Stretching from the Tantramar Marshes at the New Brunswick / Nova Scotia border to the village of Saint Martins, the Bay of Fundy UNESCO Biosphere Reserve encompasses dramatic coastline, vast mudflats, extensive marshes, Acadian Forests and much more.

What is a Biosphere Reserve?

Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Biosphere reserves serve in some ways as ‘living laboratories’ for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity. Collectively, biosphere reserves form a World Network. Within this network, exchanges of information, experience and personnel are facilitated. There are over 480 biosphere reserves in over 100 countries .

Where is the Bay of Fundy Biosphere Reserve?

How can visitors best experience the Bay of Fundy Biosphere Reserve?

Here are a number of suggestions:

  • Experience the tides and the Fundy coastline by going on a kayak tour with FreshAir Adventure. Families welcome.
  • Spend a day bird watching in the area.
  • Visit a number of historical covered bridges.
  • Go back in time and spend a morning at the Albert County Museum.
  • Explore the many hiking trails in Fundy National Park.
  • Visit Mary’s Point Shorebird Reserve when the sandpipers are in migration (tens of thousands of birds).
  • Visit the Hopewell Rocks to see sculptors created by the world highest tides.
  • Drive, hike, bike the spectacular Fundy Trail Parkway – accessible now though Saint Martins but soon will stretch from Saint Martins to Fundy National Park.
  • Visit several of the many artisans in the area.
  • Go on a guided interpretative tour with an interpreter from Fundy National Park.
  • Explore Alma beach at low tide – one of the best places to experience the tidal range on the Bay.

Tides were known to the ancients, but an understanding of their origin came only three centuries ago with the publication of Issac Newton’s Principia.

Tides originate in the fact that the force of gravity decreases with distance from a massive body. The Moon exerts a force on the Earth, and Earth responds by accelerating toward the Moon; however, the waters on the side facing then Moon, being closer to the Moon, accelerate more and fall ahead of Earth. Similarly, Earth itself accelerates more than the waters on the far side and falls ahead of these waters. Thus two aqueous bulges are produced, one on the side of Earth facing the Moon, and one on the side facing away from the Moon.

As Earth rotates on its axis beneath these two bulges, the rise and fall of the oceans results. If Earth had not rigidity, the entire planet would flex freely in the same fashion, the ocean bottoms would rise and fall too, and there would be virtually no water tides. The very existence of the tides indicates that on a time scale of several hours, our planet displays considerable rigidity.

Although the Sun exerts a gravitational force 180 times as strong as does the Moon on Earth, because the Moon is so much closer, the variation in Moon’s force across Earth’s diameter is about 2.2 times larger than the variation in the Sun’s force. As noted above, it is this variation that produces tides, thus the pair of bulges raised by the Moon are considerably larger than the pair of tidal bulges raised by the Sun.

When these tidal bulges get in and out of step variations in the height of tides are noted – combining in step to produce “spring” tides (no connection with the season) when the Moon is new or full, and out of step to produce “neap” tides when the Moon is at first or last quarter.

Another factor having a substantial influence on tidal ranges is the elliptical shape of the Moon’s orbit. Although the Moon is only 9 to 14% closer at its close point to Earth (perigee) than at its far point (apogee), because the variation in its gravitational force varies inversely as the cube of its distance (the force itself varies inversely as the square of the distance), the Moon’s tidal influence is 30 to 48% greater at perigee than at apogee. In the Bay of Fundy the perigee-apogee influence is greater than the spring-neap influence. Although the variation of the Moon’s distance is not readily apparent to observers viewing the Moon directly, to observers near the shores of Minas Basin, the three to six metre increase in the vertical tidal range makes it obvious when the Moon is near perigee, clear skies or cloudy!

 

  1. The Bay of Fundy is 270km long, straight sided, and somewhat funnel shaped.
  2. It is 80km wide at its mouth. At its head it forms two basins, Chignecto Basin and Minas Basin. Alma and FreshAir Adventure are located on the Chignecto Basin. At this point, the basin is 15km wide providing excellent views of the Nova Scotia coast line.
  3. With every tide, 100 cubic kilometres of water enters or exits the Bay; equal to the daily discharge of all the world’s fresh water rivers.
  4. The Bay of Fundy experiences two high tides a day. Because of the mutual gravitational attractions between the Earth and the Moon, a tidal bulge is created on the side of the Earth closest to the Moon as well as on the opposite side of the Earth. As the Earth rotates on its axis, the Bay of Fundy enters one bulge and approximately twelve hours later the second one.

