Only the truly brave should sit at the front of the boat while white water rafting on a tidal wave.
Oblivious to this fact, my oldest son and I were sitting in the front of the Zodiac when our guide turned abruptly and headed directly into the tidal bore. As we moved at high speed to meet the oncoming wave, I wrapped my fingers around the rope along the sides of the raft and prepared for impact.
The raft jolted upwards and everything was obscured from view as the brown sludgy water engulfed us. When I checked my knuckles afterwards, I was missing some skin.
The Bay of Fundy is famous for having the world’s highest tides. When the moon is right, the incoming tide from the Bay forms a wave of water in Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River that is more than three metres high.
This tidal wave moves very quickly and several people have died over the years when they got caught on the shoreline as it rushed in.
Known as the “tidal bore,” this unique phenomenon is created when the world’s highest tides enter into the V-shaped Bay of Fundy and flow against the current up the mouth of the ever-narrowing river. One of the best ways to experience the tidal bore up close is to participate in a white water rafting expedition up the Shubenacadie.
After driving through the tidal bore several times in a narrow spot in the river, our guide manoeuvred the Zodiac up the river to a wider spot and let us out on an enormous sandbar, so we could watch how quickly the tide advanced.
At low tide, these sandbars take up about 80 per cent of the river bed, but in only a matter of minutes the entire sandbar was covered with water and we were climbing back inside the boat.
We noticed several bald eagles soaring overhead as our boat pulled away from the sandbar. Our guide explained that the advancing tide provides an excellent fishing opportunity for the eagles and they are often sighted along the river as the tidal bore advances.
Once the sand bars were covered, the speed of the water flowing over them created a series of rapids. The largest rapids were about three metres in height. For the next 15 or 20 minutes we rode through the rapids and took turns switching positions in the boat.
Those in the front always got the biggest jolt and swallowed the most water. Once the rapids began to subside, we travelled up the river at high speed to another area where the tide was just beginning to rise and another set of rapids was forming. We repeated this process for several hours until the water was so high there were no more rapids.
Then we jumped in and floated down the river for a bit before climbing back into the boat for the ride home.
As our zodiac moved at high speed back up the now-swollen river, I took a quick glance at what was left of the skin on my knuckles and realized that tidal bore rafting had added a new dimension to what I thought a “white-knuckle adventure” was all about.
If You Go:
• There are several companies that offer tidal bore rafting trips up the Shubenacadie River and although the waves can be very high, the bottom is sandy making it a relatively safe adventure for adults and older children.
• My son and I travelled with Shubenacadie Rivier Runners located near Maitlan, Nova Scotia. A half-day rafting trip will cost $60 per adult and $50 per child and includes hot drinks and cookies at the end of the trip. A full-day rafting adventure will cost $80 per adult and $70 per child and includes a BBQ steak dinner at the end of the trip.
For more information or to make a reservation, visit: tidalborerafting.com or call 1-800-856-5061.
• Like all tides, the tidal bore is affected by the phase of the moon and incoming tide times will change. Rafting trips correspond to tidal times. There are certain times of month that are better to book if you want to experience the largest waves possible. For more information, check out the tide charts on the website.
• Maitlin is an 80-minute drive northwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia. You should wear swimming trunks or shorts and be sure to bring a change of clothes, a dry towel, shampoo and other toiletries to use in the shower afterwards. The water of the tidal bore is filled with red silt from the bottom of the Bay of Fundy and can stain cotton or light coloured clothing. Survival gear is available during cold weather and floatation devices and boots are also provided.
Touring Truro, Nova Scotia
Truro, Nova Scotia makes an interesting stop before or after a tidal bore rafting expedition up the Shubenacadie River. Located about 30-minutes east of Maitlin, this town of approximately 12,000 population is the tree sculpture capital of Nova Scotia.
Approximately 30 years ago, Dutch elm disease was discovered in Truro and the Truro Tree Committee was established. The job of the committee was to remove infected trees in order to prevent the spread of the disease to healthy elms. In 1999, a member of the committee had the idea to turn the stumps of the diseased trees into sculptures depicting the history of the community. The Town commissioned the first sculpture with the hope that the community and local businesses would jump on board with the project.
By the summer of 2008, forty-three individual sculptures had been created and 32 were on display. Every year additional sculptures are added. Some are on private properties and some adorn the lawns of public buildings. All of the sculptures depict the history of Truro.
Nothing can replace the beautiful elms that have been lost to Dutch elm disease, but it is inspiring to see a community band together to make the most of an unfortunate situation.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story that we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.