CANADA’S BAY OF FUNDY: Where Whitewater Rapids Rush UP a River, Guest Post by Caroline Hatton

Rapids rushing up the Saint John River, New Brunswick, Canada

My friend and fellow children’s book author Caroline Hatton visited the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada, in October 2014. She took the photos and the video in this post.

Whitewater rapids caused by rising tides reversing the flow of a river? I had to see this. I had long known, from nature documentaries, about the world’s highest tides in the Bay of Fundy. But all I had seen was time-lapse videos of the corresponding, extreme ebbing tides lowering fishing boats the height of a five-story building, so that the boats had to be on extra long tethers to avoid dangling vertically like dead fish on a hook.

Weeks before traveling to the Bay of Fundy, I listed the “Reversing Rapids”  (in Saint John, New Brunswick) on my itinerary and googled Saint John Tide Times. Once in Saint John, I arrived at Fallsview Park on Fallsview Avenue in time for the high tide.
Red dot: location of Saint John in the Bay of Fundy
Tourists weren’t the only ones lining up to attend nature’s show. Cormorants also gathered on a small, rocky island in the river.
Here's my video of rapids rushing up the Saint John River:

The video shows the Saint John River, a church steeple on the opposite river bank, and the tips of two small islands. Left is down the river toward the Bay of Fundy. Right is up the river. In the few hours before I recorded the video, the tide had risen higher than the river level, gradually reversing the direction in which the water flowed. The narrow rocky gorge at this spot on the river squeezed this enormous volume of sea water, the same way a nozzle would. This created whitewater rapids, which peaked at high tide, the time of the video. Twice a day, the effects of the high tide can be felt more than 80 miles (~ 127 km) inland!
The cormorants, uninhibited by the violent whirlpools and churning foam, repeatedly flew up the water flow, plopped down, and dove out of sight to catch what must have been fish swept inland by the high tide. The birds resurfaced too far for me to tell whether they were visibly fatter.

After I left, the reverse flow would have slowed down as the sea water level began to go down. The sea and river water levels would have become equal, making the river look like a motionless pool for about 20 minutes between the high and low tide (slack tide). As the sea level dropped below the river level, the flow down the river would have grown stronger, until rapids rushed down the river at low tide. The flow down the river would have slowed until the next slack tide half-way to the next high tide. And this cycle of “Reversing Rapids” repeats itself twice a day.
Fern Fossil, New Brunswick Museum, Saint John
Instead of watching the complete cycle, I enjoyed learning more at the Saint John InformationVisitor Centre, seeing fossils and art at the New Brunswick Museum, and shopping indoor at St John’s City Market.
Saint John’s City Market
For more info:

Caroline Hatton's post about the tidal bore at Truro near the Bay of Fundy.

Caroline Hatton's post about the collapse of The Hole on Long Island in the Bay of Fundy.

Caroline Hatton's post about the Bay of Fundy’s Joggins Fossil Cliffs.

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