New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

St. John River – Below Fredericton to Reversing Falls

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Looking Across the St. John River Toward Gagetown, N.B.

The following is from The St. John River in Maine, Quebec, and New Brunswick written in 1894 by J.W. Bailey; and this segment includes that part of the river below Fredericton toward the Reversing Falls in St. John.

Bailey’s descriptions are not limited to the main river, but also include tributary rivers and streams. The work describes, in effect, the entire watershed. He had a particular interest in identifying fishing areas, but the work is broader than that and is primarily geographical.


The St. John River From Below Fredericton to the Reversing Falls in 1894

I – From Fredericton to Gagetown

The physical features of the St. John alter greatly in the thirty-four miles between Fredericton and Gagetown. Nowhere else is the surrounding land so low, and on the east a mere alluvial flat of great extent separates its waters from those drained by the Jemseg. Every indication shows that this country was once the bed of a great lake, nearly triangular in form, with its apex at Salmon River and its base line along the valley of the St. John. The greatest length and breadth of the lake must have been about the same, as the distance from Nashwaak to Jemseg (thirty-five miles) nearly equals that from Oromocto to the head of the lowland on Salmon River. A log, in a perfect state of preservation, was discovered at a depth of twenty-four feet from the surface of this alluvium bed, about opposite Oromocto, and, as twenty feet is the difference to-day between the top of the flat and low-water mark, it would seem to have been deposited at a time when sediment first began to form in the old lake basin. Who can say what portion of the rock eroded from the several gorges of the St. John, Aroostook, and Tobique now enters into the composition of the Maugerville flat? There were a few, if not many, islands in the ancient lake, including the cup-shaped wooded mound below the Nashwaak. The currents of the St. John, flowing southeasterly, met those of the Grand Lake watershed, flowing southwesterly, and the most natural place for the deposit of silt and detritus was along the line of their junction, where we find the fluviatile deposits of to-day. Maugerville and Sheffield parishes are among the earliest settled districts on the St. John; the land is exceedingly rich, and annually manured by the silt-bearing freshets. It is an extraordinary fact that some of the farmers obtain a crop of vegetables and a crop of fish from the same piece of ground annually.

The current is sluggish at low-water, but everywhere perceptible, between Chapel Bar and Gagetown, and naturally, on nearing the coast, the ebb and flow of the fresh-water tide increases. In most, if not all, rivers of any volume, with estuary mouths, the current is continued much beyond the point of tide level by the pressure of water above, and what has been said of the St. John is strikingly true, on a much larger scale, of the Amazon and Congo.

The village of Oromocto, although small, is the shire-town of Sunbury County. Travelers say that the potato is the current medium of exchange there, but this is hearsay, and needs verification.

Oromocto was anciently an Indian resort, and the husbandman sometimes exposes a grave, or implements of stone and pottery, while working in the field. The Burton court-house, a few miles below the village, commands an unrivaled view of the river, with the great intervale islands, and the Maugerville flat beyond.

Gagetown, diminutive as it is, was, until recently, one of the largest communities in eastern North America unconnected with the outside world by rail or telegraph. In front flows Gagetown Creek, a sluggish stream connecting Hart’s and Coy’s lakes with the river. Grimross Neck, between the river and creek, has now become Grimross Island by the excavation of a short canal, which, if we except the canal connecting Telos Lake with Webster Brook on the Penobscot, and Morrow’s little “dugway” on the Oromocto, probably forms the only artificial diversion of water, for the facilitation of navigation, on the St. John or its tributaries.

II – The Oromocto River

The Oromocto (Deep River) has two principal branches which, emanating from large lakes about twenty-five miles apart, unite twenty miles above the mouth of the stream, and it flows almost sixty miles from the source of the north branch, and drains eight hundred and ten square miles. North Branch Lake, one of the largest lakes in the St. John system, is nine miles long by two and one half broad, a low flat country surrounding it, where the scenery is not very picturesque. Tweedside settlement extends along the northwestern shore; elsewhere the forest touches the beach. An attractive spot is the White Sand Cove, a shallow bay of pure transparent water with a bottom and beach of clean light-colored sand, where clusters of wild rosebushes grow just above high-water mark, a tiny rivulet babbling through them on its way to the lake. Good fishing may be had, at times, in the White Sand Cove; for large trout, while rapidly diminishing in number, still frequent the North Branch Lake. A better place for small trout is at the southwestern end, where a deadwater brook enters, navigable for canoes.

