Ancient Cottonwood Trail – Morrissey, British Columbia - Atlas Obscura

Ancient Cottonwood Trail

Morrissey, British Columbia

In British Columbia, a unique microclimate has allowed these trees to live much longer than they usually would. 


Near Fernie, British Columbia, Canada is a unique microclimate that has allowed a grove of black cottonwoods to live twice as long as ordinary. 

This grove of cottonwood trees was discovered in 2003. They rival Canada’s famed coastal cedars and firs in both age and width. That’s unusual for these trees, which tend to be smaller and shorter-lived. The oldest trees are over 400 years old—considerably older than the 150-year limit for most other cottonwoods. They are the oldest known Cottonwoods in the world by far. 

The surrounding valley has sheltered these trees from high winds, protecting them from damage. Undergrowth is lush. Thimbleberries and dogwood abound, and new trees sprout from fallen giants. The towering trees provide food and shelter for many animals, including black bears, owls, songbirds, and many kinds of insects.

A two-kilometer loop takes you through the forest and along the Elk River. It’s an easy, flat walk and there are a few interpretive signs offering information about the area.

Know Before You Go

The site is maintained by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. It's easily accessible from the Crowsnest Highway, but there are no signs posted along the route. Parking is limited. 

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August 29, 2022

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