top logo bar

McNabs and Lawlor Islands

prepared by Nova Scotia Natural Resources and Canadian Heritage, Parks Canada
Contents | Previous Section | Next Section

Outstanding Features

The green islands at the mouth of Halifax Harbour have provided a scenic and historic backdrop to the lives of Metro area residents for over two centuries. Their strategic location was utilized by the military to guard the harbour, their fertile soils at one time were an important source of food for the early settlers, and their beaches, scenery and open fields have attracted local residents for leisure time pursuits since the 1700s.

Natural History Resources

Natural history resources include the natural features and processes which merit protection, conservation and explanation. These resources create the bio-physical and aesthetic setting which gives the islands their underlying character and value.

McNabs and Lawlor islands are part of the Eastern Shore Coastal Beaches Natural Landscape, one of seventy-seven landscapes identified to date in Nova Scotia. These islands provide a good representative example of the in-shore drumlin islands that are found in this landscape of beaches, saltmarshes, headlands, and islands.

In terms of bedrock geology, McNabs and Lawlor islands generally are underlain by 200 million-year-old slates, the exception being the older Goldenville Quartzite formations which underlies the central portion of McNabs Island. Deposited on top of the bedrock are a series of drumlins - rounded, elongated hills formed by glacial activity.

The drumlins support a mixed forest of spruce, fir, red maple, yellow birch and beech. The low areas between the drumlins tend to be imperfectly drained and support a forest of balsam fir, black spruce, alders and red maple.

The islands possess numerous distinct coastal, unforested and forested habitats, each supporting a particular flora and fauna of interest. These habitats include salt marsh, eroding coastal headlands, regenerating open fields and climax hardwood stands.

Birds are excellent indicators of the variety and conditions of habitats. Over 150 species have been identified on and around the islands. Most notable of the islands' bird life is the nesting of great blue herons and ospreys, the latter believed to be one of the highest concentrations in eastern North America.

The islands' natural history resources provide an important opportunity to understand the geologic and coastal geomorphic processes which have combined to shape both the islands and Halifax Harbour. As well, the islands' provide an opportunity to observe and appreciate a diversity of flora and fauna in a near urban setting.

Historic Resources

McNabs and Lawlor islands are rich in historic resources, and offer excellent opportunities to understand the province's cultural heritage. These distinctive resources require protection for interpretive, educational and research purposes.

Important historic features on McNabs Island which are still visible include the foundations of several houses built by early settlers, an aboriginal shell midden, a cemetery containing some of the island's earliest residents, remains of a turn of the century picnic ground and soda pop factory, and remnants of a once extensive Victorian garden. Numerous military fortifications can be found, including Fort McNab National Historic Site, Fort Ives, Fort Hugonin and Strawberry Battery. Other features, such as the original McNab house, Martello Tower, the main burial site of cholera victims from the S.S.England, and the gibbets where mutinous sailors once dangled in the breeze, have long since disappeared.

The most prominent historic features visible on Lawlor Island are the ruins of the Quarantine Hospital which helped protect Halifax and Dartmouth against deadly outbreaks of disease from the mid-19th century to the early years of the 20th century.

A wide variety of materials, including maps, military plans, paintings and sketches, photographs, written accounts and artifacts, provide invaluable information from which to interpret the historic significance of McNabs and Lawlor islands.

Historic resources are important to Nova Scotians and interesting to visitors. The careful protection and controlled public utilization of these resources is fundamental to the management of these islands as parkland.

Recreational Resources

The recreational resources of McNabs and Lawlor islands are of a sufficient quality and quantity to contribute significantly in meeting the demands for outdoor recreation in the Metro area. As islands they represent a unique recreational and open space opportunity within metropolitan Halifax-Dartmouth. Improved facilities and services are required, however, to enhance these recreational opportunities for island visitors to enjoy, while also ensuring that significant heritage values are maintained and protected.

The islands' natural environments provide the setting for a wide variety of low intensity outdoor recreation pursuits. The existing system of old roads, trails and numerous viewpoints provide excellent opportunities for enjoyment of the outdoors.

The islands' beaches are a focal point for warm weather recreation such as swimming, sunbathing and picnicking. Intensive use requires a high level of management to ensure recreation experiences are optimized while maintaining environmental quality.

Sailing and boating to McNabs and Lawlor islands are already popular and are expected to increase as a wider range of recreation and services are offered on the islands. Protection of the natural qualities of the islands, together with the provision of facilities, would enhance the quality of sailing and pleasure boating in the Metro area.

McNabs and Lawlor Islands
Contents | Previous Section | Next Section

The tabloid McNabs and Lawlor Islands prepared by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resouces and Parks Canada of Canadian Heritage in support of their Fall 1995 public consultation process.

This Internet version was prepared with permission by the Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists (FNSN) and the Friends of McNabs Island Society (FOMIS).