Of Wizards and Potions:

A Woodens River Adventure

2 hr 2.7 km return Moderate

Trail Info:

This trail is a woods road through a beautiful mixed forest that parallels the Woodens River, which you visit at various points. The road can be wet and muddy at times, so good footwear may be necessary.


Woodens River Trailhead
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From Halifax, take Highway 103 approximately 18 km to Exit 5 and turn left onto Highway 213. Go 2.2 km to the end of the road and take a right onto Highway 3. Go 0.2 km and take a left onto Route 333. 12.4 km after turning onto Route 333, turn left onto Woodens River Road, just before a highway bridge and the blue sign for Glen Haven. Go about 300 m and the road narrows. You can park here or go another 200 meters to an old homesite on the right with a crescent driveway with a power pole in the island. This latter section is a little rough for cars with a very low bottom.

Trail Tools

Work Your Wizardry

From the homesite, walk another 200 m and stop where there is a clearing on the right. Stand in the middle of the clearing and face the river.

Woodens River is a mystical place where a friendly wizard named Revir has lived since ancient times. Revir helped this place become a wonderland of nature’s creations using a magical potion. But Dreeg, the ugly troll, is threatening to pollute the river and Revir has gone into hiding. Your challenge is to create more magical potion and release it upriver to help Revir. Along the way use it to explore the forest and the river. Good luck!

Put on your wizard’s hat (real or imagined) and find a wand. Search for a special stick shorter than a rabbit that can be transformed into a wand.

Find a good luck charm for your quest and initiate your wand:

  1. Find seven special natural things on the ground no bigger than your thumb.
  2. Arrange them in a horseshoe shape in a neat spot.
  3. Face your charm. Touch your head with your wand, plug your nose and say:

“Lucky shmucky, horseshoe spell, Lucky shmucky, wish me well.”

1. Create a Potion

Take the path to the right of the clearing down to the river (about 50 m).

One of Revir’s magical spells was found written on a piece of birch bark. It adds special powers to the river water and creates the potion. Carefully follow these steps. Dreeg has spies in the forest; make sure no one is watching!

  1. Fill your bottle with water from the river and tighten the cap.
  2. Hold your wand in one hand, the potion bottle in the other.
  3. Tap your head and your shoes with your wand, and then the ground three times.
  4. Hold the wand over the water, trace large circles in the air and repeat:

“Water of the Woodens, please hear my spell.

Water of the Woodens, your secrets I won’t tell.

Change the potion to make magic come true.

I search for the wonders and great things you do.


The spell is complete. Now you must add special ingredients to enhance the magic in the potion. Dreeg might try to stop you. Sneak back to the clearing quietly to outwit her spies. Then turn right and hop from rock to rock as you move up the main trail so you don’t leave footprints behind.

Do You Know – Water

Water is the only natural substance found in gas, liquid and solid forms. It doesn’t take magic to walk on water. You can walk on ice in the winter. Less than 3% of all water on earth is fresh and even less is drinkable. It is very precious. In fact, two-thirds of our bodies are made up of water. Canadians forget how essential and scarce fresh water is because we have more than almost any country on earth. Recent droughts, and polluted lakes, rivers and drinking supplies, show that we must conserve and care for it.

2. Conjure Up Magic Colours

Walk up the main trail 200 m. Stop at the little pool of water on the right where a culvert goes under the trail.

Revir uses his potion to brighten nature’s colours because it’s a mega colour magnifier. While tapping the top and bottom of the potion bottle with your wand, repeat three times:

“Mullamazee, Mullamazo! Make the magic colours glow!”

Use the potion to magnify beautiful colours12:

  1. Find a leaf, rock or something cool.
  2. Dip your wand into the potion and paint the object.
  3. Watch the colours grow stronger.
  4. Paint at least 5 interesting things and share your favourite ones.

Practice hiding from Dreeg’s spies as you walk to the next stop. Take turns saying “spies” unexpectedly. Quickly find a tree or rock to hide behind. Then come out and continue down the trail.

Do You Know… Solar Power

The sun is the power that moves water through the water cycle:

  1. It evaporates water from this river up into the atmosphere.
  2. Clouds form and travel across the sky picking up more water.
  3. Eventually the clouds can’t hold any more water up high where it is colder.
  4. The water vapour condenses and falls to the ground as rain.
  5. The ground soaks up the water and it travels back to the rivers and lakes.

3. Make Super Duper Smells

Stop after 225 m at a little clearing on the right. It has a few alders in the middle and a big maple tree to the right side of the clearing.

The magic potion helps the forest creatures to smell hidden aromas. Revir uses it to help him smell things better too. Use the super duper smelling spell.

  1. Shake the bottle really fast while you say:

“Alacazam, alacazoo, alacazuff

Make me some super duper smelling stuff.”

