Bay du Nord River
Bay du Nord River
By The Canadian Heritage Rivers System
The pure waters of the Bay du Nord River dance a Newfoundland jig across one of the largest wilderness areas of Newfoundland. The river sweeps adventurous paddlers past barrenlands where curious caribou mark their passing, through innumerable whitewater "rattles" and quiet "steadies" where countless brook trout, ouananiche (land-locked salmon) and Atlantic salmon wait, on down to the picturesque outport of Pool's Cove at the river's mouth. Moose, pitcher plants, orchids, the moist air of the deep boreal forest and the savory aroma of heatland flora - Newfoundland wilderness.
The Bay du Nord River flows across one of the last wilderness areas of insular Newfoundland. Its pristine natural condition and diverse natural features, such as barrens, forests, lakes and rapids, combine to create a scenic beauty of great majesty. Largely located within the 2,895 sq. km Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve, the river offers a wide variety of wilderness recreation opportunities. Recreational canoeists recognize the Bay du Nord as an excellent and very challenging river which presents a variety of canoeing experiences in a magnificent wilderness setting.
The Province of Newfoundland nominated the Bay du Nord to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) in June, 1992. The nominated section is 75 km long and extends from the northern limits of its watershed boundary near Rainy Lake, south to Pool's Cove in Fortune Bay. The Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve encompasses 67 km of the nominated section of river.
The Bay du Nord River is located in south-central Newfoundland. The headwaters are 60 km south of Gander and south-east of Grand Falls-Windsor, and 150 km north-west of the provincial capital of St. Johnís. From an elevation of approximately 200 m, at the divide between the Bay du Nord and Terra Nova watersheds, the river flows along the glaciated landscape of the Central Newfoundland Plateau. The river passes through a series of large lakes and lake chains surrounded by the heath vegetation of the Eastern Maritime Barrens. Below Medonnegonix Lake, the course of the river is largely forested and the channel is alternately open, with gentle waters edged by marshes, and narrow, with raging water and numerous rapids. At Smokey Falls, the river cascades down a magnificent 20 m rock outcrop into a deeply incised valley. About 4 km above the mouth, the river flows across the wide valley of the Hermitage Fault which separates two ancient rock zones (355-600 million years old) of the Newfoundland Appalachians, and from there into scenic Fortune Bay.
There is little human activity along the Bay du Nord River. Small numbers of people participate in wilderness recreation activities such as canoeing, hunting and angling. Land use in the upper 67 km of the nominated area is controlled under the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act which ensures that the area is maintained in a natural state. Recreational use is managed to ensure ecological integrity. Regulations of the Reserve and details of sensitive areas are found in the Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve Management Plan and the Reserve Users' Guide. Destructive recreational activities, such as the use of all-terrain vehicles, are prohibited. Within the Reserve, there are two licensed private cabins along the lake chain section of the river. These cabins must be accessed on foot or on snowmobile along routes which ensure that sensitive areas, such as caribou calving grounds, remain undisturbed. The transmission line which crosses the river near the bridge at the outflow of Medonnegonix Lake has little impact on the Reserve or the river.
The outstanding natural heritage of the Bay du Nord River and its associated potential for recreational opportunities were the primary reasons for the river's inclusion in the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS). The following is a brief description of some of the river's outstanding natural features:
- The Bay du Nord is a visually dramatic riverscape with numerous features of exceptional natural beauty. The country is rugged with lakes, bogs, fens, boreal forest and extensive barrens. There are a number of spectacular topographic features such as Mount Sylvester, Smokey Falls and a large raised delta near the mouth of the river.
- For most of its course, the Bay du Nord provides an excellent representation of the Eastern Maritime Barrens Ecoregion, which has a unique intermingling of South Coast and Arctic plant species. The heathland vegetation is the result of repeated fires, and is of international significance since it is found only in Newfoundland. The dwarf shrub heath vegetation is dominated by lambkill (Kalmia angustifolia) on the more sheltered slopes, and by black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) on the summit of higher ridges. The extensive cover of dwarf shrubs is intermingled with lichens, bogs, shallow fens and patches of low-growing balsam fir (Abies balsamea), known locally as Tuckamore.
- Near the mouth of the river is a small pocket of the Western Newfoundland Forest Ecoregion - Bay d'Espoir Subregion. This forest is dominated by balsam fir and black spruce (Picea mariana) with an understorey of wood fern (Dryopteris spinulosa). This area contains a number of habitats which are uncommon in Newfoundland, such as alder swamps and grassy marshes along the river
- The Bay du Nord area is the winter range and calving grounds for the largest caribou herd on the Island - the Middle Ridge herd - with a population of approximately 15,000 animals. The Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve supports all mammal species common to the Island, and also contains Eastern Newfoundland's largest Canada goose habitat. Relatively large numbers of bald eagles live on the south coastal areas.
