Kouchibouguac National Park Things to Do Tips by Bwana_Brown
Kouchibouguac National Park Things to Do: 18 reviews and 20 photos
At the Information Centre
When you enter Kouchibouguac National Park's main entrance, your obvious first stop is at the Visitor's Centre. If you have not already bought your Day Pass at the highway booth (US$5 per adult in our case) you can also pick one up here. Because of the early-morning showers on our first day, we only checked-in at 11 AM, but the day pass was valid until noon the next day - perfect for us!
There is ample parking and picnic sites are scattered among the trees outside the Centre itself. Inside, the staff are more than willing to help with any questions and supply you with free maps of the roads and trails. In addition, there are washroom facilities, an interpretive centre detailing the background of the area and a gift shop.
The thing that most caught our eye was this nice set of statues commemorating the early Acadian settlers to this area.
Directions: National Park Information Centre, 14 km (9 miles) north of Richibucto, NB
It was early on a Saturday afternoon (2 weeks after my visit with Russ) when my wife and I arrived in the Park, following a late-start drive from our home in Fredericton. The first thing we did was head for the beach - and I could not believe how much busier it was this weekend! It was a great day, hot and sunny with a beautiful stiff breeze blowing along the beach. We headed to the right after crossing the boardwalk and found ourselves a nice spot behind a high sand bank where we could set up our folding chairs and lay out the beach towels. The water felt amazingly refreshing as we went in for a swim, and the breeze did a great job of making the temperatures comfortable instead of sweltering! There were a few beach umbrellas that became unstuck and went cart-wheeling by as we sat there!
The next day, after trying some of the walking trails, we arrived on the beach before noon and found a much quieter spot, with the wind speed also down significantly. This time, we decided to walk to the left of the boardwalk and found a spot where we could just sit with our feet in the refreshingly cool water. I had my bird book and binoculars so had a great time just watching the wildlife activities. Among other things, I spotted two Great Blue Herons passing overhead with their 4-foot wingspans and couple of Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawks) being harried themselves by Terns. The sea birds seemed to be saying that this is our territory out here!
Directions: Kelly's Beach
Viewing Tower & Boardwalk in the Bog
I had not had the time to sample the Hiking trails during my previous excursion to the Park, so took the opportunity to do so with my wife. Most of these walks are not very long and involve a stroll through the forest and on boardwalks to sample some of the different ecological features of Kouchibouguac.
The Salt Marsh (le Marais Sale) walk took us through a transistion zone from forest to a coastal marsh with explanations of the various flora and fauna, including some tall examples of Elephant Grass.
Next up was the Beaver (le Castor) walk, mostly on a boardwalk, into a marshy area created by an old beaver dam. This dam and it's now swamp has not been used by beavers in almost 20 years, since they ate out the local food supply. As a result, it is quite overgrown and it was a bit of a disappointment.
We finished off with the longer 1.9-km (1.2-mile) Bog walk (la Tourbiere). This hiking trail featured a nice wooden viewing tower from which we could get a nice overview of this peat moss bog.
Watercraft Rentals at Ryans
Two weeks earlier, after finishing up with the Kellys Beach area, Russ and I continued biking along the coastal trail toward the north of the Park. It was not long before we arrived at 'Ryans', the main hub of activity in the Park.
Located here are numerous very nice camping spots, spread out among the trees and close to the coast. Daily fees range from C$28/night with electrical hook-up, C$24 without electricity and dropping to C$9/person/night for backpack camping at some of the more remote and basic park locations. Ryans also offers bicycle (& helmet) rentals for C$5/hour (US$4)as well as kayak, canoe, paddleboat and row boat rentals if you want to explore the many rivers and estuaries.
As for us, we enjoyed a brief stop at the nice restaurant and convenience store here, where we picked up more water bottles and had another ice-cream cone!
Directions: At the mouth of the Kouchibouguac River and near the end of the automobile road in the Park.
Looking up Major Kollock Creek from the Coast
Reaching the end of the mountain biking trail was a relief! The hardest thing about the trail was the constant use of muscles in the hands and forearms, due to non-stop braking and steering while your hands and handlebars were drenched in moisture off the leaves of trees and bushes along the trail. Of course, I say this because I have been biking to work all summer, so my legs are used to it - just not the constant steering and braking.
As the forest finally opened up at the coastline, it was great to take a look back up Major Kollock Creek. This view was taken from one of the park roads and shows the coastal estuary leading up into the creek. The biking trail takes you along the right side here, with views through the trees down into the water. We enjoyed the experience so much that we returned on the morning of our second day for another go at it!
