Something very special is happening on 4th Beach – A sand dune is forming!

In previous low-water years the shoreline has grown, exposing more sand to the wind. The wind blows the exposed sand further inland and it settles to create dunes. Growing plants ‘colonize’ the dune, trapping increasing amounts of sand and moisture.

Forming sand dune at Awenda
Forming sand dune at Awenda

Eventually the dune reaches a height where it shelters the low area behind it. Only 1 in 500 dunes have a chance of successfully establishing itself before being washed away!

A dune has FOUR distinctive ecological zones:
1) beach, very few to no plants.
2) fore-dune, the ‘hump’ of the dune with American Beach Grass, Canada Wild Rye and many old field species such as asters and goldenrods.
3) interdune meadow, a flat pan that can accumulate water and have wetland-like plants like rushes.
4) backdune, develop a deep soil layer allowing sun-loving trees like Red Oak, White Pine, maples, and several shrub species such as Bayberry, Staghorn Sumac, and Poison Ivy to grow.

Challenge: Spot that Dune!
Are all four ecological beach zones visible at 4th Beach? Unfortunately due to high water levels much of the dunes have been washed away in recent years. 

When you visit Awenda again, watch the height of the foredune increase if Georgian Bay water levels lower and marvel at the increasing diversity of the plant community which flourishes with the sand dune’s nurturing protection.

Please remember that Dunes are fragile systems and are prone to ‘blowouts’. Please avoid any trampling and stay on the Beach proper.

Next Up:
For Stop #10 continue south (to your left if facing the water) down the beach.