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- Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
Kejimkujik National Park in western Nova Scotia epitomizes the best of the province's two worlds – a glorious coastline and a backcountry blanketed with forests and dotted with lakes.
BY GAÉTAN FONTAINE, text and photographs courtesy of Canadian Tourism Commission
Kejimkujik National Park is actually two worlds in one. Divided into two separate and distinct blocks of land, it includes both a vast inland area of beautiful Acadian mixed forest, and a smaller region that hugs the rugged shoreline of the Atlantic coast. Visitors to the park, located a little over 160 kilometres west of Halifax, are enchanted by the unusual concept.
The coastal region, known as the Seaside Adjunct, is one of the few places in the province having a protected coastline. Elsewhere in Nova Scotia, ocean-side lands are rarely in the public domain, but the seashore is still accessible in this part of Kejimkujik.
Visitors can explore the Seaside Adjunct's rich habitat via a self-guided 5.5-kilometre trail that's marked with interpretive panels. The trail meanders through dense, two-metre-high shrubbery that gradually gives way to peat bogs and barrens.
All along the shore, rocky headlands march into the rough waters of the Atlantic and waves crash against the craggy coast. Small beaches and turquoise-hued inlets are tucked among the headlands. The wind blows constantly and stunted spruce trees and other vegetation cling to life tenaciously.
Exploring the area, you may very well spot a river otter or mink busily searching for crabs and other shellfish. Harbour seals, gathered in immense groups, are also among the park's regular visitors. But sightings of the piping plover, an endangered shorebird, are rare.
Lakes and Forests
- Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
The inland portion of the park, about 100 kilometres north of the Adjunct, presents a very different picture. It is a landscape of forests that's paradise on earth for campers. Dotted with lakes and laced with rivers, the park is also the perfect setting for canoeing, kayaking and other water sports. Canoe camping around Kejimkujik Lake is very popular: you're even allowed to pitch tents on small, isolated islands.
There's plenty to please walkers, too. The park boasts 15 day-walking trails, each markedly different from the other. One of them, called Hemlocks and Hardwoods, leads through a grove of some of eastern Canada's oldest hemlock trees, including gigantic specimens that are more than 300 years old.
Kejimkujik is also the richest area for turtles in Atlantic Canada. It is home to three species, including the eastern painted turtle, the most common and most often sighted. The snapping turtle, which can weigh up to five kilos, typically only leaves the water during nesting season in late June and early July. The Blanding's turtle is rarer still. There are fewer than 200 in Nova Scotia, with an estimated 75 of them living in the park. Their survival is so precarious that their movements are tracked via radio telemetry.
You're most likely to spot turtles while canoeing or kayaking. Like humans, turtles adore the warm rays of the sun, and they can spend hours basking on rocks or old logs. They may be cold-blooded, but they still know a thing or two about living the good life.
IF YOU GO
For more information on this or other Canadian destinations, visit the Canadian Tourism Commission's website at travelcanada.ca.
- Airlines: Air Canada (1-888-247-2262 or www.aircanada.ca), Air Canada Jazz (1-888-247-2262 or www.flyjazz.ca), Tango (1-800-315-1390 or www.flytango.ca), Can Jet (1-800-809-7777 or www.canjet.ca) and Jetsgo (1-866-440-0441 or www.jetsgo.net) serve Halifax from many Canadian cities.
- Ferries: Ferries connect Argentia and Port-aux-Basques in Newfoundland to North Sydney, N.S. (1-800-341-7981 or www.marine-atlantic.ca); Wood Islands, P.E.I., to Caribou, N.S.; and Saint John, N.B., to Digby, N.S. (1-800-565-0201, 902-566-3838 or www.nfl-bay.com).
- Other: VIA Rail (1-888-842-7245 or www.viarail.ca) and Greyhound (1-800-661-8747 or www.greyhound.ca) also serve Nova Scotia other points in Canada.
- You can pick up a variety of informative brochures at Kejimkujik. The park has 360 semi-serviced sites, suitable for tent or trailer, plus 46 canoe-camping and backcountry campsites as well as several group campsites; call 1-800-414-6765 for reservations. Canoes and kayaks can be rented onsite. Fishing allowed from April 1 to August 31; permit required (902-682-2772 or www.parcscanada.gc.ca).
- Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture: 1-800 565-0000 or www.novascotia.com.
Photojournalist Gaétan Fontaine specializes in travel destinations and outdoor activities. He is a regular contributor to Géo Plein Air and Vélo Mag magazines. For many years he was the outdoor columnist for the Montreal daily La Presse. He has also written for the magazines Elle Quebec and enRoute.