- The river drains across two continental structural zones of the Newfoundland Appalachian mountain system. The Appalachians were upthrust during the early Palaeozoic when North America collided with Europe and North Africa. The mountain chain was divided about 120 million years ago during the formation of the present Atlantic Ocean. The Hermitage Fault marks the line of collision of the two continents and divides the two structural zones; the Avalon Zone with rocks over 600 million years old, and the Gander Zone with rocks between 355 and 410 million years old. The Fault is exposed as a magnificent valley about 4 km above the mouth of the Bay du Nord. Since few other places provide such a marked demonstration of the collision and welding of the continents of North America and Eur-Africa, the valley is of international geological significance.
- Evidence of glaciation, such as ribbed moraines, striations, large erratics and the rock drumlin formation of Mount Sylvester, is an integral part of the barrens landscape. Mount Sylvester is of particular geological interest because it is an Inselberg - a rock tower produced by chemical weathering which has subsequently been modified by glaciation.
Although the Bay du Nord's nomination to the CHRS was not based on its human heritage, the river corridor does possess several historic features and elements of interest:
- It is believed that prior to European settlement of the area, the river was used as a transportation route to exploit inland resources. Micmacs occupied the area in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- William Epp Cormack, the renowned Newfoundland explorer, crossed the river during his trip across the Island in 1822. He named Mount Sylvester after his Micmac guide Sylvester Joe, who described the mountain as the most significant natural feature of his cross-island trek.
- The abandoned outport community of Bay du Nord was settled by fishermen in the 1830's. The community was dependent on the fishery and, in the early part of this century, the saw milling industry.
- In 1887, geologist and archaeologist James Howley was the first recorded European to travel the entire river. During his pioneering geological survey of Central Newfoundland, he hiked to the top of Mount Sylvester and erected a large cairn to assist in triangulating his position. Howley's Cairn remains to this day.
The nomination of the Bay du Nord River was also based on the outstanding recreation opportunities which it offers, opportunities which are enhanced by its location within the Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve. A brief description of the more popular of these activities follows.
River Touring: For expert canoeists, the river offers a diverse and challenging experience which, unlike many Canadian wilderness canoeing experiences, does not require a journey of several weeks. The most popular tour is a 5-7 day trip which begins at Kepenkeck Lake, passes through 5 main riverscapes and ends at Fortune Bay. From Kepenkeck Lake to the inflow of Kaegudeck Lake, the route passes through a chain of relatively small lakes. Kaegudeck Lake marks the beginning of a group of large lakes which extends to Medonnegonix Lake.
Below Medonnegonix, the river forms a broken channel with numerous rapids and waterfalls, and beyond Smokey Falls, the channel is deeply incised with lengthy rapids and turbulent waters. At the abandoned village of Bay du Nord, the channel opens out to the magnificent vistas of Fortune Bay. The most challenging section of the Bay du Nord is considered to be the 30 km of river below Medonnegonix Lake. This section may be canoed in two days if Medonnegonix Lake is accessed by float plane. Numerous other canoeing trips are possible from the Bay du Nord, including routes along the river systems of the Salmon, North East and North West rivers, and through the abundant ponds of the wilderness reserve. Portages on the Bay du Nord are generally short. At high water levels (early Spring), the lower Bay du Nord offers some Class IV or greater rapid sequences with good kayaking opportunities. For sea kayakers, Fortune Bay presents a challenging environment, with relatively few landing zones. However, the numerous coves in the Bay offer shelter from the open Atlantic.
Hunting and Fishing: The Bay du Nord area presents exceptional opportunities for hunting and fishing. Commonly hunted species include caribou, moose, snowshoe hare and ptarmigan. Brook trout fishing is excellent along the river. The Bay du Nord is a scheduled Atlantic salmon river, but Smokey Falls marks the limit of freshwater habitat for salmon. Ouananiche (land-locked Atlantic salmon) fishing is good above Smokey Falls. Hunting, trapping and fishing are permitted only with a valid license and in accordance with federal and provincial regulations
Hiking: There are no developed hiking trails along the Bay du Nord, but old fishing trails along the river provide access to a number of routes. The areas around Smokey Falls and the abandoned community of Bay du Nord can both be explored on foot. Though only one structure, the Davidge merchant house, remains standing in the abandoned village, the isolated site is evocative of past images and sensations of outport life. An outstanding hiking experience from Diamond Lake III Howley's Cairn at the summit of Mount Sylvester is rewarded by a spectacular view of the area.
