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Pam Martin & John Kernaghan

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Paddle No. 3 came in Nova Scotia and provided a whole different experience. The swift passage down the shallow Margaree River in Cape Breton demanded you remain mentally alert, a challenge after the overnight ferry from Newfoundland.
The trip aboard Marine Atlantic’s Highlander was comfortable in the cabin that came free just before sailing, but the seven-hour voyage across The Cabot Strait didn’t provide enough time for the sleep we craved.

Beautiful Margaree in the Margaree Valley, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

The beautiful Margaree River Valley, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

 

Canada 150

Nova Scotia was the second province in our Canada 150 project, a mission to celebrate the nation’s waterways in a 30-day trip from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island.

We had driven alongside the Margaree previous years during visits to Cape Breton’s wonderful fall music festival, Celtic Colours, and wished we could paddle the pristine waters. But we needed some expert help navigating and Jeremy Smith of CB West Paddle Boards offered to lead us down the river he routinely runs tours on.

Jeremy Smith of CB West Adventures

Jeremy Smith of CB West Paddle Boards shares his love of both Cape Breton and Stand Up Paddleboarding  with a smile.

 

Paddling the Margaree.

Jeremy Smith, of CB West Paddle Boards, showing us his beautiful Margaree River paddling routes.

 

Jeremy grew up in the area and recently started the adventure company to share his love of the river and coastal areas in western parts of the island.

He met us at the Margaree library, where we carried the boards back to a launch point where water pooled just before a short but swift run would “have you away to the races” in Jeremy’s words.

 

 

 

The location was a short drive from our accommodation, the Margaree Riverview Inn, a clean and basic motel with sweeping lawns and outdoor pool.

 

Margaree Riverview Inn

The Margaree Riverview Inn – a shingled perch overlooking the picturesque Margaree Valley.

For most of the five kilometre run, it felt kaleidoscopic as we were flying over a marbled river bed of stones. The depth was mostly about 18 inches but our fins crunched on gravel a few times and we got up and walked the boards on a few occasions, twice out of respect for anglers.

And as if on cue, a large salmon performed an arcing leap about 20 metres in front of us minutes into the paddle, while a bald eagle swooped by later.

 

 

 

There was also a couple of exciting moments running rapid water in gaps near rocks and banking sharply to avoid hitting them. The paddle finished with a sedate meander through a marshy area and a channel that led to a local road.

Secret launch!

No one knows the secret launch sites, tucked away along the Margaree River, better than Jeremy Smith of CB West Paddle Boards.

Paddling through Old Master’s Painting

Peaceful Margaree paddling.

Around every turn is another vista reminiscent of Old Master’s landscapes.

 

Kaleidoscopic river bottom.

Colour surrounded us, from the stormy clouds above, verdant fields and valley to all sides, and the kaleidoscopic river bottom, beneath.

Coloured with the brush of nature.

Painted with the brush of nature, Margaree’s allure is irresistible.

 

Soaring Eagles, Leaping Salmon & Cinnamon Buns

Mid adventure break.

A mid adventure stop along a calm pool of the Margaree River. Fresh cinnamon buns were a tasty treat after the excitement of gentle rapids, soaring eagles and leaping salmon.

Happy paddler.

The smile says it all!

 

Jeremy’s CB West Paddle Boards also runs tours at Margaree Harbour and Cheticamp and offers rentals at the Cheticamp beach.

Local Gastronomy

Afterward, we repaired to The Lakes Restaurant in North East Margaree for a nice family-style meal with local friend Hilda Murphy and wine afterward around Hilda’s roaring fire pit.

A local eating gem is The Dancing Goat in Margaree, which was crowded Sunday morning with devotees noshing on menu items like blueberry pancakes and sausage or the Goat’s special oatmeal (Goatmeal?) in a sunny setting.

Breakfast

 

 

Meantime in nearby Baddeck, you might want to be enticed by the meals and baked goods at the Highwheeler Cafe & Bakery, which makes killer oatcakes and cinnamon buns. A must-visit is the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, which features a museum showcasing the inventor’s breadth of work. Bell also developed new thinking with airplanes, education for the deaf and artificial respiration.

Red Chairs at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.

Enjoying the views of the Kidston Island Lighthouse from Parks Canada’s red chairs at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.

 

It was tough to break away from Cape Breton’s rugged charm, but the pace we had set was unrelenting — 17 more paddles to go!

 


 

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