  5. Each day the tide comes in 50 minutes later than it did the day previous. As the Earth rotates on its axis causing our day and night, each point on Earth passes through the two tidal bulges. If the Moon were stationary, we would pass through the bulges at the same time each day. But the Moon slowly revolves around the Earth (once every month) causing its phases.To catch up to the Moon’s new position, the Earth must rotate on its axis once and a bit more. This extra bit of rotation takes approximately 50 minutes causing the tide to come in 50 minutes later. This daily change in the arrival of tides can be seen from tide tables for Fundy National Park.
  6. The tidal range varies over a month, from 13 m at one time and only 6 m at another. What causes this variation in the heights of tides? The two most important reasons are:
    • The changing positions of the moon in respect to the Sun. Spring tides occur twice a month when the Sun Moon and Earth are lined up – at new and full moon. Since the effects of their respective gravitational forces are working together, we get our highest tides. Neap tide occurs when the Moon is at quarter phase. Now the gravitational effects are not added together and the tidal range is less – perhaps only half as much.
    • The elliptical orbit of the Moon. On its closest approach to the Earth, (at perigee) tides are substantially higher.(As the distance between the Earth and Moon decreases, gravitational forces between them increase.) At apogee – when the moon is the greatest distance from the Earth – the tidal bulges are not as large and tides not as high. Therefore our highest tides occur at spring tide when the Moon is at perigee.
  7. The discussion above explains the causes of tides the world over. So why are the Fundy tides so high – the highest in the world? The explanation involves two factors:
    • Seiche – The water in any enclosed basin rocks rhythmically back and forth from one end to the other. The period of this oscillation depends on the basin’s length and depth. This rocking movement (or seiche) for the Bay of Fundy coincides with the tides. Therefore as the seiche is driving water higher into the Bay, the lunar tide is reinforcing the effect – giving us the world’s highest tides.
    • Shape and bottom topography – A secondary factor is the shape and bottom topography of the Bay. As the Bay narrows and becomes shallower, the incoming water is “squeezed” and has no-where to go but up.
  8. The tidal action results in the vertical mixing of the water. This creates high productivity because of the nutrients it spreads around, but also some cold water. Water temperatures in the Bay generally do not exceed 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit) – except in the upper Bay where mud-flats and exposed beaches heat up the incoming water.
  9. The Bay of Fundy is one of the marine wonders of the world. Its salt marshes provide habitat to many animal species and contribute to the health of the Bay. They were dyked by the early Acadians who valued their rich soil. The mud flats of the Bay are the feeding station for tens of thousands of sandpipers and its waters, summer home to the right whale.
  10.  In 2007, New Brunswick’s upper Bay of Fundy stretching from the Tantramar Marshes to Saint Martins was recognized as an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This area includes Fundy National Park, Mary’s Point Shorebird Reserve, the Hopewell Rocks and the dramatic Fundy Trail Parkway – soon to stretch from Saint Martins to Fundy National Park.

The Bay of Fundy – “… a failed ocean”

“Lumbering mastodons once roamed its rolling hills, caribou herds grazed its grassy valleys and noisy flocks of water fowl crowded its vast fringes of salt marshes. Today cod and halibut roam its sunken hills and valleys and migrating whales sweep 60 meters over head.” – J.A. Percy

The Early Years

Between 600 and 200 million years ago (mya) continental masses drifted together – squeezing out the original Atlantic Ocean to form the super-continent of Pangea. During this time (400 mya) the Appalachian mountain range formed, with peaks higher than the present Rockies. The region that included the Bay of Fundy was close to the centre of Pangea. Over time shallow seas formed and evaporated leaving behind deposits of salt, potash and gypsum. Erosion of the Appalachians left thick deposits that eventually cemented into rocks. Trapped within these deposits (360 mya) were plants of the time – eventually forming fossils and beds of coal.

The Middle Years

190 million years ago Pangea was wrenched apart by forces deep within the Earth. Rift valleys formed during this process.The Bay of Fundy is one of the rifts valleys. A major rift (the Mid Atlantic Ridge) kept separating and the Atlantic Ocean was formed. This process continues today with North America and Europe separating by several centimetres a year. The Bay of Fundy rift failed to separate further. It is a “failed ocean”. Volcanic and eroded material flowed into the basins. Isle Haute is an example of the volcanic basalt that hardened at this time.