Nature Observation and Photography: There are a number of excellent viewpoints in this diverse and colourful landscape. Mount Sylvester offers a magnificent panorama of the wild barren lands of the Bay du Nord area. Smokey Falls is a natural feature of great beauty, and the large raised delta near the river mouth is visible from many miles at sea. Outstanding photographic opportunities are presented by the landscape, animal life and vegetation of the Bay du Nord area. A variety of wildlife species, such as moose, caribou, otter, beaver, bald eagle and osprey, is commonly seen in the area.
Camping: Undesignated potential wilderness campsites are spread throughout the river system; there are more than a dozen potential campsites to choose from between Smokey Falls and the mouth of the river. Such sites are often associated with excellent swimming opportunities.
Winter Recreation: Winter camping and photography, ice fishing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are all possible along the river. Snowmobiling is permitted, except from December 15th to March 15th within the caribou wintering grounds of the Wilderness Reserve.
Access: A permit (free of charge) is required to travel in the Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve. Though the Bay du Nord River may be reached on foot, by snowmobile or by boat, the majority of access is by float plane. Sea plane bases are located at Thorburn Lake and Clarenville (population 2,967). Aircraft flying over sensitive areas in the Reserve must maintain a minimum altitude of 600m. The transmission line at the outflow of Medonnegonix Lake provides rough pedestrian access from Route 360 in the vicinity of Jipujijkuei Kuespem Provincial Park or from Piper's Hole River Provincial Park on Route 210. Vehicular access to the area is limited. Pool's Cove (pop. 260), near the mouth of the river, is accessible from Route 360. A trail and woods road from the community of Terra Nova (pop. 47) lead to Kepenkeck Lake.
Accommodation and Services: Three outfitting camps operate along the lake chain section of the river; on the southern end of Kaegudeck Lake, the western side of Medonnegonix Lake and on the western side of the Amalijek Lake. From mid-June to early September, Jipujijkuei Kuespem and Piper's Hole River Provincial Parks offer unserviced campsites (21 and 30 sites respectively), and day use facilities. Accommodation and services are available in some of the communities of Bay d'Espoir and, for those individuals accessing the river from the north, in Terra Nova National Park and nearby communities. The towns of Grand Falls-Windsor (pop. 14,666) and Gander (pop. 10,207) are major service centres for Central Newfoundland, and Gander has an international airport. The historic provincial capital of St. John's (pop. 102,288) offers a full range of services including an airport, seaport and float plane base.
Topographic Maps: Maps for the Bay du Nord are available from the Map Library, Lands Division, P.O. Box 8700, St. John's, NF, AIB 4J6. Tel. (709) 729-3305; and from the Canada Map Office, 615 Booth Street, Ottawa, ON, KIA OE9, Tel: (613) 952-7000.
The river is covered by National Topographic Series at 1:250,000 by maps 2 D and I M and at 1:50,000 by maps 2 D/7, 2 D/3, I M/14 and I M/11.
Bay du Nord River and Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve: The Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve Users' Guide and further information is available from Parks and Natural Areas Division, P.O. Box 8700, St. John's, NF, A1B 4J6, Tel. (709) 729-2431, Fax. (709) 729-1100. Web Site: www.gov.nf.ca/parks&reserves. In Newfoundland, permits are also available from the Parks and Natural Areas Division, Confederation Building, St. John's, and from Regional Offices of the Parks and Wildlife Divisions.
Tourist Information: Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, P.O. Box 8730, St. John's, NF, AIB 4K2, Tel. (709) 729-2429, Toll Free 1-800-563-6353, Fax. (709) 729-0057. Specific outfitter information; Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association, c/o Don Stowe, Box 9, Pasadena, NF, AOL IKO. Tel. (709) 686-2254.
Canadian Heritage Rivers System: Member for Newfoundland and Labrador, c/o Director, Parks and Natural Areas Division, P.O. Box 8700, St. John's, NF, AlB 4J6; or National Manager, Canadian Heritage Rivers System, c/o Parks Canada, Ottawa, Canada K1A 0M5. Tel. (819) 994-2913, Fax (819) 997-0835. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bay du Nord River system was nominated as Newfoundland and Labrador's second Canadian Heritage River in 1992 for its great recreational potential and magnificent natural features. This web site of the government of Newfoundland, Parks and Natural Areas Division, describes the Bay du Nord river, a candidate Canadian Heritage River.
http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/parks/wer/r_bdnw/index.html, the web site of the government of Newfoundland, Parks and Natural Areas Division, describes the Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve, a vast landscape of ponds, rivers, barrens, bogs and fens, forests, and thickets, and one of the last major unspoiled areas remaining on the island of Newfoundland. The Bay du Nord Widlerness Reserve encompasses the Bay du Nord River system.