All geographers assert that the overflow of the lake found an exit through this brook, pre-glacially, into the Magaguadavic River, but two miles distant, and that the Oromocto water to-day is on a level one hundred and twenty feet above that river’s bed. But how can this be so, when the north branch of the Oromocto is navigable almost everywhere for canoes, and reaches tide level at the forks, after running but twenty-five miles; while the Magaguadavic, below the supposed brook outlet, is fifty miles long, with two large falls on it? There is certainly a discrepancy somewhere that local geologists will please explain.

From the southern end of Oromocto Lake a portage of three miles leads to Big Kedron Lake on the Magaguadavic. The Jaws Basin, where the north branch emanates, is probably named from its indented coast line; and south of this a wooded peninsula, erroneously called “Kelly’s Island,” connects with the mainland by a narrow isthmus of sand. The north branch receives the Lyon Stream, the Yoho River, flowing from Lake Erina, Hardwood Creek, and Porcupine Brook. In the bed of the stream a flat rock appears, covered with ancient Indian inscriptions, similar in general character to those so commonly found at Fairy Lake in Nova Scotia.

The south branch of the Oromocto issues from a lake five miles in length, an excellent water for large trout, situated in the rough wilderness of northeastern Charlotte County, near the source of the Lepreaux. It flows in part through an ancient lake basin, where the soil is a fertile alluvium, receiving Sand Brook and Shin and Back creeks, all goodly streams. Canoes may ascend at ordinary water, but with some difficulty, and at least one portage, that around the fall, is necessary.

The northern rivers seem to have a much more constant water supply than those near the Bay of Fundy. Such streams as the Meruimpticook and Quisibis may be navigated at times when the South Oromocto and Nerepis, draining equal areas, have actually dwindled down to nothing.

The deadwater so characteristic of the Oromocto begins, on the north branch, below the natural fall at Hart’s Mill; on the south branch, below Back Creek, and extends uninterruptedly to the mouth. There seems to be something a little uncanny about this river. The water has a peculiar warmth, and, although the current is imperceptible, freezes later than the St. John River, which it so affects that the ice below the mouth of the tributary stream makes an earlier start in spring than the ice above. Instead of the Oromocto rushing along to unite with the St. John, like other tributaries in the flood season, the St. John waters pour up the Oromocto and flood the lowlands until a lake is formed, thirty or forty square miles in area. An amusing story is told of a man, who was “on the limits,” being carried away by this forcible up-current while standing on a raft insecurely fastened to the bridge at Oromocto village. “On the limits,” in New Brunswick phraseology, seems to imply a condition of involuntary retention within certain prescribed boundaries, secured by the obligation of a bail-bond, and lasting until the lis pendens is brought before the proper juridical tribunal, or otherwise disposed of.

When the many-colored autumn leaves are reflected in the water, and the air is laden with the delicious odor of the newly-mown hay, no more enchanting spot can be found than the Oromocto forks. The banks are alluvial, and lined with bushes, beyond which wide fields extend, studded with graceful elm-trees. The scenery becomes less attractive, however, on descending the stream, and in the wild meadows an air of loneliness and desolation prevails which is positively chilling. Here the Rushagonish, also deep and dead for many miles, enters from the west; the principal tributary of the Oromocto, formed by the junction of two streams that rise in Kingsclear Parish, above Fredericton. The upper waters, as indeed the sources of almost every stream in any way contributing to the Oromocto, abound in small trout, a rather strange fact, considering the habit of that fish to seek the purest and coolest water. It would more accord with the usual custom if all the trout passed up the St. John, and ignored “Deep River” entirely.

Three Tree Creek enters the Oromocto four miles below the forks. The origin of its name is obscure. French Lake, two miles long by one broad, is a pretty little water, surrounded by farm land, and connected with the river by a deep, sluggish channel. The trout which formerly frequented it have become as scarce as ichthyosaurs since the fatal day when pickerel were introduced into the first Eel River lake; indeed, they decrease everywhere in proportion to the spread and multiplication of those “fresh-water sharks.” As for the objectionable pickerel, they rejoice in the slowly moving Oromocto, with its rank water-grass and lily-pads, and no other tributary so teems with them.

