“The upper river is narrow, rocky, and winding until the area between Milford and Shubenacadie, where the increasingly muddy waters meet the influence of the tide, and the river widens. From here to the mouth, the turbulent waters race around mud flats and past steep cliffs with the rise and fall of the tide.”

—Donna Barnett, River of Dreams: The Saga of the Shubenacadie Canal

Caddell Rapids Lookoff, Riverside


The Shubenacadie River stretches 72 kilometres (45 miles) from Grand Lake to Maitland, where it enters the Minas Basin of the Bay of Fundy. Twice a day, the Bay of Fundy’s famously high tides create a powerful tidal bore in the northern portion of the river. As the tide swells, water enters and surges up the river, sometimes reaching 12 km/h (7 mph) and up to 3.4 m (11 ft) in height.

The river is home to a variety of fish and other wildlife. Its population of striped bass makes the area popular among anglers, and bald eagles are known to nest in the trees along the river. Other species of fish that can be found in the river include American shad, brook trout, Atlantic tomcod, and blueback herring.

Fundy Tidal Interpretive Centre and tidal bore lookoff, South Maitland

Very little was done to the river during construction of the Shubenacadie Canal. The river had been used by the Mi’kmaq as an important transportation route long before the canal project began, and it continued to be used as such during the construction and operation of the canal.

However, certain features of the river made it a challenging route for larger canal boats. Sand bars are numerous in the area, and the movement of the tides often makes the water turbulent and hard to predict. The only vessel known to have completed the full journey from Halifax Harbour to Maitland is the Avery, which made the trip in November 1861. Indeed, even it ran aground near Elmsdale during its return trip.

Though they were inconvenient during the time of the canal’s operation, the Shubenacadie River’s tidal bores are widely enjoyed today. Several lookoff spots on both sides of the river offer amazing views of the powerful waters, and a number of companies in the area offer tidal bore rafting, which involves riding the waves up the river on high-powered zodiacs. For more information on tidal bore rafting, see our Rafting page.

The mouth of the Shubenacadie River, viewed from the east side in Clifton, Colchester County. The western bank of the river (near Maitland) and the opposite coast of the Bay of Fundy (near Masstown) are visible in the background.