we get bored

Actually, we never get bored — but we did hang around waiting for the tidal bore to sweep by the Maccan Tidal Wetlands Park on Day Four of our maritimes odyssey. This morning, we arrived at the park about an hour before the tidal bore was due to make its appearance. We put the time to good use looking for insects, but more about that below.

I’m not sure of how common tidal bores are in other parts of the world, but they occur on many rivers throughout the Bay of Fundy region in Nova Scotia. For those who are unfamiliar with the Bay of Fundy, it’s the long body of water that separates most of Nova Scotia from New Brunswick. It’s roughly 250 km. long and about 70 km. across at one of its wider points. However, at its uppermost end, it narrows down considerably and terminates in two smaller bays – Chignecto Bay, and Cobequid Bay. As the Atlantic tide comes up the Bay of Fundy, the tidewaters enter the narrowing upper end and are increasingly restricted and forced higher. The result is that the tides along Fundy are among the highest in the world – having been recorded at above 50 feet in certain places. There’s a good explanation of the high tides on this page about the Hopewell Rocks. By the way, the extremely high and often quickly rising tides are something that one should always keep in mind while exploring the coastline or tidal rivers of this region. But back to the tidal bore.

The force of the incoming tide sends a rush of water up most of the tidal rivers that flow into Fundy. Known as the tidal bore, this wall of water comes upriver as the tide turns and waters of the Bay of Fundy begin to flow inland. The height of the bore varies from river to river and tide to tide depending on the lunar cycle, the weather, the shape of the riverbed and banks, and the flow of water coming downriver. Today, I shot a .mov clip of the incoming bore on the Maccan River. You can watch it by clicking on the above image (note: it’s about 1 MB, and requires Quicktime to play – and there’s no sound). The bore at Maccan is quite good — not as high as other sites, but there’s a good viewing point where you can see the bore coming around a bend in the river.

I also shot some before-and-after photos of the Maccan River (see above – click on pair of photos for a larger view). The photo on the left was taken at 10:54 hours, and the one on the right at 12:21 hours — so they were taken just a little under one and a half hours apart. As you can see in the image on the left, the riverbed and banks are almost entirely visible. You won’t be able to see this from the photo, but the water is flowing downstream. In the second photo, the water has risen quite far up the shoreline and the water is flowing backwards against the downstream flow of the river. At peak, the waters can rise well up the river banks depending on the tide cycle. It can be quite rough when it’s flowing upstream, often developing huge undulating waves in a part of the river for a minute or so. They will disappear as quickly as they begin, but start up in another location. The river seems very much alive when these waves are undulating… almost as though there are great sea serpents beneath the water’s surface. The shape of the river is also in a state of constant flux, with the riverbed and shoreline being shaped by the force of the incoming tide. On our three visits to this site, we’ve had the pleasure of speaking with a local resident who lives nearby and has been watching the incoming tidal bore at this site for around 40 or 50 years if I remember correctly. He posts the tide schedule on a notice board at the park and is often present to speak to visitors. Much of the above information has been gleaned from our conversations with this most interesting gentleman.

Now, a word about the insects. We had hoped to see many dragon and damselflies at the Maccan site this morning. Last year, we found many, but they seemed to be scarce on this day – perhaps because the winds were quite brisk. However, it seems that not a day goes by that we don’t see at least one interesting insect. This time, it was an interesting “spider mimic” fly. I’ve seen similar before, but this one was particularly convincing (see above photo – click for larger view). In fact, I noticed it after watching a snooping damselfly back off from the fly when it raised and wiggled its black-marked wings. We also saw a very convincing bumble-bee mimic fly which was almost identical to one that I wrote about finding several weeks ago at the farm.

Well, that’s all for this post. I’ll save writing about Wards Falls and the Joggins Fossil Cliffs until tonight or tomorrow. Hopefully the info on the tidal bore was of interest and not…ahem…too boring (just couldn’t resist).

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13 Responses to “we get bored”

  1. Xris (Flatbush Gardener) Says:

    I wonder if the height of tides are also linked to latitude. I’ve noticed that tides in Maine, for example, are much higher than they are closer to home, along Long Island.
    Similar to the resonance effects at the Bay of Fundy, I would expect a “sweet spot” in latitude across the world where tides would be stronger/higher than at other latitudes.

  2. burning silo Says:

    Xris – that might well be the case. One thing that I learned yesterday – mentioned by the local resident at Maccan – is that the tides are highest around the full moon for half the year, and around the new moon for the other half. Perhaps the latitude factor is tied to that. Not sure. I do suspect that Maine would probably pick up some of the high tide effect from Fundy as well as the ocean in that area is so influenced by water moving from the south and then trapped in Fundy, etc… Pretty fascinating topic and one that I definitely don’t know much about!

  3. Peter Says:

    Love the video, I’d hate to be standing out there when I saw that coming.

