Every summer more than 1000 people gather in Five Islands, Nova Scotia for a 10k race. That may not seem like anything unusual, but in this case, the runners have to make their way across the ocean floor. The Bay of Fundy has extremely high tides--at the head of the bay, the difference between high and low tide is sometimes 50ft. That means that for one day every summer, near Five Islands, the water recedes so far that people can reach the five namesake islands on foot, but only as long as the tide is out. Sound similar to a certain Bible story? Not surprisingly, the official name of this race is "Not Since Moses."
Running on the ocean floor, through mud is one way to enjoy the natural treasures found along and in the Bay of Fundy. People who want to keep their shoes clean, though, should read on to learn more about visiting backward-flowing rivers, experiencing high and low tide, and walking through 15 million years of fossil history.
High And Low Tide In The Bay Of Fundy
Imagine that the Bay of Fundy is a gigantic bathtub with water sloshing back and forth. Tides are a bit like sloshing water but on a bigger scale. The narrowing shape of the Bay of Fundy magnifies the effect. This makes for some spectacular landscapes, that change every six hours along with the tide.
The Sea Caves at Saint Martin are a prime spot to experience the tides. At low tide, the area has a wide swath of sandy beach and sea caves or grottos to explore. When the tide is high, tourists can kayak right over the same places they explored on foot just hours before.
The "Flower Pot Rocks" in Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park are another favorite destination for visitors. Here the ocean has eaten away at the base of large boulders, but the highest points of these boulders remain above sea level. The formations created by this phenomenon appear to be flower pots (but with trees growing out of them instead of flowers) standing on thin pedestals. They only look this way at low tide, though.
Then, there are places like Minister's Island which are only islands at high tide. Low tide reveals a one km road along the ocean bed that connects the locality with mainland New Brunswick.
The Bay's Reversing Rivers
Hikers along the Shubenacadie River, along the Fundy Bay in Nova Scotia, hear a deep rumbling sound. They look up to see if a thunderstorm is coming, but all they see is blue--not a single cloud. Then, they hear shouts, laughter, and gasps. They turn to the river, there, a group of people in a raft are experiencing the tidal bore up close and personal. The rumbling sound is seawater pushing into the river and reversing its flow. The churning water produces such a thunderous sound that people can hear it up to a kilometer away.
There are few places in the world where tidal bores in rivers are noticeable, but the Bay of Fundy's high tides cause whirlpools, and crashing waves. There's no mistaking the tidal bore here.
Rafting may not be for everyone, though. Travelers can also experience a tidal bore from the skywalk over the river in Saint John, New Brunswick. Larger, stabler boats offer harbor tours to show off the city's famed reversing rapids.
Fossil Hunting On The Beach
Visitors can follow the steps of influential scientists Charles Darwin, Sir Charles Lyell (founder of modern geology), and Sir William Dawson at Joggins Cliffs. The rock formations here have had a huge impact on modern science because of the fossils they revealed. Today, people can walk the beach to find fossils--although only at low tide--and go through the interpretation center to more fully understand the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The layered cliffs offer a snapshot of 15 million years. Each layer brims with coal-age fossils. Researchers can easily date their findings there because of the clearly defined strata that stretch for 15 km along the beach. Fossil hunters can observe the entire food chain from this 310 million-year-old swamp. According to the Joggis Cliff website, the cliffs have produced fossils from 195 diverse species. Fossilized trees still stand in an upright position. Their ancient trunks harbored centipede-like invertebrates, insects, and predatory reptiles.
The Joggins Fossil Cliffs Center itself is fascinating. It is an incredible example of green architecture with solar panels, a plant-bearing roof, and a wind turbine. Inside, visitors can see examples of the fossils found at the cliffs and learn more about the site's history.
The Bay of Fundy may draw tourists because of its natural wonders, but they want to stay because of its quaint culture. The small towns with their lighthouses are just as charming as those on Cape Cod, and international artists have depicted Fundy's landscapes with the same enthusiasm as they have Maine's Acadia Park. Anyone looking for the perfect Canadian getaway will find it at the Bay of Fundy.