Monday, June 4, 2012

FFP 2012: The Tidal Flats

Beginning the crossing of the Goose River mud flats
The Bay of Fundy is known for its high tides.  In fact it has the highest tides in the world and during the spring months they are at their highest.  At the upper end of the Bay they can reach a height of 16m.  As the water recedes each time it leaves a number of large tidal mud flats and during our hike along the Fundy Footpath we were required to cross three of them.  Each has its own challenge and rewards and the reward is always more than worth any challenge.  I would even say the challenges are rewarding.

The butterfly that greeted us on the west side of Goose River
The first mud flat is likely the most challenging and illustrates the height of the tide really well.  Goose River, at the western boundary of Fundy National Park, has a narrow valley where Goose River and a small tributary come together before entering the Bay of Fundy.  This means that we would cross two watercourses before getting on our way.  The mud here is deep and you can easily loose your footwear as my sister learned the hard way.  As we made our way along the river bank we had to watch the sharp shale bedrock that was exposed all the way around the crossing.  As we neared the top of the mudflat we looked back and absorbed the scenery and were amazed by how low the tide now was.  Not an hour earlier, as we ate lunch on the beach that contained the tidal flat from the Bay, the water was much deeper.  We crossed the river a final time above tide line and above where an old dam was once located.  I snapped a picture of a butterfly that was flitting among the boulders and grasses along the shore.  This was the official start of the Fundy Footpath and we were no longer in Fundy National Park.

Looking up along the shore of tributary to Goose River just before we crossed.
We had to hike approximately 5km in order to reach our next tidal flat crossing and we had to do it in less than 3hours in order to avoid having to cross way up stream above the trail.  Where the mud at Goose River is the problem, the issue at Goose Creek is the length and the water temperature.  I have found that, no matter what time of year you make this crossing, the water is always numbing cold.  As you approach the 3/4 mark of the crossing you can no longer feel your toes.  When you make it across the flat you sadly realize that you still have to wade through deep grasses that grow along the many spring fed streams before you get to the campsite you so long for.  The cold springs move the numbness from your feet clear to your hips it seems.  Once we cleared the tidal flat we made camp at the Goose Creek campsite and in short time we all donned dry socks.  From time to time we checked to see how much water had flowed over the flats we had not long ago crossed.  For those of us who hadn't seen it before it was likely surprising to see how much water filled the river valley.
The cap of Martin Head beyond the cold mud flats of Goose Creek as seen in a trip in 2009..

From Goose Creek you can actually see the next tidal flat we would be challenged by.  The scenic Martin Head isthmus is an iconic location and I will likely discuss it in a later post.  From Goose Creek we would spend our morning heading towards it through the wooded trail.  Before getting to the road we make a trail down to the long sandy beach for an early lunch as we wait for the tide to recede far enough to cross the mud flats and gravel of Quiddy River.  The muddy portion of this crossing is much shorter than the others but that does depend on where you cross.  There are mud flats at Martin Head that are great to play in and explore.  In some places there are strong indications of the settlements of years gone by and the mud flats no doubt hide much more.

The mud flats at Martin Head are covered by water in this 2007 photo.  Luckily we crossed a much narrower section.
The mud flats are just one of the great iconic features of the Fundy Footpath and I hope you continue to watch for future posts on this great hike.  I will continue to describe the iconic features of the FFP while providing you with a look into my personal views of this great wilderness area.  If you want to help with this great trail you can check out the Friends of the Fundy Footpaths or the Footpath website.
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