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Exploring one of Newfoundland’s last frontiers

16 Jan 2012 by Janice Goudie in Nature , History , Parks and Geography
Region: Central


It was a day ripped straight from a Star Wars movie. There we were, heading into the wild unknown aboard our airship, all seemingly unaware of what may lay ahead...Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. But it was a great day exploring the Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve, one of the last wilderness areas of insular Newfoundland. It’s an area that few seem to know exist and even fewer have ever been. But fortunately for me, I got a recent opportunity to explore part of this area firsthand.

Now mind you, I didn’t trek its vast landscape like explorer William Cormack did on a cross-island hike in 1822. No, we took a more modern approach to seeing the beauty of this area – helicopter. Taking flight from Conne River, the province’s only first nations reserve, we headed over the rolling hills into a region known for its wildlife and pure allure.

At first, it was hard to understand just how limitless this 2,895-square-km reserve is. But as we manoeuvred over ponds, rivers and bogs where we caught glimpses of roaming caribou below, the sheer size of the area started to become more evident, along with its unique beauty.

There are several spectacular topographic features of the Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve which includes Mount Sylvester, the Tolt and Smokey Falls on the Bay du Nord river (a Canadian Heritage river) – all of which we flew over.

Mount Sylvester is a popular snowmobiling destination and the community of Conne River plan an annual family excursion to its summit.  We touched down there to admire the famed rock structure placed by geologist James Howley, and, of course, to get a souvenir photo of our day.

Thinking this had to be the day’s highlight, I wasn’t expecting Smokey Falls to evoke as big an impression on me as the high peaked mountain did. But was I wrong. As we flew along the river and lush forest towards the falls, it was the rising mist from the roaring cascade of water that indicated this was no trickling stream.

As we circled the waterfall one last time before heading back home, I figured we had seen all there was to see. But as the sun set, it illuminated the rolling fjords of the south coast and reminded me there’s always more to explore. Perhaps next time I’ll explore a little deeper. Canoe, kayaking or wilderness camping trip anyone?

The Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve is located in the interiors of the south eastern region of the island of Newfoundland. It is the largest protected river system in the province, is roaming grounds to the Middle Ridge caribou herd, and home to the largest Canada goose habitat in Newfoundland.