  1. Tap your nose and your fingers with your wand.

Here’s how to use the potion:

  1. Look for something neat to smell: a leaf, twig, bark, plants, etc.
  2. Put potion on your sponge and dab it on your nose.
  3. Scratch the surface of an object with your fingernail.
  4. Sniff deeply to help the potion bring the smell to you.
  5. Scratch and sniff at least five neat smells.
  6. Share your favourite smell with someone else.

Don’t leave footprints. Avoid being spotted as you move up the trail.


Water is sacred and rivers (‘sipu’ in Mi’kmaw, sounds like si-boo) and streams are central to Mi’kmaw life as sources of food, as major transportation routes and originally as locations for communities. Fishing techniques would vary by location, but weirs were frequently used in rivers like this one.27 A weir is a barrier that is built in the river to trap fish and varied in construction and locale depending on the species targeted. Wooden fence-stick weirs were built at the mouth of rivers and trapped larger fish like sturgeon and striped bass as the tide withdrew. Circular round stone weirs were built just past the head of the tide to trap salmon as they returned up the rivers to spawn.

Learn about Netukulimk

4. Brew Up Growth

Stop after 100 m where a dirt road meets the main one on the left. Step down off the road into the woods on the right.

Over time, Dreeg has robbed this area of things the forest needs to grow. Make a soil brew to help bring the forest back. Here’s the recipe:

Soil Brew Recipe

  • four handfuls of mandrake root (sticks)
  • one eye of newt (anything red)
  • two heart strings (pieces of dead grass)
  • three serpent scales (cones)
  • two handfuls of dragon scales (dead leaves)
  1. Pile the ingredients on the side of the trail.
  2. Mix them up well.
  3. Sprinkle a little magic potion on them and repeat these words:

“Mixle, lixle! Break it down. Give out good stuff all around. From this brew, life you’ll give. Mixle, lixle! Make things live.”

  1. Let brew for three years in the rain and weather to produce soil.

Search for faces in the boulders along the trail as you walk. Are they Dreeg’s spies frozen in disguise? See how many you can spot.


Water is one of the building materials of life and is used over and over again. Water moves between the river, the air, the soil, living things and back to the bodies of water again. Pollution is carried to the other points in the circle if it is introduced at any point. The amount of water we use and the pollution we add to it every day becomes part of the water

Learn about the Earthworks

5. The Music of Life

Stop after 140 m at the path on the right where a small trail descends over a moss covered stone wall. A couple of feet further is a narrow magical entrance to the trail between two trees. Walk down this path to the river (about 50 m).

Revir’s magic helps make the river sing. Can you hear it?

  1. Find a comfortable seat next to the river.
  2. Silently listen to the river singing for one minute.

The rippling sound means air is getting pumped into the water, so fish, insects and plants can breathe. Put some air into your magic potion.

Tighten the cap and shake the potion as hard as you can while repeating:

“For fish and plants and insects small, I offer air upon my call.

It lets them breathe both in and out. Get in there air, I scream and shout.

Presto change-o!”

There are many ancient magical beasts along the river to the right that were frozen in the trees and boulders by Dreeg when they came to drink. How many different frozen shapes can you find?

  • a frozen snake
  • a hairy leg
  • an elephant in a tree trunk
  • a cyclops eye in a tree trunk
  • a troll head
  • a soft velvet seat for a beast
  • dinosaur feet
  • a unicorn head with a horn
  • a forked tail
  • two eyes in a tree

Do You Know – Speckled Trout

Speckled trout are found in the Woodens River. They have wavy lines on their backs, which help them blend in with the reflected light and shadows in the water. Their predators include heron, osprey, eagles, mink, otters, eels, other fish and humans. They eat insects, leeches, small fish, frogs, salamanders and mollusks. Speckled trout are found in ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and saltwater estuaries. Some migrate to the sea for a small part of the year.

6. Move a Mountain

From the place where you listened to the river, continue 50 m upstream along the river’s edge to where the space between the river and the dirt road narrows and you can see a culvert and a big hemlock tree next to the road.

Do you see white foam at the edge of the river? It is made when air bubbles and tiny particles mix with moving water. This foam is an important ingredient that strengthens the potion. Pick it up and smell it. Add some to your potion.

Now fill up your bucket with water and climb back up to the road. Check out where the water has washed soil from the bank on the high side of the road. This is called erosion. Demonstrate how it works:

  1. Make a mini-mountain of dirt on the bank no bigger than the height of two fists.
  2. Pack the mountain together to make it strong.
  3. Pour a small stream of water from your bucket over the mountain.

Did your stream carve out a channel or completely destroy your mountain? Erosion takes much longer to wear down real mountains.

