Volunteers revive historic cabin in the heart of Nova Scotia wilderness

The historic Cofan cabin in southwest Nova Scotia was falling apart until volunteers and the provincial government teamed up to fix it.

'It was a real logistical challenge, the volunteers had to paddle in'

Cofan cabin's logs were rotting and its roof was sagging in 2013. (Province of Nova Scotia )

It was the ultimate backwoods fixer-upper.

A dedicated group of Nova Scotians has worked to restore a nearly century-old log cabin deep in the woods of southwest Nova Scotia that's considered part of the province's heritage.

The Cofan cabin, located a few kilometres outside the southwest boundary of Kejimkujik National Park, was sinking into a bog after years of neglect. Its wood was rotting and the roof was on the verge of caving in before volunteers with the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute teamed up with the provincial Environment Department to fix it.

The research institute is a non-profit co-operative that promotes sustainable use of natural resources and works to promote biodiversity in the region.

2-day canoe trip

Volunteers prepare to start work on the cabin in 2014. (Colin Gray)

The cabin, which is 14 by 18 feet, had its rotting logs replaced, its roof repaired, a larger window inserted and a modern wood stove and stove pipe installed.

Not an easy task when the area you need to work in is a two-day canoe trip from civilization. 

"It was a real logistical challenge, the volunteers had to paddle in … We had to use the provincial helicopter to get some of the other materials in," said Sally Steele, a protected areas co-ordinator for the Environment Department.

This is what those in the real estate game call sweat equity. This work was done in 2015. (Jim Foster)

The volunteers and the province felt the cabin was worth preserving because of its part in the wilderness and recreational heritage of the area. 

Traditional Mi'kmaq route

Cofan cabin is on a traditional Mi'kmaq travel route, which was highlighted in The Tent Dwellers, Albert Bigelow Paine's 1908 account of backwoods travels. 

The area became a popular hunting and fishing location in the 1920s, which is around the time the cabin was built, Steele told the CBC's Information Morning.

Game wardens eventually ended up using the building. Later it was used for sanctuary patrols, wildlife research and other work, she said.  

The province maintained the cabin until the 1980s. 

Finished at last

New bunks, floor and rafters were installed in the cabin. (Alain Belliveau)

To reach Cofan cabin, most people canoe through Kejimkujik National Park and head down the Shelburne Heritage River system. The cabin is on the shores of Sand Beach Lake in the Tobeatic Wilderness Area. 

"It's no small feat to feed up to eight people for a maximum of six days in that sort of setting. So it took a lot of organization," said Steele.    

The cabin is now finished and fit for visitors.

The newly renovated cabin features a new roof along with a new wood stove and stove pipe. (Alain Belliveau)

Steele will help present a seminar on the raising and revival of Cofan cabin Thursday at the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute in Kempt, N.S. The seminar starts at 7 p.m. at 9 Merrit Rd.

With files from Information Morning