Life in the Bay of Fundy

By Susan Huebert   Trail Canada

Tides are the cycle of life in oceans, seas, and bays around the world. They bring birds, whales, fish, and minute sea creatures to areas that could otherwise stagnate. With the tides come vitality and diversity in a phenomenon that continues to amaze young and old, and the Bay of Fundy is perhaps the most spectacular example of the teeming marine life and human activities the tides bring, where the power of the Atlantic Ocean and the delicacy of the smallest sea creatures meet. For local residents and tourists alike, the bay is a place to experience the natural wonders of whales and birds together with the culture that makes the eastern provinces special.

One of the most fascinating phenomena in coastal areas is the cycle of tides. Every day, the tides rise and fall at hundreds of bays, ocean beaches, and seashores, but nowhere is the cycle as dramatic as in the Bay of Fundy. Located between the shores of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Maine, the bay is believed to have the highest tides in the world, with over a hundred billion tonnes of seawater flowing in and out twice a day. Each tide takes about twelve hours for completion, often moving into the bay as a tidal bore, a large wave moving quickly at about thirteen or fourteen kilometers per hour. The Bay of Fundy is shaped like a huge, 280 kilometre-long funnel, allowing the water to flow freely back and forth. Such great tidal power has often tempted people to try to harness the water, but now the bay’s tides flow freely, unchecked by human activity.

The flow of water back and forth in the bay has brought richness to sea life. Up to fifteen species of whales visit the area, including humpbacks, blue whales, and the almost-extinct right whales. Whale-watching expeditions may not always be successful, but visitors are likely to see at least some of these huge marine mammals or the smaller dolphins inhabiting the water. The churning water nourishes extensive plant and animal life, with abundant crabs, lobsters, and plankton. Such a profusion of food attracts birds as well, with sandpipers, puffins, and auks among the many species living in the area. Fossils in the nearby rocks show a long history of plant and animal life, and enthusiasts will want to spend time wandering along the shores in search of these ancient remnants. The seven-kilometre beach on the Cape Enrage shore is a good place to see what past tides brought in from the ocean.

Outdoor activities abound at the Bay of Fundy. Adventurous visitors can experience tidal bore rafting on the Shubenacadie River in Nova Scotia, where boaters can feel the river’s flow reverse with the tides. Canoeing, hiking, scenic drives, and powerboat rides all give visitors the chance to see the beauty of the region, while eco-tours through the mudflats and dunes around the bay show the influence of tides even on the surrounding land. With so much to see and do outdoors, travellers can always find some activity to fill their time.

The Bay of Fundy is more than the natural phenomena, as amazing as they are. On top of the cliffs along the coast are lighthouses, many built for beauty as well as utility. The lighthouse at Cape Enrage is especially imposing, and the structure at Cape d’Or is also worth a visit. Cultural activities provide a well-rounded visit to the area as residents celebrate the Celtic heritage that helped form the region into what it is now. With over eight hundred cultural and historical festivals in the area, there is sure to be something for everyone.

When Canadians think of the east coast, one of the first things to come to mind is seafood. The Atlantic Provinces are famous for fresh lobster, scallops, and other treats special to oceans and seas. A visit to the Bay of Fundy area should include a meal or two at one of the many restaurants on the docks or along the beaches, where a taste of lobster or Digby scallops will satisfy seafood enthusiasts. After a day of rafting, hiking, or hunting for fossils, eating a good meal of fresh seafood is a wonderful way to spend the evening.

Geology, history, culture, good food—the Bay of Fundy has it all. As part of a tour of the east coast or as a travel destination of its own, this amazing bay is worth taking the time to explore and to watch the cycle of tides and life in this gateway to the Atlantic.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick Features

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