III – From Gagetown to Indiantown

Every phenomenon of the St. John, so far considered, has its parallel in some other part of the world. Fresh-water tides are common to the Amazon, La Platte, St. Lawrence, and many other rivers. An alluvial deposit where once there was an inland lake or sea surrounds the lower Mississippi, and the erosive action of the Grand Falls resembles that of Niagara; but between Gagetown and Indiantown (fifty miles) the St. John possesses certain characteristics not found on any other river known to man. Most noticeable is the series of great sinuses or lakes that branch off eastward, each one almost parallel with the others. Grand and Washademoak lakes and Belleisle and Kennebecasis bays are their names, and they deepen, with the greatest regularity, on approaching the seacoast. Grand Lake is the shallowest, Kennebecasis Bay the deepest, and the average depth of the Belleisle undoubtedly exceeds that of the Washademoak. We may not here wade through the depths of geological research to discover the origin of such a strange formation, but will merely observe that these extraordinary fluvial expansions cross the lines of glaciation with what seems to be an utter disregard of scientific principles.

From Jemseg on the east and Otnabog on the west the lands begin to rise, until rugged hills, ranging from two to seven hundred feet in height, become the common feature of the landscape. Above Gagetown one hundred feet is the almost uniform elevation along the southwestern side of the valley, while the river is bounded easterly by great alluvial flats; but below Otnabog the scenery partially loses its quiet rural charm, more resembling the mountainous aspect of the Hudson. The islands remain alluvial as far as the Long Reach, when they too change, becoming islands of erosion instead of islands of deposit. The mountainous character of the valley continues to the Bay of Fundy. Here and there a very precipitous bluff crops out on the hillside, but usually the slopes are not too steep for forest growth and cultivation.

At Jemseg the river makes a peculiarly sharp bend, called “No Man’s Friend,” where vessels must tack laboriously, whether sailing up or down before a favoring breeze, the narrowness of the channel making the manoeuvre difficult. At Washademoak the river is several miles wide, and clustered with alluvial islands, of which Upper and Lower Musquash and Long islands are the largest. Lower Musquash is the most irregularly shaped island in the St. John, doubling to inclose a freshwater lagoon of almost equal area with its land surface; while Long Island contains, in addition to a lagoon, a shallow, swampy lake. Probably the ancient lake basin formerly occupying the present site of the Maugerville flat contracted below Jemseg, and expanded again at Washademoak to a width of five or six miles, measured from that river’s outlet to the head of Otnabog Lake. Otnabog River, which enters here, is a fairly good trout stream, flowing fifteen or twenty miles, in one part through a rugged, deep ravine.

Behind the steamboat landing, known as “John Vanwart’s,” a steep hill, five hundred feet high, rises abruptly from the water level, the summit commanding a northward view which many consider the finest obtainable along the St. John River valley. Fannen’s Brook enters close by, a small stream flowing from a long and narrow lake, where excellent trout may be caught. Above Belleisle are two small islands, respectively if not respectfully called “Pig” and “Hog,” unquestionably for want of better names.

The Long Reach of the St. John, where the river flows in a straight southwesterly course for fifteen miles, is a mere continuation, both geologically and topographically, of the Belleisle valley. High hills uprise on both sides, covered with alternating patches of forest and farm land, while the views, whether from highland or water level, are very extensive and picturesque. At the head of the Reach a long and narrow tongue of intervale land extends from the western shore, inclosing an inlet, which is called “Mistake Cove,” or, colloquially, “The Mistake,” from its tendency to induce strangers to sail in under the impression that they have found a mere channel around an island. Oak Point forms the most prominent projection from the usually regular shore line, below which Little River (at least the sixth tributary of that name below St. Francis) and Jones’s Creek enter from the west. Little River rises in Long Lake, a considerable body of water overlooked by a lofty, rugged peak called Blue Mountain. The stream has one fall, perhaps twelve feet high. Below Jones’s Creek, the Devil’s Back, a prominent ridge, uprises on the west. Next we find the Devil’s Brook. A superstitious person might really suppose, on penetrating the interior of this region, that His Satanic Majesty had lent Dame Nature a helping hand in its formation, for there is no rougher country in New Brunswick than the Nerepis Granite Range.

