Big Trout Bay, ON (Photo by Costal Productions)

Big Trout Bay, ON (Photo by Costal Productions)

New trail to be unveiled on Big Trout Bay

September 27, 2019
Thunder Bay, ON


Named in memory of NCC’s late regional vice-president

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is announcing the opening of a new hiking trail on the 1,018-hectare (2,500-acre) Big Trout Bay Nature Reserve, just southwest of Thunder Bay in the Municipality of Neebing.

Named in honour of NCC’s late regional vice-president, the nine-kilometre James Duncan Nature Trail offers a challenging hike through forest, across a cobble beach and up cliffs that provide spectacular views of Lake Superior.

James Duncan joined NCC in 1995, beginning a career that would help shape the future of land conservation in Ontario. For more than 20 years, Duncan was a force to be reckoned with, touching hundreds of land securement and stewardship projects through his various roles as director of land securement, program manager for southwestern and northwestern Ontario, and finally as regional vice-president. Duncan’s leadership led to the purchase and conservation of the Big Trout Bay Nature Reserve.

As part of a living memorial to Duncan’s conservation work in Ontario, trees will be planted across Ontario this year on 23 properties Duncan had a hand in conserving — one for every year of Duncan’s career with NCC.

“With a wink and a smile, James’s creative risk-taking resulted in amazing land deals that have protected some of Ontario’s most precious natural spaces, including Big Trout Bay,” said Wendy Cridland, director of conservation, Ontario.

“James Duncan’s work will last more than 2,000 years. It will last forever,” said John Grandy, Ontario regional board chair. “He worked diligently for his entire life to protect the wilderness of Ontario forever. How many of us can say that we have done something that will stand the test of time?”

“We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Nature Conservancy Canada and The W. Garfield Weston Foundation for the remarkable gift of the James Duncan Nature Trail,” said Patricia Pollock, Duncan' sister, on behalf of the Duncan family. “Thank you to all of the partners and supporters on both sides of the border whose generosity has conserved the Big Trout Bay Nature Reserve. We wish to acknowledge everyone who has worked together to do something big. Thank you for making James’ vision a reality. No matter how far away we are, we now find peace and pride in having a permanent connection to the place James and others worked so hard for.”

A formal trail opening event will take place on September 28, 2019. The event will be followed by a guided hike and a bring-your-own picnic lunch.

NCC purchased Big Trout Bay in 2016 after working for more than 15 years with partners and supporters in both Canada and the United States. The site is one of the last privately owned, undeveloped stretches of shoreline between Duluth, Minnesota, and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Duncan successfully negotiated the purchase of this spectacular piece of coastal boreal forest from an American owner who had previously received zoning approval to subdivide the property into 300 cottage lots. Duncan felt there was a closing window of opportunity to have this area conserved before it was lost forever.

"We have a global responsibility to protect the Great Lakes and I don't think there's any better example of private action to do that than projects like Big Trout Bay," Duncan said at a media event in Thunder Bay on March 30, 2017.

Duncan passed away unexpectedly in January 2018 at the age of 54.

The James Duncan Nature Trail was made possible thanks to the James Duncan Memorial Fund and The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. Conservation of the Big Trout Bay Nature Reserve was made possible with the help of generous partners including:

  • Bobolink Foundation
  • the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program
  • Greenleaf Advisors
  • JA Woollam Foundation
  • Lakehead Region Conservation Authority
  • Margaret A. Cargill Foundation
  • The Conservation Fund
  • The Nature Conservancy (Wisconsin and Minnesota)
  • The Rogers Foundation


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the plants and animals they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 14 million hectares (35 million acres), coast to coast to coast. In Ontario, NCC has helped to protect more than 83,000 hectares (205,000 acres). From the north shore of Lake Superior to Pelee Island in Lake Erie, NCC works to protect the province’s most significant natural landscapes.

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