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Bay du Nord River


Newfoundland and Labrador
Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve, NL

Natural Heritage

The visual beauty of the Bay du Nord is powerful, rugged, and spectacular. The Maritime Barrens Ecoregion and the Western Newfoundland Forest Ecoregion are represented within the Bay du Nord. These ecoregions feature lakes, fens, bogs, barrens, forests and mountains, largely the products of the area’s glacial past, which is evident in its striations and erratics. Mount Sylvester, an Inselberg, dominates the Bay du Nord’s upper reaches.

In its lower reaches, the river cascades over a 20 metre outcrop into a deeply incised valley at Smokey Falls, before flowing across the wide valley created by the Hermitage Fault. Formed when North America, Europe and North Africa collided some 120 million years ago, the fault contains rocks known to be more than 600 million years old. At its mouth, the river flows through a large, raised delta.

The largest caribou herd in Newfoundland, the Middle Range herd, winters and calves within the Bay du Nord watershed. The Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve helps protect this habitat for the caribou, especially its wintering grounds. This protected area is also beneficial to other species living on the island.

Cultural Heritage

The Bay du Nord was not designated for its cultural heritage; however, it does have an interesting and important cultural heritage. Like many CHRS rivers, it was a transportation route for First Nations peoples as well as for early European explorers and settlers. A large cairn that still stands today was erected atop Mount Sylvester in 1887 by James Howley during his pioneering survey of the island. At the river’s mouth, the abandoned outport Bay du Nord community stands as a testament to the area’s once thriving fishery and sawmill industry.

Recreational Heritage

The Bay du Nord is wild yet accessible, making it ideal for paddlers looking for a wilderness experience. The river itself, its chains of connected lakes, tributaries, and estuary offer paddling experiences of different lengths and difficulty. The most popular tour is a 100 km, five-to-seven-day trip, that begins at Kepenkeck Lake and takes you in a southward direction through several types of riverscapes, and ends at Pool’s Cove in Fortune Bay, on Newfoundland’s south coast. While there are no formally developed campsites, primitive sites abound along the river’s shores.

Hunting and fishing opportunities are plentiful within the Bay du Nord watershed. Brook trout and Atlantic salmon, both landlocked and sea-run, swim in its waters and moose, caribou, ptarmigan, and snowshoe hare are found in forest, field and barren. Hunting and fishing are licensed and regulated by season.

Old fishing trails and the abandoned village of Bay du Nord allow you to explore the history and natural beauty of the region on foot. The summit of Mount Sylvester can be accessed via a trail from Diamond Lake and hikers will be rewarded with spectacular views and opportunities to view and photograph the natural landscape.

During the winter, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing are all possible along the river. These activities are regulated to ensure the protection of caribou wintering grounds within the Wilderness Reserve.

Fun Fact

Mount Sylvester was named by William Epp Cormack, in honour of his Mi’kmaq guide, Sylvester Joe, during their 1822 journey across Newfoundland.

River Managers

The Bay du Nord is managed by the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Bay du Nord Heritage River Corridor covers about 997 km2, of which about 96 percent (960 km2) falls within the Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve and the Middle Ridge Wildlife Reserve. The two reserves guarantee the protection of the river system and will serve to preserve this river and its many features for the enjoyment of future generations.

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A 75 km section of the Bay du Nord River was designated to the CHRS in 2006 for its outstanding natural and recreational values. The pure waters of the Bay du Nord cross one of the largest wilderness areas of Newfoundland.

Plaque Text

The Canadian Heritage River plaques offer a brief glimpse into why a river has been designated to the System. They are often located nearby one of its historically significant locations, and highlight some of the most important natural, cultural and recreational values of the river. 

Bay du Nord River Plaque Text

THE BAY DU NORD RIVER - The Bay du Nord River flows south for 75 kilometers across the wild glaciated landscape of the Central Newfoundland Plateau to the resettled community of Bay Du Nord and the nearby town of Pool’s Cove in Fortune Bay. A series of large lakes surrounded by heath vegetation drain into the slow-moving river before it becomes a torrent of churning water with numerous rapids that stretch the final 27 kilometers to the Atlantic Ocean. The Bay du Nord watershed showcases impressive geological formations including the Hermitage Fault, Smoky Falls and Mount Sylvester. The geological fault lines in the area were created between 120-350 million years ago when the ancient continent of Eur-Africa collided with North America. Mount Sylvester, at 437 metres, is the highest landmark in the watershed. This granite peak, sculpted by glaciers, served as a beacon for explorer William Cormack and his Mi’Kmaq guide Sylvester Joe, who traversed this area in 1822 in search of the last Beothuk Indians. Located largely within the 2895 sq. km Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve, the Bay du Nord River’s tumultuous rapids, pristine lakes, ancient forests, and endless barrens, combine to create a landscape of beauty and wildness that is unforgettable to the visitor. As Newfoundland and Labrador’s second Canadian Heritage River, it is designated for its outstanding natural values, and the wide variety of wilderness recreation that it offers. The support and cooperation of residents will help to ensure active stewardship of the river in the years to come.