NOTE: km distances are measured from Lake Verde in Iona
|km 20.1||Iona||Historically the rural community of Montague Cross was settled by Irish immigrants in the 1830s. The name was changed to Iona in 1901. The railway branch from Maple Hills near Mount Stewart to Murray Harbour was completed in 1905 and the original railway station in Iona was named Fodhla Station after a poetic name for Ireland. The station still exists in Hazelbrook, where it has been restored as a tourism operation.
The trail from Iona runs along a hardwood ridge between the headwaters of the Montague River to the north and the Pinette River to the south. At railway grades, the trail changes from an elevation of 250’ down to sea level over 16 kilometres. Maple, yellow birch and beech trees provide a comfortable canopy to Ocean View and Gairloch. Then the canopy begins to change to occasional majestic pines and more spruce. These lands were originally settled by Scottish settlers brought in by Lord Selkirk, for whom the Selkirk Road (nearby) is named.
|km 29.3||Melville||The Melville Bridge is one of the larger railway structures in the province, high above the Flat River. It was reconstructed by the Military Engineers in 2002 under a program sponsored by the Trans Canada Trail Foundation and a local initiative spearheaded by Donald Deacon. The pond on the north side supplied power for Beaton’s Mills, the name by which the local post office was known until it closed in the late 1960s. A trail parking lot is located in the former Melville Station area. Crossing several roads, the route reaches the Belle River area. A small grassy clearing on the south side is the location of the former Belle River station.|
|km 36.0||Selkirk Road||The trail follows Douse’s Road to a crossing at Selkirk Road (Route 23). A large millpond across the road on the Belle River served MacLeods Mill. Ducks use the pond and Canada Geese are known to breed there, perhaps on the small wooded island. The trail follows the pond and a shelter will be developed as a viewpoint. Another railway station was located on the southwest corner at the crossing the Wood Islands Road (km 36.9). This station housed the Wood Islands Post Office for many years, the station agent being the postmaster.|
|km 37.2||Junction||The junction with a new route down to Wood Islands is located here, just after crossing the Belle River where a large two-chamber stone culvert passes under the trail. Note that this is the only section of the trail featuring stone culverts, original from 1905. Ducks and herons are common sitings in the pond on the river, north of the trail.
Turning south on the new trailbed, the path is in softwood land, predominately spruce but with fir and tamarack. The latter is colourful in late fall. The Wood Islands Bog, the largest protected bog in the province, is just to the east. The trail skirts fingers of the wetland and moves into upland terrain featuring Acadian species like white pine, hemlock, yellow birch and sugar maple. This section of trail, not being former railbed, follows the general slopes of the land. Below Grey’s Road, the trail levels out in mixed woodland, passing a beautiful small pond created in a former gravel pit. It is a peaceful spot with lots of birdlife. Watch for mallards and Canada geese. The trail section ends at a replica railway station much like the one that sat beside Wood Islands Road not that many years ago. The freight shed nearby is an original from Belle River. The station is sited between the Visitor Centre and the liquor store at the Plough the Waves Centre, near the Wood Islands Ferry terminal. Distance from the junction is 3.0 km.
|km 38.1||Wood Islands Bog||Continuing east past the junction, the trail passes through bog-land for a half-kilometre. Small trees manage to survive in the acidic wetland. The moss-like surface is raised above the trail in places but a metal rod is easily pushed into the surface, finding no bottom at four feet. There is no obvious pond but a wide variety of wetland plants decorate the surface. The Murray Road marks the end of the bog. An old railway culvert in the far ditch has 1930 etched into the end, the latest date seen on these structures. It marks the year that the rail bed was widened to accommodate standard gauge track.|
|km 42.7||Hopefield||Hopefield is split by the county line, as the road name indicates. Entering Kings County, the trail is in thick mixed woodland, sometimes in cuttings and occasionally high above one of the creeks leading into the Murray River system. It passes through a blueberry operation with bee hives over on one side and plunges again into the woods. The railway had a siding leading north many years back to a gravel pit on the north side.|
|km 47.6||Livingstone Road||The trail emerges in the edge of Murray River with a glimpse of the golf course to the north and passes close behind and above several homes. MacLures Pond is also in the distance on the upper part of the river and Murray River Pines, a Provincial Natural Area is on the far side. The very large plants (reaching eight feet high) so thick on the edge of the trail in wet areas, are angelica.|
|km 48.9||Murray River||Parking is available at Main St beside the post office. The old rail station still exists behind the post office, quite visible from the trail. Murray River was named for Governor James Murray, the first English governor appointed in Quebec after Wolfe defeated Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham. Samuel Holland named many features in the colony after prominent figures in the 1760s during the initial land survey.
Leaving the little gazebo shelter at Main St., the trail immediately is in mixed woodland which is lined with lupins in the spring. It is narrow and has more of a leafy canopy than other areas around the province. It is documented as an excellent area for birding, especially for small species like warblers.
The first crossroad is Pioneer Cemetery Road, named for the small early cemetery, easily reached from the trail on the south side. The second crossing is Route 18 where the last tragic railway accident happened in the late 1940s. The regular train hit a bus and four passengers were killed.
Just across the road is a small bridge in the middle of Jordan’s Pond, a pleasant viewpoint. From here the trail is never far from the highway, although it cannot be seen except at crossroads leading into Abney, Lot 64. The origin of the name is uncertain but the community was called Toronto in the mid 1800s.
|km 55.4||Murray Harbour||Quiet woodland prevails until the Station Road on the edge of Murray Harbour, where trail parking is available. A former “T” for turning train engines is visible in the woods with careful inspection. This was not quite the end of the railway branch and a new project is being completed to extend the trail across the road two hundred metres or so to the South River. The foundation of an old coal shed (later an engine shed) is being reused to support an open longhouse with interpretive panels. A large gazebo overlooks the South River.|