Making a turtle log

Turtle Log

All of 8 turtle species in Ontario are under threat of extinction. As is the case for many species at risk, habitat destruction has played a major role in the decline of turtles. Many of the marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens that turtles once called home have been drained, filled, or otherwise altered. Roads have been built through many of the remaining wetlands, and as a result road mortality is now a major threat to turtles, second only to habitat loss.

The ponds at Freija are an attempt to restore the natural environment that many of the Ontario turtle species call home. One of the features of the crystal-clear ponds are anchored logs that provide a safe habitat for turtles to bask in the sun.

We’ve observed as many as four Eastern painted turtles on a log at one time, occasionally stacked on top of each other like pancakes. They seek out the warmth and safety of the log, where they can observe any incoming threats.

Materials and tools required:

  • Natural body of water, like a pond or a stream
  • Dry hardwood or cedar log (4-8 feet)
  • Length of chain
  • Two conduit straps
  • Concrete screws and drillbit
  • Two deck screws screws
  • Driver and/or drill
  • Hacksaw or skilsaw
  • Measuring tape

Making a turtle log starts with selecting a suitable dry log. Any log will do, especially cedar or any of the hardwoods. Eventually the logs will decompose and sink down to the bottom after several years of use, contributing to the nutrients at the bottom. We selected a dry 8-foot-long cherry log from a fallen tree and brought it over to the ponds.

Once you have a log ready, you’ll need to make an anchor. We prefer to make ours out of rocks to keep it as natural as possible. You’ll also need a length of chain depending on how deep your body of water is.

To make an anchor, first drill holes in a rock using a concrete drill (they often come in a kit with sets of blue concrete screws sold at hardware stores). Secure your chain to the rock using the screws, but do not attach it to the tree just yet.

At this point you’ll also want to attach a conduit strap to the log as well using one of the screws – it’s a lot tricker to do on the water and you don’t want to drop your tools in! Measure the length of the log and divide in half – place your screw here.


Now you’ll want to measure your chain in the water so it’s long enough to hold the log in place. Canoe over to the spot where the log will go, drop your anchor in (just don’t let go!) and mark off the water level with a twist tie.

Get back to land and cut the chain using your hacksaw or skilsaw in the shop.

Next you can drop the log in the water.

Once it’s in the water you, it can be towed in place with a canoe. Using a bucket to carry the chain and tools will keep them in one place as you move about.

Once the log is in its final place, attached the anchor to it using a driver (careful not to drop your tools in the water) and your deck screws and drop it in! It might take a few days for the turtles to get used to it, but you’ll find all kinds of wildlife, like birds visiting it in the meantime.

Turtle log

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