A stream entering South Bay, and flowing from Spruce Lake, an irregular water six miles long, is the last of the St. John’s numerous tributaries, and one of the least as well.

The river turns abruptly at the lower end of “The Reach,” runs four miles southwestwardly, at a right angle with its former course passes Brandy Point, and finally widens to form Grand Bay. This lake-like expansion is undoubtedly the broadest part of the St. John; but as the Kennebecasis branches off to the eastward, one cannot tell just what proportion of the bay should be computed in the drainage area of the latter river. In fact the Bay of Fundy tides often predominate over both.

IV – The Drainage Area of the Jemseg River

The overflow of the Grand Lake finds an outlet through the Jemseg, a deep, sluggish channel, six miles in length, draining at low water an area of fourteen hundred and seventy square miles, or more land than any other tributary, excepting the Aroostook and Tobique. As the St. John (at high water) covers the lowlands in many places, Grand Lake and its surrounding waters then find numerous vents, and it is impossible to estimate the percentage of rainfall carried off by the Jesmeg alone.

Grand Lake, already considered in comparison with Temiscouata, is twenty-nine miles long, with an extreme breadth of seven miles at Cumberland Bay. The superficial area is said to be one hundred square miles; the rise and fall of tide, six inches. All portions are shallow, the greatest depths rarely exceeding ten fathoms, and for several miles above the Jemseg a channel has been dredged to facilitate navigation. The shores are low, thereby detracting somewhat from the beauty of the landscape. Cultivated lands surround the lake on all sides, and the canoeist may find attractive camping grounds at any point or bay, and may purchase farm supplies that would be considered rare luxuries on the more northern tributaries of the St. John. Grand Point, ten miles above the outlet, is the most prominent projection from the northwestern shore; on the south side, Cox, Ellesworth, Fanjoy’s, and Robertson’s points are all conspicuous, the bays between them having the same general trend as the various branches of the St. John below Gagetown. At Robertson’s Point, a favorite place for picnicking, there is a curious stone called Table Rock; and above Grand Point a small lake connects with Grand by a narrow channel named “The Keyhole.” Coal Creek, a suitable stream for canoeists, enters the northeastern arm of the lake, often called “The Range.”

Salmon River, being much the largest feeder of Grand Lake, may be considered geographically a continuation of the Jemseg. Rising in a level tract of wilderness land, forty miles eastward in a direct line of the mouth of Coal Creek, the stream makes a sweeping bend, known as the Ox Bow, whence a portage but three miles long leads to the headwaters of the Richibucto River. Below Ox Bow the general course is southwesterly. It is a quiet stream, navigable for canoes except in the extreme droughts of summer. The Lake Stream, a principal tributary on the south side, must also be in some degree navigable, as the Indians formerly “portaged” from it to the north branch of the Canaan River. Yet larger is the Gaspereaux, which, flowing from Gaspereaux Lake and running about thirty miles in a semicircular course, enters Salmon River from the north.

Newcastle Creek, another feeder of Grand Lake, entering six miles below Salmon Bay, has two principal branches, called the Big and Little forks, both of which rise near Gaspereaux Lake. In places the stream has cut through horizontal rock strata so as to form lofty, precipitous cliffs. Similar cañon-like gorges are found also upon Salmon River, exposing in places thin veins of bituminous coal.

We now pass to the southwestern end of Grand Lake, where, opposite the Jemseg outlet, a deep channel, two miles in length, connects its waters with Maquapit. Maquapit Lake is connected with French Lake by a similar “thoroughfare” of somewhat greater length, and into French Lake empty Little River, Burpee’s Mill Stream, and the Portobello.

