Exploits Valley (534 km)

The Exploits Valley scenic touring route follows, in part, the traditional Beothuk seasonal route between the interior and the coast, and includes major Beothuk attractions. This area is filled with lakes and rivers, making it ideal for nature enthusiasts.

The Exploits River

If you need assistance as you navigate the many rivers and lakes either by canoe, kayak and/or river raft, contact one of the many tour operators and let them guide you through the wilderness. The Exploits River is the largest and longest river on the island of Newfoundland. It boasts wildlife, beautiful forest, excellent natural campsites, whitewater play spots and a wealth of cultural history. Long ago, the river was the highway for Beothuk Indians.

If hunting and/or fishing are your preferred pastimes, a variety of licensed salmon rivers are available throughout the area and big game is abundant. Restrictions do apply with respect to fishing and hunting in the province. Licensed outfitters are available to assist you in arranging your expedition.

Some history

The Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland were called "red Indians" by early European explorers because they painted their bodies and possessions with ochre. The coming of Europeans to Newfoundland several centuries ago, disrupted the Beothuk's traditional way of life in a tragic way. Gradually, they were squeezed out of their summer coastal villages by newcomers with superior military technology. There were clashes with settlers, often based on the mutual misunderstanding of each other's cultures. By the early 19th century the Beothuk were teetering on the brink of extinction, cut off from the coast and wracked by starvation and European diseases against which they had no immunity.

In 1819, one of the last known Beothuks, Demasduit (Mary March), was captured near Red Indian Lake. The following year, ill with tuberculosis, government officials tried to reunite her with her tribe. They were too late. She died in what is now Botwood, and her body was transported to Red Indian Lake.

The last known Beothuk, Shanawdithit, died at St. John's in 1829. She had been captured with her mother and sister in 1823.

Route 370 to Buchans from Route 1

This tour starts on the shores of Red Indian Lake in the town of Buchans. To get there, take Route 370 from Route 1. The town was established in the 1920s when a copper, lead and zinc mine opened. Those mining operations have now ceased. The town has the distinction of being located virtually in the heart of the geographical landmass of the island of Newfoundland, and is farther from the sea than any other community.

Near Buchans Junction, about 31 kilometres from Buchans, is a stone corral built in an area residents call the Laplanders' Bog. The corral was built by the Sami – the aboriginal peoples of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia – who along with their reindeer, were brought to Newfoundland by Sir Wilfred Grenfell around 1908 in an attempt to introduce the easily-domesticated deer. Some of the reindeer were purchased to haul wood in winter. That experiment failed, however, and all that remains is the corral where the Sami kept their herd.

Red Indian Lake, the second largest lake in Newfoundland, has been described by locals as full of trout, making it a fisherman's paradise. Sport fishing is accessible from nearly all of the 160-kilometre shoreline. While there are limited areas to launch powercraft, several spots are accessible for small boats, canoes, and kayaks.

From Buchans Junction, a few kilometres drive will take you to Millertown, which was named for lumber entrepreneur Lewis Miller. Take time to walk the sandy beaches of Indian Point or climb to the lookout site and witness a breathtaking view of the town and lake.

At the intersection of 370 and Route 1 is Bagder

Badger is a community that literally grew up in the forest. Settled only in the 1890s, Badger became a logging centre and, when the newsprint mill in Grand Falls opened in 1909, headquarters for the mill's wood harvesting operations until 1965. The town's name is celebrated in the song “The Badger Drive” written in 1912 by John V. Devine, which describes the hard life of the loggers who “drove” the logs to the mouth of Badger Brook and then to the mill.

Drive east on Route 1 through Beothuk Park

Heading east again you will travel through a scenic river valley and on to Beothuk Park, where a fascinating exhibit recreates the history of early logging in Newfoundland at Loggers Life Provincial Museum. Visitors can walk through a logging camp and see exhibits that date back to the 1700s. The park is named for the Beothuks, but there are no actual Beothuk sites here. The exhibit includes a barn, a forge, a saw filing shack, a sawpit and a go-devil – a sled with heavy runners used to haul logs over bare ground.

The largest town in the area, Grand Falls-Windsor, was until quite recently a major newsprint supplier from a mill built in the early 20th century. The rise of Internet-based news services and the rapid decline of traditional newspapers decimated the international market on which the mill relied. But unlike similar one-industry towns, Grand Falls-Windsor has defied the nay-sayers who said it had no future. Its economy has diversified, and its status as a major regional centre has been enhanced.

In Grand Falls-Windsor is Mary March Provincial Museum, located on St. Catherine Street. The museum is named in honour of one of the last of the Beothuks and traces the 5,000-year human history of central Newfoundland through a range of exhibits. There are also exhibits on the complex history and traditions of the other native peoples who lived in the region.

The Exploits Valley Salmon Festival is held here every July and features one of the biggest concerts of the summer. Headline acts have included The Tragically Hip, Bryan Adams, Live, and Great Big Sea. The Festival also features dances, food, family day and the famous salmon supper.

The town has one of the most impressive salmon enhancement projects in North America. To visit the Salmonid Interpretation Centre, which is off Scott Avenue, obtain a map from the Visitor Information Centre on Route 1. The centre has exhibits on the habitat, history, biology and ecology of the Atlantic salmon. Guided tours are available, and be sure to visit the glass-walled viewing tank in the visitor centre to see the salmon close up.

