Free Fallin’

I remember my first trek into Walton Glen gorge and falls along the Bay of Fundy coast, partway between Alma and St. Martins. In particular, I recall the magical sense of wonder and adventure as I navigated inland from the cobble and sand beach where we had camped for the night. Entering the impressive Walton Glen gorge with its 30 to 60m high walls, all sound save the brook’s gentle gurgle fell away. For a moment, I stood still in this cleft of rock, breathing reverence.

Then, the call of a raven overhead broke the spell. Sneakers already soaked, I continued wading the ankle-deep water upstream toward the 44m  falls – the highest in New Brunswick.

Although the flow of water over the falls was minimal that hot August day, my own personal discovery of this meeting place of rock and water evoked a curious tingle of pride….as if it belonged solely to me…or I was responsible in some way for its beauty.

Most of us have a fascination with naturally cascading water. Hiking trails with waterfalls are certainly the most popular within our national and provincial parks – but beyond the obvious natural beauty is interwoven a sense of connection to land and its history.

It was this sort of fascination that led Nova Scotia’s Allan Billard to write a field guide for his province’s waterfalls in 1997, which sold more than 12,000 copies locally. He then published a keepsake book in 2007 featuring the photography of Donna Barnett, called Waterfalls: Nova Scotia’s Masterpieces.

Allan, a keen environmentalist, grew up exploring Nova Scotia’s waterways with his fisherman dad. “Waterfalls are a bonus when you are tramping through the woods… a pleasant tableau or reward at the end of a struggle,” he says.

In New Brunswick, backwoods explorer Nicholas Guitard embarked on his own quest: to visit, research and photograph New Brunswick’s many waterfalls before living memory and knowledge of them disappeared, subsequently publishing a photography book in 2009 and a field guide a year later, both called Waterfalls of New Brunswick (the second book was subtitled A Field Guide).

Having spent so much time exploring out-of-way places, he reflects upon the allure of cascading water: “I believe people feel re-energized—folks are not linked to nature because of their lifestyle. Spending a day in the natural world fosters our creativity and our spirit. We feel good about ourselves and our world.”

Following are a few noteworthy spots to see falls in Atlantic Canada. They are easy to find and with well-identified and marked trails, suitable for a family excursion, and accessible to the public. Of course, there are so many more to see, depending on factors such as weather and mobility. At Baxter’s Harbour, in Nova Scotia, for example, from your parked car you can see striking waterfalls cascading into the ocean when the tide is high. And, as the saying goes, size isn’t the whole story; waterfalls are partly defined by their wilderness setting, each with its own mesmerizing, elemental allure.

Read the rest at Saltscapes Magazine, July/August 2012.
(full article 1900 words)
copyright 2012 ©Deborah Carr.

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