The Portobello rises in several little rivulets, which cross the old Richibucto road a few miles from Fredericton, and unite as they pour down the hillside upon the upper portion of that great alluvial flat before spoken of as bounding the St. John River on the east from Nashwaak to Jemseg. The name Portobello, which probably means “fine portage,” or “easy going,” has been given with great propriety, as the water, winding about through a soft and easily eroded alluvium bed, is naturally deep and sluggish all the way to French Lake, a distance of nearly thirty miles by water from the Richibucto road. The Portobello is a veritable “meander,” even if the Nictaux and Cabineau rivers are not. No more tortuous stream can be found anywhere. The banks are often thickly wooded; and as New Brunswick possibly surpasses all other countries in the beauty of its autumnal foliage, the canoeist should visit the Portobello in October, when the leaves, almost meeting overhead, throw dazzling reflections upon the water. But beware the Portobello in June; there are mosquitoes there then, in number as the sands upon the seashore, and words may not be found infernal enough to describe their depredations.

Blind Lake, an elongated stagnant pond or “bogan hole,” branching from the Portobello, is reached by “portaging” one mile from the St. John River, at a point opposite the middle of Oromocto Island. The water route thus formed, through the Portobello, French, Maquapit, and Grand Lakes, and Jemseg, has been named “the back way,” the ordinary river route being “the front way,” although never so termed. Lunan Brook, another branch of the Portobello, offers the angler a rough wade and a full fish-basket. Burpee’s Mill Stream, which rises near the Pennioc, and falls into French Lake after running fifteen or twenty miles, is also a very good trout stream. The wild country about the sources of these brooks is little known, although quite near Fredericton, and small lakes exist there, as yet unmapped. Moose still frequent the region.

It would be tedious to enumerate all the streams in the St. John system, and throughout New Brunswick, that have received no more distinguishing an appellation than that of “Little River,” but the largest, undoubtedly, is the one flowing into French Lake, a stream more or less settled for some distance, and “canoeable” at ordinary water. Bear Brook, a principal tributary, may be reached by wood-road from the Nashwaak valley, and whoever delights to catch very small trout in unheard-of numbers should thrust that portion of his body which contains the collected perceptive organs of sense into the folds of a mosquito netting, and pay the brook a visit.

Maquapit, somewhat larger than French Lake, is seven miles long by two wide, and continued eastward in a small river of the same name. Loder Creek, a deep and sluggish channel, connects it with the St. John, thereby cutting off from the Sheffield flat what is virtually a great alluvial island, larger than any other in the basin of the St. John, thirteen miles in length, with an extreme breadth of four miles. The island may soon become mainland, as the creek, once a common and convenient thoroughfare, is said to be badly obstructed by logs deposited during the floods. The southwestern shores of Maquapit, and of the channel connecting it with Grand Lake, were famous Indian camping grounds in prehistoric times, and the muddy banks contain bits of broken pottery, stone implements curiously marked, and flint arrow-heads, which often lie exposed where the alluvium has been eroded by ice, and the loose material filtered by flood-water.

Duck-shooting over the marsh lands of the Jemseg and Oromocto is a favorite sport, and during a freshet, when French, Maquapit, and Grand Lakes invariably become one great irregular sheet of water, the sportsman may lose his bearings in the excitement of the chase.

V – The Washademoak

The Washademoak is second in the series of fluvial fiords having the phenomenal parallelism already noted; and the Canaan River, its geographical continuation, which is separated by a very low watershed from the sources of the Buctouche and Cocagne rivers, rises within fifteen miles of tidewater in the Straits of Northumberland. Not only these lake-like expansions of the St. John, but the valleys of their principal affluents, are invariably parallel to each other.

Canoes may ascend the Washademoak and Canaan to the extreme headwaters, the former being twenty, the latter seventy-two miles long. The Canaan closely resembles Salmon River of Grand Lake in its smooth, swiftly flowing current and freedom from falls and rapids. The country about the upper portion of the Washademoak Lake was settled one hundred years ago, when many northern branches of the St. John were quite unknown to the invading white man; but wilderness land, wide caribou plains, and peat-bogs still surround the Upper Canaan, no settlement appearing on the stream for many miles. The moose and caribou hunter may yet enter the forests here with reasonable expectations of success. In average width the lake does not exceed three quarters of a mile, but at Belyea’s Cove it is three, and at Lewis’s Cove four miles from shore to shore. The Canaan north fork is the principal tributary on the right-hand side, and many large brooks enter from the south, often having picturesque falls where they pour down into the valley. Cole’s Island, one of the few inhabited islands on the St. John waters, marks the limit of navigation for steamboats and schooners.

