Confederation Trail History
When the Prince Edward Island railway was abandoned in 1989, Islanders were quick to notice a unique opportunity. The idea of a tip-to-tip shared-use walking and cycling trail was born and the final link is now in place. The tip-to-tip route from Tignish to Elmira totals 273 kilometers but 410 kilometers of excellent rolled stone dust surface are available for use. Branch trails extend into the heart of Charlottetown and to the waterside communities of Souris, Georgetown and Montague, plus the link to the Confederation Bridge in Borden-Carleton.
The Confederation Trail traverses the entire province, passing through many communities and all classes of landscape. In its former life as a railway, it created communities, shaped transportation and met all the challenges of our terrain. It offers today an alternate perspective on the life of the Island at a pedestrian pace if you know where and how to look. As a continuous multi-purpose path from coast to coast of the province it accommodates walking, hiking, cycling, jogging and wheelchairs on a rolled stonedust surface. Travelers to the Island for over a century have enjoyed the pastoral landscape, woodlands and rivers between tiny Island communities.
Habitat and heritage are the focus of trail experience on Prince Edward Island. Nature and culture meet on the Confederation Trail to create our unique landscape. Habitat is significant to all species from the largest trees to the smallest insects. In between are plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish and mammals. Each species thrives within certain habitat parameters and if you learn to identify natural features with species, you can learn what to anticipate along any part of the trail. The trail encounters hardwood, softwood and forest succession, meadows and hedgerows, uplands and wetlands, waterways and ponds. Around each of them are the special places that offer sustenance for a wide variety of species. The trail is a perfect example of "edge" habitat in rural areas and thus a perfect place for anyone curious about nature. Birding habitat is the best example for trail users who have an interest in natural species although the principles are as easily applied to plant life. For instance, adjacent blueberry fields may attract Wimbrel or Sharp-tailed Grouse; old man's beard-Northern Parula Warblers; wetlands and young forest-a variety of warblers; estuaries-eagles, gulls, ducks, herons and geese; edible berries and apples-waxwings and grouse; dead trees-woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches; and so on. Prince Edward Island is on the eastern flyway with migration beginning in April and August, so there are broader viewing opportunities in those seasons.
Heritage is never far removed from habitat in the frequent rural communities enroute. Every village has a different story to tell and you can guess at some of them from names that speak of ethnic settlement or railway stations or adjacent waterways. The cultural history of the Island is a rich overlay of experience on the land, on the water and in the communities. Aspects of the culture are offered in festivals, in theatre and in music as well as local museums. All of these stories are accessible from the trail. The trail offers unlimited opportunities for nature lovers, artists, historians, photographers, berry-pickers and anyone looking for a quiet place to spread a blanket for an afternoon picnic. When the builders of the P.E.I. Railway laid the final tracks in 1875 they never dreamed the corridors they carved through the Island landscape would one day become prime recreational property.
When using the Confederation Trail please respect the Code of the Trail
- Keep to the trail
- Respect private property
- Guard against all risk of fire
- Keep your dog under close control
- Leave livestock, crops and machinery alone
- Take your litter home and keep all waterways clean
- Protect wildlife, plants and trees
- Make no unnecessary noise
- Enjoy the countryside and respect its life and work