Portage Island National Wildlife Area

Beach with trees in the intertidal zone.
Photo: Colin MacKinnon © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Portage Island NWA.

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Portage Island National Wildlife Area (NWA) is located in Miramichi Bay, 38 kms northwest of Chatham, Northumberland County. Portage Island was designated as a NWA in 1979, the shallow waters around the island and its sheltered bay providing staging and migration habitat for waterfowl. Its sand beaches and flats are also used by migrating shorebirds.

The island's unique character consists entirely of a series of coastal barrier beaches, alternating sand ridges and slacks. The ridges consist of a succession of dune communities with a progression from newly formed sand dunes at the southern end of the island progressing northerly to marram grass vegetated dunes and eventually, as one proceeds north, to heavily vegetated lichen - shrub forest. The dune slacks on the east side of the island and the fringe bordering the island's sheltered bay are vegetated by salt marsh. Brackish marshes and swamps occupy interior slacks. Extensive sand-gravel beaches surround the island.

Portage Island NWA is one of 51 sites selected throughout the Province of New Brunswick as a recommended ecological reserve under the International Biological Program. Furthermore, Portage Island was also identified as a New Brunswick Critical Area in 1988.

More information on Portage Island NWA is provided in the summary table below.


NWAs are protected and managed according to the Wildlife Area Regulations under the Canada Wildlife Act. The primary purpose of NWAs is the protection and conservation of wildlife and their habitat. For this purpose, and according to the legislation, Environment and Climate Change Canada can prohibit all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities are prohibited. Nonetheless, Environment and Climate Change Canada has the ability to authorize some activities, whether through public notice or the issuance of permits, as long as these are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

Access to Portage NWA is not restricted and activities may be permitted in accordance with the conservation objectives of the NWA management plan. Public visitation is not encouraged owing to the fragile nature of the dune habitat and the presence of an endangered species. Dogs and cats are prohibited in order to protect sensitive beach nesting areas. Public notices listing the authorized activities within the NWA are posted at access points and include: wildlife observation, hiking, and berry picking. Hunting and trapping are permitted, but subject to Provincial and / or Federal regulations in addition to specified conditions.

More information on access and permitting for the Portage Island NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the Area

  • Portage Island NWA boundaries.
Long description for the Map

Map showing the area surrounding Portage Island, New Brunswick, including Gammon Bay, Ship Channel and Miramichi Bay. The boundaries of the Portage Island NWA are indicated. The protected area is located to the south east of Burnt Church and covers Portage Island as well as the waters contained within it and small portions of the surrounding water. The scale on the map is in kms. Permanent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. A small inset national map situates the NWA in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Portage Island National Wildlife Area can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary Table

This table provides summary information for the Portage Island NWA
Category Information
Protected Area designation NWA
Province/territory New Brunswick
Latitude/longitude 47°10' N / 65°02' W
Size 349 ha
Reason for creation of protected area To protect waterfowl habitat.
Date created (Gazetted) 1979 - Legal description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Ia - Strict Nature Reserve
Additional designations None
Keystone or flagship species Osprey, Red-breasted Merganser and Great Blue Heron.
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Piping Plover.
Main habitat type Wetlands (25.4%), Forest (36.4%), Dune (23.4%), Beach (14.8%)
Invasive species None recorded
Main threats and challenges Habitat loss caused by aggressive coastal erosion along the eastern side of the island.
Management Agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage Wildlife observation, hiking, and berry picking permitted by public notices. Hunting and trapping are permitted, but subject to Provincial and / or Federal regulations and conditions. Vehicles are not permitted within the NWA.

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Atlantic Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship
17 Waterfowl Lane
Sackville, NB
E4L 4N1
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca
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