VI – The Belleisle

Belleisle Bay, eleven miles in length, reposes in a deep valley, which is, as usual, continued eastward much beyond the head of the bay, and drained by a small stream, likewise called Belleisle. The valley is thickly settled, and very fertile, the soil being a dark red loam; and the beautiful scenery of the bay may be viewed from the deck of a steamboat that ascends several times a week. A singular promontory, twenty-five miles long by six broad, known as the Kingston Peninsula, extends southwesterly between Belleisle and Kennebecasis bays, and is almost divided by Kingston Creek, a deep indentation of the southern shore of the Belleisle. Skaters pass up this creek on their way from Fredericton to St. John, to avoid the weak and treacherous ice of the Grand Bay. Another deep cove is found near the mouth of the Belleisle, running parallel to the Long Reach on the St. John, and separated therefrom by a picturesque promontory called Gorham’s Bluff, the sides of which are bold and rocky, the top crowned with woods. The southern terminus of the Kingston Peninsula is called The Land’s End.

VII – The Kennebecasis

The Kennebecasis River, or rather lake and river, forms another remarkable fiord parallel to both the Washademoak and Belleisle. It rises in the parish of Waterford, near the sources of Pollet River (a stream flowing northerly into the Petitcodiac) and the Point Wolf, a small river falling directly into the Bay of Fundy; thence it makes a sweeping bend northeast, north, and west, and, entering one of the parallel valleys, flows southwesterly to Grand Bay on the St. John. The river and lake drain eight hundred and fifty square miles, and their length combined about equals that of the Washademoak and Canaan, the lake alone being eighteen miles long. The Kennebecasis is “canoeable” everywhere, and usually navigable for boats as well. The principal tributaries are Smith’s Creek and Studholm’s Mill Stream, flowing southerly; and the South Branch, Trout Creek, and Hammond River, flowing north and east. Smith’s Creek winds through a narrow valley at the base of Mount Pisgah, and enters the upper Kennebecasis, more often called Salmon River. Hammond River is fed by numerous rivulets intersecting a rugged and highly picturesque country bordering the northeastern coast of the Bay of Fundy, and above the cultivated land at the mouth it rushes through a narrow, rocky gorge. Henry’s Lake, near Quaco, was once famous for trout; but since the construction of the St. Martin’s and Upham Railway brought this region within easy access of St. John, the number of anglers has ever increased, the number of fish diminished. The valley of Hammond River is approximately parallel to that of the Kennebecasis. Indeed, all the larger streams hereabout seem unable to run otherwise than parallel to all their neighbors, unless when making cross-cuts from valley to valley.

The largest islands encompassed by any St. John water, excluding the great alluvial deposit cut off from Sheffield flat by Loder Creek, are Long and Darling’s islands on the Kennebecasis, both inhabited and traversed by roads. Darling’s Island connects with the mainland at low water; but Long Island, which is the most elevated as well as one of the largest St. John River islands, stands well off shore. On the east side a huge precipice, called the Minister’s Face, rises almost perpendicularly from the water’s edge.

Probably no other tributary is so well settled as the Kennebecasis, and on no other can soils of such fertility be found. Norton and Sussex vales are, with Sheffield and Maugerville, the gardens of New Brunswick, and the chances are that no unopened tracts in the interior will ever equal them. The Intercolonial Railway follows the valley for many miles, passing through Rothesay, Hampton, Sussex, and many other pleasant villages, famous as summer resorts for the citizens of New Brunswick’s somewhat foggy metropolis, the city of St. John.

Boar’s Head marks the southerly termination of Kennebecasis Bay. Although this steep and rugged cape is but fifty feet in height, the water is computed to be two hundred and twenty feet deep at the base, the greatest depth yet found in any St. John water excepting Lake Temiscouata.

VIII – The Nerepis River

The Nerepis River, entering from the west at the foot of the Long Reach, drains a large country between the valleys of the Oromocto and St. John rivers, and receives ten small affluents. It becomes considerably developed, as Mr. Cooney would say, by a gradual expansion, and by the contributions of a variety of undistinguished rivulets. Marsh lands extend along the lower course (annually flooded by back-water from the St. John), where the channel is tortuous and deep, the current sluggish. At ordinary water canoes may ascend the stream to Fowler’s Fall, sixteen miles from the mouth. The bridge crossing the marsh lands above Westfield is the longest over any branch of the St. John, but its architectural beauty is somewhat less conspicuous than its length.

