So many choices, so little time. That was our dilemma in New Brunswick, which enjoys a huge range in paddling opportunities.
The obvious attraction of running with the tide on the Bay of Fundy or checking out bays near St. Andrew’s-by-the-Sea pulled at us, but logistics and a need for some diversity narrowed our Canada 150 experience in the fourth province of our cross-country celebration.
We chose a little wildness at Kouchibouguac National Park on New Brunswick’s Northumberland Strait shore and a city backdrop with the St. John River in the province’s capitol, Fredericton.
Major Kollock Creek was a tranquil introduction to paddling in New Brunswick, which enjoys an embarrassment of lovely and lively water.
Since we were crossing the country at a 335-kilometre-a-day clip, sometimes the road easier taken won out. Even so, both experiences were rewarding.
Kouchibouguac is a sprawling park with plenty of paddling options, from creeks to saltwater lagoons and a broad shoreline, much of it backed by dunes. We put in just off the park’s main road in Major Kollock Creek, a shallow channel with pines crowding tight to its banks and a therapeutic stillness broken only by a trilling of birds or splash of a beaver.
After taking some of its pristine measure, we ducked under a low bridge spanning the park road into a salt marsh that widened to a large shallow basin. Throughout, the padding was easy with little wind, temperatures in the mid-teens and an immaculate blue sky.
Kayakers prepare to pop under a bridge on Kouchibouguac National Park’s main road to paddle from Major Kollock Creek to a salt lagoon backed by sand dunes.
A long wooden footbridge connects one section of the park to one of the extensive beach areas at Kouchibouquac National Park.
All told, it cried out for more but the drumbeat of the clock worked against a languid day on the water. Still, we did get in a good sleep at a rustic cabin in Kouchibouquac Resort, right on the edge of the park, and a very good meal at Pizza 5 Etoiles.
Now you need to be sure of your product when you call it five stars, but the kitchen in the old house in Saint Louis de Kent, a short drive from the park, delivered wonderfully.
Pam and John enjoy a little downtime before the next leg of their 335-kilometre per day cross-county trip. The red chairs honouring Canada’s 150th birthday were placed in all of the country’s national parks.
Fredericton greeted us with a sunset that shaped a golden carapace over the city and the river, leaving us wistful we had not arrived earlier to paddle in that glow. Sadly, our time on the water was under dull skies the next day.
A golden glow awaited us when we arrived in Fredericton but it was too late to get on the water before night fell.
We put in beside the Fredericton Rowing Club, the broad expanse of the St. John beckoning. Ironically, there was a yacht club right behind our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Fredericton — Lord Beaverbrook, but no suitable spot to launch.
The stylish hotel, with old-world lobby and impressive dual staircase, is across Queen Street from the theatre, The Playhouse, which pulsed on our only night in town, and is central to restaurants and shops.
Glorious Burgers At 540
We recharged the night before our St. John paddle at 540 Kitchen & Bar Gastropub, also on Queen Street, which features a rotating roster of top-ten Maritime draft beers. The burgers on Brioche bread tugged at us like a river’s tide and were perfectly sized for our appetites along with the fresh-cut fries.
The St. John offered us a tide that seemed subtle until you paddled back against it. We played around the giant supports of the Westmoreland Street Bridge and took in the city’s low-rise profile.
Pam paddles parallel to the shore, which is deceptively close to the downtown area. The city’s rowing club site offers a convenient spot to put in.
With the glorious stretches of the river viewed as we drove towards Quebec following our paddle, the notion of a multi-day trip down the river emerged. It is so pristine, we talked about how to do it in the most respectful way.
Feature photo: Pam heads out into a shallow bay from Major Kollock Creek, one of several places to paddle in Kouchibouquac National Park.