Directions: This view is only a few kms from the Boardwalk to Kellys Beach.
The Bog Slowly Takes Over!
This photo shows the view of the peat bog from the wooden observation tower located along the Bog Trail. The 'domed' bog is about 3 sq. km in size and began to form about 4500 years ago (around the time the Pyramids were being built in Egypt) according to the Park scientists.
The bog forms because of an impervious layer of soil that retains the acidic moisture that falls from the sky. As the plant matter on the surface of the bog decays and is replaced by new growth the depth of the bog gradually increases. This bog is now 6-m (19-ft) deep, giving it a growth rate of only 5 inches every century! With the acidic water trapped in this growing 'bowl', the plant and animal matter that ends up in the bog is actually 'pickled' due to the lack of oxygen and this has led to some interesting finds deep within the bogs of the world. In our case, all we saw were some bleached bones of what looked like a Moose.
The newest and most acidic part of the bog is on its growing outer edges, which is why there are fewer large plants close to the tall trees of the forest. Gradually the bog will keep expanding as the acidity kills the large trees and promotes different plant life.
Piping Plovers Playing with the Waves
The dunes of the Park are home to one of Canada's endangered bird species, the Piping Plover, here seen frolicking along the beach with the ebb and flow of the waves.
The Piping Plover is a Starling-size shorebird whose plaintive whistle cry can be heard along certain stretches of the Park's sandy beaches. This shorebird is well camouflaged with a head and back the colour of pale dried sand and a black bar over a white forehead and a single black breast band. To prevent inadvertent damage by beachcombers and swimmers to the nests and eggs of this legally protected species, important breeding, nesting, rearing and staging areas of the dunes are temporarily closed to the public at critical periods during the spring and summer. These areas of the barrier islands are marked in 'red' on the Park maps in my 'General Tips'.
The area of beach in the background is the small section where lifeguards are on duty, keeping an eye on the several groups of people who were enjoying a refreshing swim. Off-shore, we could see other park visitors paddling their rented canoes and kayaks.
Directions: Kelly's Beach
Passing a Beaver Dam
After leaving Ryans on the biking trail, we found it to be too tame following our earlier excitement on the mountain biking trail. As a result, when we reached La Source, we decided to veer off onto a hiking trail along the south side of the Kouchibouguac River. This was not designed for bikes, so it was narrow, bumpy and loaded with hills and valleys - along with occasional great views of the river. We were in our element again as we dealt with the various obstacles on this trail. It was a warm afternoon and the sweat was soon dripping off us even though we were in the cool shade of the forest most of the time. An hour later, we emerged back onto the regular biking trails (not having met a single hiker the whole time) very satisfied with our little detour.
Near the end of this trail, close to Sipu, we crossed a boardwalk that ran past an old grass-covered Beaver Dam. The pond backed up by the dam had drowned the nearby Spruce trees but the Beaver at least had enough water to build his mud and branches house in the middle of his private lake! Of course the Beaver sticks many branches and twigs into the muddy bottom of his pond so he can swim out of his underwater entrance during the frozen conditions of winter, to retrieve the necessary food from this larder.
Narrow & Slippery Boardwalk
We really enjoyed the varied scenery along the mountain-biking trail, not that there was much time to savour it! On a narrow, twisting and bumpy trail like this, it was imperative to keep your attention on what the next obstacle was going to be.
Some of the more scenic parts were when we emerged from the forest, such as this one where we first crossed Major Kollock Creek on this specially built boardwalk (one of many that we had to navigate). With the overnight rain, the wooden surface was quite slippery if you put any sideways pressure at all on your steering. It was not good to even think of a wobble either or you were talking about a 2-3 foot sudden drop off the side! Another obstacle involved with the boardwalks was the transition from the trail to the wooden portion - most were only a few inches and could be ridden onto but there were a few that required full brakes and a physical lift of the bikes. Here, some of the background Spruce trees have been drowned by the water along the creek.
The most common form of vegetation on the barrier islands is Marram Grass. This is a tough beach grass species that has adapted itself to deal with the harsh conditions found in coastal dune areas. It's roots go deep in the search for water, helping this grass to bind the sand dunes together and prevent wind erosion. The plant also has leaves which can roll into a tube during dry conditions to reduce evaporation.
It does a great job at Kouchibouguac, but it has become an invasive plant in other areas of the world where it was introduced to help stabilize coastal areas but has begun to choke out native plants.
This view shows part of the lagoon between the barrier islands and the distant mainland, as we started the boardwalk back to our bikes.
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