Recent Years

A number of ice ages occurred over the past two million years, with beds of ice up to two kilometres thick scouring the landscape. The last receded only 13000 years ago exposing the present form of the Bay of Fundy. At this time the Bay was a quiet water way – cut off from the Atlantic Ocean by Georges and Browns Banks. Caribou and mammoths grazed on the present Georges Banks. As the sea levels continued to rise, partly due to the melting ice, the Banks became flooded and the Bay was connected to the sea. The giant tides were born.

–  J.A. Percy – Fundy in Flux -The Challenge of Understanding Change in the Sea

Flora

Generally the park’s forest is a mix of red spruce, balsam fir, yellow birch, white birch and maples. It is known as the Acadian Forest. While maples contribute the most brilliant autumn colours from mid-September to mid-October, balsam fir gives a wonderful fragrance to the forests of Fundy. The forest floor is covered with carpets of moss, woodfern and bunchberry. By mid-late summer, the bright red clumps of the bunchberry fruit are very common.

Representing the southern element of the Acadian Forest and covering only 5.4% of the park are pure hardwood stands.  The coniferous forest represents the boreal element of the Acadian Forest. With the rarity of fire along the Bay of Fundy coast, spruce budworm has been the most important agent of change in the spruce-fir forest and is responsible for maintaining the forest in a state of dynamic equilibrium. Pure stands of conifer are rare in Fundy National Park, but it is there that one can appreciate the majesty of the tall red spruce, which can live 200 years or more. The park harbours some of the last pure stands of red spruce in eastern North America.

Fundy National Park protects a wide variety of plants. There are 658 species of vascular plants here. Less known are the bryophytes represented by mosses and liverworts. These small plants are often found growing on rocks and tree trunks. Many also grow on the forest floor. There are 276 species of bryophytes in Fundy National Park.

More than 400 species of lichens have been found in Fundy National Park. These small plants, that few people know by name, cover the forest floor, rocks and tree trunks. One may find as many as 30 species on a single tree. 

Bogs

A few plants such as Bird’s-eye Primrose established themselves as the glaciers melted back from the coast. In the coldest, most exposed corners of the park these plants still grow.

In wet, poorly drained areas such as along the Caribou Plain trail, black spruce and larch live in a thick sphagnum moss carpet. Some of these stunted trees have lived here for more than a century, yet are no taller than a person. 

The shallow waters of ponds and streams surrounding the bog support much animal life. At dusk or dawn, moose and beaver become active, feeding on succulent yellow pond lilies. 

Fauna

Birds

Fundy is well positioned on the Atlantic migration route, and over 260 bird species have been identified in the park or on the adjacent bay. Of those, approximately 95 species have nested in the park. Common species in the park include many types of warblers, pileated wood-peckers, juncos, white-winged crossbills, great blue herons, cormorants, semi-palmated sandpipers and semi-palmated plovers. The Peregrine falcon, which was extirpated by the time the park was established in 1948, has been successfully reintroduced.

Amphibians

Spring and early summer nights vibrate with the mating calls of frogs and toads. The earliest performers are the wood frogs and the tiny spring peepers whose forceful whistles echo in shrill massed chorus across the dark ponds. These sounds are soon augmented by the long trills of American toads. Marshy ponds and lakes are the home of leopard and pickerel frogs whose roars and growls mix with the “plunks” of green frogs, and -later in the summer-the bass droning roar of bullfrogs.

Salamanders, the other amphibians in the park are mute. Seven species live in moist places: the yellow-spotted, red-backed and four-toed in mossy glades and inside rotten logs; the dusky, blue-spotted and two-lined under rocks near springs and brooks, and adult newts in ponds and lakes.

Reptiles

There are no turtles in Fundy. The rugged terrain, and the rocky and boggy characteristics of its lakes have prevented their establishment.

Four species of snakes have been found in Fundy National Park. The largest and most common is the eastern garter snake. Up to a metre long, garter snakes feed on small mammals, frogs, young birds and insects.

There are no poisonous snakes in Fundy National Park.

Mammals

Opportunities exist in Fundy National Park to observe mammals in their natural habitat, especially along trails and streams where openings are common. Of the 38 species in the park, those most commonly seen include snowshoe hare, chipmunk, red squirrel, little brown bat, eastern coyote, white-tailed deer and moose. Moose are the largest animals in the park and may weigh 1000 kilograms. They feed primarily in lakes and wetlands, but may browse along roadsides at dusk. Caution signs along the highway are meant to be heeded!

Evening guided walks are offered in Fundy to help you explore and appreciate mysteries of the night.

All information is courtesy of and can be found at Fundy National Park’s website on Natural Wonders and Cultural Treasures.

