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Be amazed and inspired by our East Coast waterfalls

They can be violent or gentle. Nova Scotia’s Economy River recklessly throws itself off a cliff before loudly crashing into rocks and a pool below. The intense surge of power sends vibrations up through your feet! Yet some of the falls in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick cascade so gently, visitors can enjoy a river massage by sitting beneath them. The highest falls in Newfoundland are almost four times higher than Niagara, while others across the region are no taller than the average person. Those at Grand Falls, NB and Churchill Falls, Labrador dump so much water they have become major sites for hydroelectric generation. Others, like Forest Hills Falls in Fredericton, dwindle to a trickle in dry weather.

Our waterfalls seem alive with personalities that change as quickly as the passing of a thundershower and as leisurely as the shifting of the seasons. In spring and after rain, they appear raging, aggressive, even angry with surging runoff. But waterfalls can also wear themselves thin by summer after the trees leaf out to soften the cacophony. They flow steadily rather than violently, and some peter to a trickle over mossy stones. In autumn, the changing leaves frame them in clouds of colour. And most dramatically of all, winter drapes the rock faces in sheets of ice while the mist freezes in the trees.

Atlantic Canadian falls are spread across the region. There are concentrations in and near Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland (a UNESCO world heritage site). In Nova Scotia, many can be found in the highlands of Cape Breton as well as the Cobequid Mountains. Then there’s Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, as well as in the Saint John/Fredericton/Woodstock triangle. Because Prince Edward Island is so flat, the waterways of the province don’t offer much for waterfalls.

Some of the best falls come with a wilderness experience. Views of the falls in three of the region’s national parks—Gros Morne, Highlands and Fundy—come with some of the finest wilderness hiking in the country. Panoramic views, animal and bird sightings and blooming wildflowers are among the rewards for heading towards the falls. Of course in Atlantic Canada there are many types of hiking trails, and each is worth following when falls are the reward. The Baker’s Brook trail in Gros Morne passes for 10 kilometres over boardwalks and through fen, boreal forest and bog with possible sightings of orchids, iris and pitcher plants as well as the occasional caribou and moose before the falls burst into view at the end.

It takes a full day to reach North River Falls, but Nova Scotia’s highest waterfall, at 30 metres, is worth the effort!

The highest falls in all three provinces can only be seen after long hikes or boat rides. Nova Scotia’s highest, North River Falls, is a 9 kilometre one-way hike along a river valley in a provincial park near St. Ann’s on the Cabot Trail. At the end of the journey, the falls split, tumbling about 30 metres into a large open pool set in a wide gorge. Fall Brook Falls on the Miramichi River system in New Brunswick is about the same height, and just around the corner is a bonus—the 12-metre Trout Brook Falls. Guided canoe tours are the best way to see these twins. The same is true of the many falls that seem to leap from the flat mountaintops surrounding the 15 kilometre-long Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne. Two-hour boat tours (three times daily) will take you across this 170-metre deep pristine lake to the billion-year-old cliffs.

Of course, not all waterfalls demand a lot of physical exertion in order to enjoy them—many are easily accessible. Some are even labelled “drive-by” falls. In fact, visiting the largest falls east of Niagara—in Grand Falls, NB—is as easy as crossing a bridge. But perhaps the best way to see the magnificent 70-metre cliffs of the Grand Falls Gorge is by boat tour. A stairway near the falls also leads to the Wells in the Rocks, a series of 3 to 18-metre-deep potholes worn by the falls into the escarpment. Similarly, motorists on the Cabot Trail only have to pull over to see Mary Ann Falls and Beulach Ban Fall, both postcard-perfect scenes. Some waterfalls, like Williams Falls in Mount Carleton Provincial Park in NB, are even wheelchair accessible along short boardwalks, while others are only a short stroll down an easy trail from a parking lot.

Two short trails from the Big Falls parking lot on the Humber River near Corner Brook, NL lead to great vantage points onto the 87-metre-wide falls. At three metres high, it’s a significant obstacle to the Atlantic salmon struggling to swim up the Humber. Visitors can even see them leaping up a fish ladder through July and August.

Near Economy, NS, waterfall hunters are in for a rare sight: a fallen waterfall. A few years ago, a surge of rainwater from a passing hurricane swelled the river to such a size it blew the end right out of the amphitheatre of rock that was the falls’ launch pad. Now, the river pours out of great slabs of bedrock that resemble a layer cake leaning at 45 degrees, onto a boulder the size of a dump truck. Here, it collects in small, deep pools perfect for wading and swimming. Nearby hikes on a beaten path can take you to several look-offs with bird’s eye views of the river. At the end of the path, a bridge spans the river, allowing visitors to look straight down into the rushing waters.

People have been attracted to waterfalls for centuries. We’re drawn to them for their beauty, for the way they appeal to all our senses, for their constancy as well as their seasonal mood swings. Waterfalls are dramatic reminders of the impact of water on stone, of the force of gravity on the landscape, and of an earth constantly in motion, reshaping itself. Waterfalls can be frightening, exciting, soothing, thought-provoking and comforting. For all these reasons and more, seek them out.