Travel east on Route 1 from Grand-Falls-Windsor to Bishop's Falls

This town on the Exploits River dates to the early 19th century. It was founded by John Bishop, but derives its name from Bishop John Inglis who visited the falls in 1827. Its proximity to Grand Falls-Windsor means it, too, relied heavily on the forest as an economic driver, but for many decades it was also a central maintenance depot for the Newfoundland Railway, which was decommissioned in the late 1980s. Prior to the construction of the trans-island highway in the 1960s, the town's 300-metre railway trestle, which still stands, was the only land link across the mighty Exploits.

Branch off Route 1 onto Route 350 to Peterview

This takes you to Peterview and Peter's Arm, an area at the mouth of the Bay of Exploits considered to be the last hunting ground of the Beothuks. Nearby Botwood, which is 14 kilometres from Route 1, is the major shipping port in the Bay of Exploits.

The continuing romance of Botwood is its association with flight. Sidney Cotton, the pioneering aerial reconnaissance photographer, established an air survey company here in 1921 to spot seals during the annual hunt. When transatlantic air service became technically feasible in the 1930s, Botwood was chosen as the site of a seaplane base.

British Imperial Airways and Pan American Airways established the first transatlantic mail service in 1937, with Botwood as the stopover between New York and Ireland. In 1939 the famed Yankee Clipper seaplane, or flying boat as it was known, inaugurated the first commercial passenger service across the Atlantic.

During World War II, Botwood was a military base: its deep, protected harbour was easy to defend with coastal batteries. Famous personalities such as Bob Hope stopped by to entertain the troops. The tarmac for the old seaplane base is still here. Private seaplanes still use Botwood harbour. On display at the tarmac is an old Canso water bomber used to fight forest fires. The Canso is a converted World War II PBY submarine patrol aircraft. Next to the tarmac is the Botwood Heritage Park and Museum, which contains a treasure trove of material on early flight and World War II.

At Northern Arm the highway takes two paths

Continue along Route 350 to Point Leamington named for George Leamington Philips who came from Nova Scotia in 1890 to establish a water-turbine operated sawmill in the community, then called Southwest Arm.

George Leamington Philips' sawmill was located on a river where in centuries past Beothuks used to come each summer to catch salmon. Local lore holds that it was near this river that the Beothuks ambushed Thomas Rowsell, one of their archenemies, killed him and planted his head on a poll.

At the end of Route 350 is Leading Tickles, which has a sandy beach. 'Tickle' refers to a saltwater strait, which is often difficult to navigate because of its narrowness or its treacherous tides. Returning along Route 350, take a quick trip to Glover's Harbour for a photograph of their giant squid – the same size as the real one landed nearby in 1978. South of Point Leamington another road goes east to appropriately named Pleasantview.

Back at Northern Arm, take Route 352 to Bay of Exploits and Phillips Head

Back at Northern Arm, Route 352 will take you through coastal communities in the Bay of Exploits including Phillips Head, named for Joe Phillips, a miner/operator who came in search of iron ore. Here you can still see the remains of a strategic World War II gun battery that was placed here to defend Botwood. The old battery site provides a great view across the bay to Laurenceton but the trail to the site is rugged.

Point of Bay overlooks the Bay of Exploits and its many islands. The rounded shapes of some islands here and throughout Notre Dame Bay indicates their volcanic origin, and a number of copper mines once operated throughout the area. On a geological formation known as the `Wild Bight Volcanics,' there were at least five mines. Maritime Archaic Indians occupied some of these islands thousands of years ago, and were succeeded by Groswater and Dorset Eskimos, and then by the Beothuks.

The Europeans found that the islands in the Bay of Exploits provided excellent access to cod and salmon, and also provided some protection from attacks by the Beothuks. The Beothuks were gradually squeezed out of their traditional coastal areas. Their occupation of the many islands in the bay is confirmed by dozens of archaeological finds.

After the Beothuks were displaced, the islands were occupied by settlers from Somerset and other parts of England, and prospered into the 20th century when setbacks in the fishery and a resettlement program prompted many people to abandon the islands for steadier work in the forestry industry. Today it's a popular location for summer homes.

Drive further North on Route 352 to Cottrell's Cove

Further north on Route 352 are Cottrell's Cove, Fortune Harbour and Moore's Cove, which is at the end of a short unpaved road. Fortune Harbour was the site of a copper mining operation in the 19th century.

As you tour Notre Dame Bay you'll come upon a number of aquaculture sites, most of which involve farming blue mussels and other shellfish. Aquaculture is the fastest growing segment of the fishery as effort and investment shift from group fish species like cod to farmed species like mussels.

To visit communities at the head of the Bay of Exploits, return to Route 1. Norris Arm is on Route 351. People flocked to the Bay of Exploits area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to work in the logging industry.

Before Lewisporte was developed, Norris Arm was the only railhead on Notre Dame Bay. It also played a pivotal role in the development of air services in the North Atlantic. The town's Fox Moth museum, a splendid re-creation of its 1930s seaplane hangar, tells the little-known stories of this Bay of Exploits town. Its location is significant for another reason: it's where the Exploits meets the sea, and the constant tidal changes at the river mouth make it a favourite for salmon anglers and raptors like osprey that hunt here. There's a beautiful view across the bay to Norris Arm North, which is also known as Alderburn. To reach the north side, return to Route 1 and drive east to the turn-off.