The Acadian Story & the Salt Marshes of the Upper Bay

The salt marshes of Chignecto Bay – Bay of Fundy – are not only essential to the health of the Bay, but their presence have influenced the early human history of the area.

In 1604 Sieur de Monts, with his geographer Samuel de Champlain, made their epic journey into the Bay of Fundy. They called it Baie François. During that first winter, they settled on the island of Saint Croix, on the US and Canada border. The location was not the best and half of the settlers (thirty six men) died of scurvy.

The following year, the colony moved across the Bay to Port Royal, and here began the Acadian story of North America. No other group which colonized North America developed settlements based on the reclamation of salt marshes. Therefore the early Acadian story is interwoven with the salt marshes that surrounded much of the Bay of Fundy. In New Brunswick (and northern Nova Scotia) the most abundant marshes were found in Tantramar, Memramcook and Chipouday – now the community of Shepody on Route 114.

It was no coincidence that Acadian history and salt marshes are linked. In their homeland, they were familiar with the practice of reclaiming land from the sea, a process much more appealing then cutting trees, digging out stumps and clearing rocks.

The technology used to reclaim a salt marsh for agriculture use was the aboiteau – a simple but ingenious devise that allowed fresh water to drain from the marsh but prevented salt water from re-entering. It consisted of a wooden clapper valve that opened at low tide under pressure of the fresh water against it, but closed when the tide came in.

The part of the Bay of Fundy coastline that is now Fundy National Park was not settled for another 200 years. The Acadians were not interested in this area of rocks and trees because there were no salt marshes. In the mid 1800s, as the demand for quality lumber grew, settlers finally arrived, establishing sawmills, shipyards, and communities now visited by tourists from around the world.

THE GLOOSCAP LEGENDS

In Mi’kmaq legends, Glooscap is the first family of the Mi’kmaq having been created by Gisoolg the Great Spirit Creator who is the one who made everything.

The word Gisoolg in Mi’kmaq means, “you have been created.” It also means, “the one credited for your existence.” Glooscap was created from one of the most common materials in the Mi’kmaq world – by a lightning bolt striking sand. According to folklore, Glooscap was said to reside on Blomindon, high buffs overlooking the Bay. However his presence is marked by legends around the Bay – explanations for events and geological formation. These are just a few of the legends of particular interest to the guides of FreshAir Adventure as they paddle the coastline of Fundy National Park.

The Legend of the Tidal Bore

In the days of Glooscap the river water was clear and fresh. Until a monster Eel swam down the river and pushed all of the fishes and all the fresh water into the salty bay. Turtle told Glooscap of the cruel hardships that resulted. Glooscap gave great powers to Lobster, who grew much in size and strength and fought the evil Eel. The long battle stirred up much mud and many waves far up the river until the Eel was killed. And even today in Glooscap’s bay and on the muddy river, with an elbow bend, the battle scene takes place twice a day.
Legend told by Michael Francis.

The Rocks At Hopewell Cape

These famous rocks are, according to Mi’kmaq Legend, some of their people who were enslaved by great whales that once lived in the Bay of Fundy. On seeing a chance to escape the people dashed for the shore. They were not quite fast enough, however. Just as they reached the beach the whales in their terrible anger turned them all to stone.

Isle Haute

Legend has it that on one occasion three dogs started chasing the moose that Glooscap was hunting. In a rage he turned the dogs into stone and they stand off the beach at Eatonville today as “The Three Sisters”. The moose, which had tried to escape by jumping into the Bay of Fundy, appealed to Glooscap to save him from drowning. Glooscap then turned the moose into stone (Isle Haute) to give it immortality.

The Creation of Squaw’s Cap

Glooscap had asked his wife to make him some moccasins. But she was making herself a cap – one made of beaver pelt and decorated with porcupine quills. When he asked for his moccasins, they were not ready. In a fit of anger, Glooscap threw his wife’s winter cap into the Bay. When spring growth started, the cap put down roots, the beaver pelt turned to moss and the porcupine quills to trees. 

The Tides of the Bay

“Glooscap, the giant Indian god, wanted to take a bath. He called his friend Beaver and told him to find some water. Beaver built a huge dam across the mouth of a great river. Water backed up behind the dam and stopped flowing into the sea.

As Glooscap stepped into the water, Whale stuck her head over the dam and asked, “Why have you stopped this water from coming to my domain?” Not wanting to anger his friend, Glooscap got up and walked back to land. With a stroke of her mighty tail, Whale destroyed the dam and sent salt water flooding into the river. As she turned and swam back out to sea, she set the water of the Bay sloshing back and forth, a movement it has kept to this day.