the sunlight and provide a good example of forest layering.

Site # 3 - CUTBANK
Even along a meandering stream like Pipestone Creek, the river's current is powerful during spring when fueled by meltwater or after heavy summer rains.   Fast current tends to erode banks along the outside bends and deposit sediment on inside curves. The results from the constant flow of water washing the bank are seen here.
     Tree roots struggle to hold the soil in place, but erosion is taking its toll. Chunks of riverbank eventually slump into the channel and are swept away by the current. Where the stream's velocity slows, silt is deposited creating sandbars.

Site # 4 - The lookout
Pause here and enjoy a scenic view of the creek.

Site # 5 - HOLE HOMES
Many birds and animals make homes that take many shapes and forms in this riparian area.  Can you spot a hollow in the trunk of a living maple tree at this site?  A hollow trunk provides habitat for animals and cavity-nesting birds.   
     After strong winds knock limbs from a trunk, a cavity like this one sometimes forms at the injured point. Tufts of fur found at the entrance of this tree cavity provide a clue about an occasional visitor seeking shelter here, likely a red squirrel.  A cavity-nesting bird might eventually choose this spot to build a nest. 

Pause here for a moment. Can you feel a slight change in temperature and humidity? We are on the edge of a slight elevation drop and the habitat changes again.
     Different trees and plants have different requirements for survival and growth; thus forest composition shifts as you move through areas with different site characteristics.  These can vary in many ways including moisture, nutrients, light, temperature, and the soil's type, structure and acidity.
     If you look closely at the species growing in each area, you can learn something about their site needs.  For example, can they reproduce in the shade, or grow with their roots wet?



Site # 7 - TOP TREES
Manitoba maple, green ash, American elm are the dominant species in this mature river bottom forest. Look up and see how they form a canopy that filters sunlight and shades the ground.
     Notice how many American elms are dying prematurely because of Dutch Elm Disease. The disease spreads quickly along waterways where the elm beetles easily travel from elm to elm, eventually infecting all elms in the wooded corridors.
     Bird life is abundant all along the entire trail, including frequent visitors like warblers, wrens and catbirds. Birds are present all year, but are most diverse during spring, summer and fall when seasonal migrants abound.

Site # 8 - LIFE GOES ON
Many fallen or dead trees are found along the trail and at first glance we may see only a fallen log.  Closer inspection reveals the tree’s usefulness has not ended. Perhaps a ruffed grouse will perch here to drum his wings in hope of attracting a mate.
     Trees die for many reasons, such as disease or old age. Dead and fallen trees are very important to natural communities, and are often a sign of a healthy, diverse forest ecosystem. Many insects, birds and animals find food or make their homes in dead trees. And as the trees are slowly eaten and decay, they form humus and replenish the soil with nutrients needed by growing vegetation. As well, the log itself is teeming with life that requires decaying plant material for habitat and food.

Prairie creeks like the Pipestone form many large meandering loops.  Swift currents erode the shore at ends in the river and this can create new channels, diverting the stream through this cut-off leaving the abandoned loop as an oxbow lake.
     Through time, and particularly during floods, sediments filled this oxbow depression and eventually formed the marshy wetland here. A variety of wildlife uses this oxbow, including a family of beaver. Watch along the trail for places where they have cut down trees to eat the bark or gathered limbs for building their lodge. Listen for the calls of birds or the croaking of frogs. Ducks and other waterfowl raise their families here.

Site # 10 - SERENADE
Do you recognize that sound? If you visit this site after a rain, during early spring, late evening or early morning, chances are you will hear a chorus of frogs.  This is a familiar sound to people who live on the prairies. Several species of frogs live in and around the oxbow pond at this stop.
     Boreal chorus frogs, a common species in Manitoba, are the earliest frogs heard, often calling by mid-April and are common in marshy areas. If you see frogs along the trail that appear to wear a robber's mask, then you have found a wood frog. They often venture away from the water after a rain or during periods of high humidity, but must remain damp to survive.