Such brooks as flow westerly into the Nerepis originate in a myriad of little ponds and lakes, occupying the depressions in the Nerepis Granite Range. The country is rough and densely wooded; the lakes perfect gems of natural beauty, often lying in deep, cup-shaped hollows. Granite boulders of all dimensions often cover the outlets and inlets, and over these thick mosses have grown, so hiding the little rills of water beneath that it is sometimes difficult to trace the direction of their flow. Many of the lakes abound with trout, but a person wishing to angle or explore must shoulder his blanket and provisions, and “rough it”’ in good earnest.

Near Fowler’s Fall the river winds through a deep ravine between the mountains, rounding the bases of precipitous cliffs, which confine the valley for a considerable distance. Douglas Mountain, the Eagle Cliffs, and other rugged hills add great sublimity to the Nerepis scenery.

IX – The Tidal Fall

Two miles from the Boar’s Head the river enters the Narrows, a deep chasm, flanked by lofty mural cliffs, somewhat resembling those on the Lower Saguenay, and formed in rocks of similar age. Below the Narrows there is an expansion, and then another chasm, shorter than the first, which contains within its massive walls the famous tidal cataract, where the fresh waters of the river daily struggle for mastery with the phenomenal tides of the bay. The salt water first rushes in with great velocity until it reaches Grand and Kennebecasis bays, over which it spreads quite evenly, losing both speed and power; then the accumulated mass of fresh and salt water pours out again in a rapid that compares with those above Niagara whirlpool. The speed of the current here has been estimated at twenty-five knots an hour.

If it were not for the great catch-basin above the Narrows, the full strength of the in-rushing flood would be felt many miles up the river, to the damage of intervales and islands. The commotion at the fall is due to the presence of ledges beneath the surface, while in the Narrows the river is always quiet and navigable, but ominously deep. On the brink of the fall an elevated rocky island appears, separated from the eastern shore by a narrow channel, and to many the sight is more pleasing than that of the Niagara rapids, the surroundings having a greater diversity and picturesqueness. The best view is obtained from the mill on the Fairville side, but the visitor should also scramble along the cliff between the suspension bridge and Indiantown.

The depth at the fall, between the mill and island, varies from eight to twenty-two feet; while in the small basin below, one hundred and twenty-six feet is recorded, and, in the larger basin above, from one hundred and twenty-two to two hundred and four feet. Opposite Indiantown the river is one hundred and ninety-five feet deep; and in Grand Bay it continues of great depth, varying from one hundred and four to one hundred and sixty feet. The water thus attains greater depths both above and below the Narrows and fall than in them, a fact favoring the theory that the river’s passage from Grand Bay to the lower basin is through a mere valley of erosion, as at Grand Falls, rather than through a crack or fissure produced by some violent separation of the rock. The existence of a probable pre-glacial channel extending from the harbor to Kennebecasis Bay, by way of the Marsh Creek and Drury’s Cove, is yet more conclusive evidence in favor of the erosion theory. Professor Hind says: “The falls at the mouth of the St. John are not falls in the ordinary acceptation of the term; they result from the narrow and shallow outlet through which the tide, which rises with great rapidity, has to pass. The outlet is not sufficiently broad or deep to admit the tidal waters with their rise, hence a fall inwards is produced during the flow; at the ebb the tide recedes faster than the outlet of the river can admit of the escape of the waters accumulated within the inner basin, hence a fall outwards. The following are instructions for going through the falls, which apply, we believe, to no other ‘falls’ in the world: The falls are level, or it is still water, at about three and a half hours on the flood, and about two and a half on the ebb; so that they are passable four times in twenty-four hours, about ten or fifteen minutes at each time. No other rule can be given, as much depends on the floods in the river, and the time of high water or full sea, which is often hastened by southerly winds. For a few days in the spring of the year, the height of the water in the river renders the passage of the falls extremely difficult.” Between the falls and the harbor the river contracts, at low water, within a deep and narrow channel between banks of slimy mud; and thus ignominiously it glides along, black and foam-flaked, to mingle its waters with the bay.


Written by johnwood1946

August 7, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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