See if you can find signs of erosion below the culvert such as:

  • tree roots exposed by the water
  • marks from a path made by the water

Continue along the main road. Look for a large area where trees were once clearcut further along the trail on the high side. How could this cause erosion?

Do You Know – Erosion

Erosion is potentially lethal for a variety of water creatures. The soil particles wash into the streams and rivers causing silt, which makes it difficult for water creatures such as fish to breathe. Speckled trout forage for food and lay their eggs on gravelly river bottoms. When too much sediment gets into the water, it settles and covers up feeding and spawning areas. Clearcutting is a prime cause of erosion as it removes all of the trees that hold the soil across a large area. The harvesting machinery gouges the land and destroys the ground cover, exposing the soils. Trout need cold water and are threatened if logging occurs along rivers. Without shade from shoreline trees, the water heats up to levels that the trout cannot tolerate. Water pollution of any kind affects speckled trout as they require clean, clear water.

7. Trick the Troll

The prettier path is to return down to the river and continue to navigate 180 m upstream along the river bank on small beautiful paths where you have to step around fallen trees. Or if you prefer the smoother road, travel up 180 m along it. Either way you hit a dirt road. Turn right onto it and go a few metres to a bridge [If you stay along the river, you might wonder if the huge pile of moss covered boulders you pass were put there by Trolls to mark their territory.]

You have reached the top of the river. You must release the potion at the bridge if it is to work. But Dreeg has a troll guard living under the bridge. Put it to sleep:

  1. Sneak across the bridge to the far side.
  2. Find the enormous tree nearby on the other side. Touch the tree with the potion bottle to add some of its wisdom to the potion. It is one of the oldest Tamarack trees in the Province.
  3. Now turn to the bridge and sprinkle some potion on the bridge.
  4. Wave your wand as you repeat:

Tamarack Trees

The tree you touched is a very old tamarack tree (also called a larch or hackmatack), and is likely several hundred years old. They rarely grow taller than 15 metres. Tamaracks need full sun to grow so typically over a long period they get shaded out, though individuals like this one can be long-lived. They are a pioneer species in that they fill in open areas in a transition to a shaded forest. They like cool and moist sites, and this place meets those criteria. The presence of this tree here suggests this was a cleared space long ago, and for whatever reason, it has not been shaded out by other trees (possibly the growing conditions are poor here for other big trees). There are not young tamaracks here because it is too shaded now. Tamaracks are also unique as they are the only needle trees to lose their needles in the Fall. The three sided needles are blue-green but then turn yellow in the fall before they fall off. They have small and red seed cones.


“Sleep time you terrible troll.

Dream away as we stroll.

On the bridge where we will be,

As you sleep, don’t bother me.

Abracadabra calamazoo!”

Lay down on the bridge facing the lake to discover the final ingredient for strengthening the potion. To identify it, first you must find in the water:

  • dancing plants
  • a fish swimming or jumping
  • the colours of the rainbow
  • shimmering shapes
  • insects on the water

The final ingredient is our appreciation for the river and the life within it. Add this to the potion:

  1. Stand and face the lake.
  2. Bow to the river and say “thank you”.
  3. Throw your wand into the water.

Now that the potion’s magic is strong, return it to the river so that it may help all the creatures.

Congratulations! You have outwitted Dreeg and added more magical potion to the river. We must all appreciate and be caretakers of water as the magical liquid of life!

Earth Steps

Here are some things you can do to help protect fish in rivers and lakes:

  • Don’t throw out old batteries. They are toxic and can leak to contaminate groundwater. Bring your batteries to the Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Depot locales.
  • Freshwater is in short supply so don’t waste it. Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the fridge instead of running the water until it gets cold.
  • Build up good organic soil in your gardens so they retain water, reducing the need for extra watering in dry periods. Use mulch in the garden as well to retain water.
  • Get involved with groups like the Woodens River Watershed Organization to enjoy, learn about and protect local watersheds. The Wilderness Action Team at Ecology Action Centre is working to protect watersheds across the province.

Look around the bridge to find the hidden plaque. Use the side of your pencil or crayon to make a rubbing of it in your Adventure Journal. You also might want to take and upload a beautiful picture of the river on your return.

The plaque symbol is:



Please login if you would like to record your trail completion, provide feedback or upload photos to the trail gallery.

Login if you’d like to upload a photo to share in the Adventure Gallery

To explore this watershed further, check out the maps and information provided by the Woodens River Watershed Environmental Organization. There are lots more trails to explore.

To discover more about wizards and wizardry, check out your local library. One great book is The Book of Wizard Craft by Janice Eaton Kilby, Deborah Morgenthal and Terry B. Taylor. Written for kids, it has lots of fun spells and interesting notes as well as instructions for making all sorts of wizard items.

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Tap share and then "Add to Homescreen".