“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 Shubenacadie River stretches from Grand Lake to South Maitland, where it enters the Minas Basin. The river, which is approximately 72 km in length, experiences powerful tidal bores twice a day; the Bay of Fundy’s famously high tides form large swells at the head of the Bay, which then enter and surge up the river, sometimes reaching 12 km/hr and up to 11 ft in height. The river also boasts 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.
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 were challenging for larger, canal-travelling vessels: sand bars were numerous in the area, making navigation difficult, and the water, because of the movement of the tides, was turbulent and hard to predict. The only canal vessel on record for completing the journey from the Halifax Harbour to Maitland was the Avery, which made the trip in 1861, running aground in the Shubenacadie River’s shallow waters during its return.
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.