A sampling of falls

Great Drive-by Falls

Grand Falls: A major New Brunswick road takes you right across Grand Falls, the largest waterfall in the region.

Mary Ann Falls: Called the Niagara Falls of Nova Scotia because so many have proposed marriage here, the 5-8 metre falls is a 7-kilometre detour off the Cabot Trail north of Ingonish, NS.

Beulach Ban Falls: A 25 metre water slide at the signed parking lot 4.5 kilometres down a dirt road off the Cabot Trail just west of Big Intervale, NS.

Great Just-A-Stroll-Away Falls

(Under a 1 km walk)

Rattling Brook Falls: Just a 10 minute walk along a boardwalk brings you to the base of this 250-metre high waterfall, arguable one of the best in eastern Canada. Hiking trails lead to the top of the falls, offering panoramic views. It’s at the entrance to the Newfoundland community of Rattling Brook on Route 391.

Lepreau Falls: The wide, uniform falls in this provincial park is one of the most impressive in the province. Take Highway 1 for 20 minutes southwest of Saint John, NB to Route 790 and follow the signs to the picnic and viewing areas.

Steady Brook Falls: A one-kilometre hike uphill makes this a little more than a stroll, but the 60-metre waterfall at the end is well worth the climb. The trail starts at Newfoundland’s famous Marble Mountain ski lodge near the community of Steady Brook.

Barachois Falls: A boardwalk leads to a set of kettle hole ponds—small, deep pools—and the falls. Benches and picnic tables make the stay comfortable. To see more, take the trail to the top of the falls. To get there, take Route 470 east of Port-aux-Basques, NL to Rose Blanche and ask for directions to the falls.

Wentworth Falls: A falls so pretty it’s featured on the cover of Waterfalls of Nova Scotia by Allan Billard. Just a 200-metre stroll down an easy trail leads you to what resembles a bubbling fountain of champagne. Across from the Wentworth ski hill on the old Trans-Canada Highway, four steel gateposts just south of the motel mark the trailhead.

Tetagouche Falls: This six metre falls is in a provincial park near Bathurst, NB on Route 180 and comes complete with picnic and viewing areas.

Southeast Brook Falls: A ten-minute walk on flat ground brings you to the top of this nice waterfall. Start at the parking lot 10.5 kilometres north of Wiltondale on Newfoundland’s Highway 430.

Fall Brook Falls (Nova Scotia): The Fall Brook slides over an enormous fat escarpment at this falls. One kilometre west of the Pictou/Colchester County border on Nova Scotia’s Route 289, take the Fall Brook woods road hike. It’s just one kilometre to the falls.

Williams Falls: This six to 12 metre falls at Mount Carleton on Highway 385 north of Plaster Rock, NB is on a short, wheelchair accessible trail on William’s Brook. A bridge crosses the falls.

Great Wilderness Falls

Western Brook Pond: This Newfoundland & Labrador falls is spectacular, spectacular, spectacular! Numerous falls tumble from the tabletop mountains into the lake below. Boat tours are available.

Fall Brook Falls (New Brunswick): This is the tallest falls in New Brunswick (30 metres) and it has a nearby companion 13 metre double falls called Trout Brook Falls. On road to Holtville, instead of turning right (T junction) head straight till you get to the Bowater Pulp and Paper Gatehouse in the Boiestown area of central New Brunswick. Bowater charges a $10 fee to enter and supplies further directions. Guided tours are available.

North River Falls: An all-day 18-kilometre return trip along the North River valley brings you to Nova Scotia’s highest waterfall. On the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, travel 15 kilometres north of St. Ann’s to the North River Provincial Park parking lot and follow the signs.

Fundy Park: Laverty Falls, Dickson Falls and Third Vault Falls are all gorgeous wilderness falls on well-marked trails in Fundy National Park. There are others on the Upper Salmon River accessible after some difficult hiking.

Baker’s Brook Falls: The three-hour hike through the wilds of Gros Morne National Park, NL is doubly rewarding with this waterfall as the goal.

Uisge Ban Falls: This elegant little falls, pronounced “ish ga ban,” is a pleasant 3-kilometre return hike through a narrowing gorge. Travel about 15 kilometres north of Baddeck, NS to Baddeck Forks and follow the signs to the provincial picnic park to find a map to the falls.

Sheephouse Falls: This impressive 12 metre falls is in the Little Sheephouse Falls Nature Park located on Route 430 in the Miramichi area near Sevogle, NB. Take the Fraser Burchill Road and follow the signs. Nearby Squirrel Falls is a nice side trip.

Hayes Falls: This falls near Meductic south of Woodstock, NB is on the Maliseet hiking trail. Watch for the parking area and the signs for the 30-minute hike to this 10 metre falls.

Economy Falls: 12 kms west of Bass River, NS on Route 2, turn right onto River Philip Road. Drive the 7.5-kilometre dirt road to the parking lot and walk 10-15 minutes to the falls.

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