    I found this interesting page on the tides at Fundy


    In a jist, it says the tides are as high as they are because of the shape and locations of the bay and the rotation of the earth relative to the position of the bay. Assuming I read that correctly ;) Apparently the highest tides in the world occur in the Minas basin.

    I can’t wait to go to camping at Blomidon, still another month away.

  4. burning silo Says:

    Peter – Thanks for posting more info on the Fundy tides. I’ll have a read when we reach tonight’s destination — just taking off hiking at Thomas Cove today (great spot, btw). I’m sure you’ll have a great time at Blomidon. Hope you’ll be able to hike to Cape Split. We’ve been meaning to get there for the last couple of trips. Perhaps this time!

  5. pablo Says:

    Today’s lesson. Thanx for this information!

  6. robin andrea Says:

    I love looking at the incoming tide like that on your video. How far upriver are you? We are fascinated by the tidal changes here. We’ve seen as much as a 12 foot difference between high and low tides in one day. I’m sure a lot of birds take advantage of the rising and falling water in the river there, and all the food that those waters carry.

  7. Peter Says:

    Neat Robin Andrea. Where I live here in Halifax thats about the difference between high and low tide too, on a “big” day. Near the bay of Funday (in Minas Basin), it is up to 52 feet!

    “In mid-summer, crustaceans in the intertidal mudflats provide a crucial source of food for the hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds. ”

    Copied from the page here..

    Has a bunch of neat little facts to read there.

  8. romunov Says:

    No freaking way! I found a very similar fly today, but failed to picture it. I cought it while I was swinging for a butterfly.

  9. burning silo Says:

    Pablo – You’re welcome. You sound like me — like to learn at least one new thing each day. Just wish I could remember even a quarter of what I learn. Unfortunately, my memory is rather selective these days. (-:

    Robin – I’m quite fascinated by tides and enjoy watching them come in and go out. When I’m anywhere around the Bay of Fundy, I try to make a point of shooting photos from certain vantage points a few hours apart. In fact, I did quite a bit of that today at Thomas Cove. I’ll probably get some photos up pretty soon (I seem to keep saying that, don’t I?).
    Regarding the distance that the tide travels up the Maccan River — I’m just looking at a map and here are some distances. The top end of the Bay of Fundy divides into two and one side turns into Chignecto Bay, and it looks to be about 40 miles or so long. Then it divides, and one side becomes the Cumberland Basin, which looks about 15 miles long. The top end of the Basin bends into a tight gooseneck and this is the mouth of River Hebert. About 5 miles upstream, there is a confluence with the Maccan River. From that point, it looks to be another 5 miles upstream on the Maccan to the tidal park where we watched the bore — so it’s a fairly tortuous journey for the water. Amazing how it still has so much momentum by the time it gets to Maccan.
    As for the birds – yes, indeed, the tidal rivers are good hunting places for the birds. The G.B. Herons like to wade around fishing when the tide is running outwards. Two out of the three times we’ve been at Maccan, a Bald Eagle has flown up the river while the bore is running upstream (one flew up yesterday, then circled back downstream to meet a second eagle that flew up out of a pine tree, hovered and returned to the tree — so I’m guessing they have a nest there). A lot of fish are probably being swept upstream in the tide, so no doubt, the fishing would be good. Last year, I enquired whether seals ever came up the rivers with the bore. The local gentleman said that he’d seen them once in awhile but not too often – just once every few years.. We said we’d be back in a few days to watch the bore on a really good day at the Full Moon. When we showed up that day, he said that a seal came up just the day before!!

    Peter, thanks for posting some more info!

    Romunov – Too bad you missed the shot of the fly. I find these particular flies quite fascinating as they are such good spider mimics.

  10. Wayne Says:

    The “learning one new thing a day” is a great idea.

    I had not ever heard of a spider mimic. That’s a great idea too!

    I love the Bay of Fundy tidal bores! I knew about them, but have never seen them – I can see why your acquaintance watches them as a daily habit. Thanks for posting about them.

    At one time I had the intricacies of the extreme latitude and low latitude differences figured out. As I recall, one of the differences was that (on an ideal Earth, without the effect of continents) extreme northern (and southern) latitudes would get diurnal tides only (once a day hi/lo) while lower latitudes get semidiurnal tides (twice a day hi/lo). Of course because of the continents you can have those scattered about.

    The tides along the Great Atlantic Bight (the east coast of North Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina) are semidiurnal and tend to be no more than about 7-8′ between high and low at spring tide. I agree that the higher tides at the Bay of Fundy are more likely to be due to shape of the coastline.

    Neat post!

  11. burning silo Says:

    Wayne — I think learning something new each day is a good policy to live by. I suspect you’ve been doing it all along too. (-:
    The Bay of Fundy is such an interesting place. The geology, geography, flora and fauna area all so interesting, and the tides are amazing. I’ll definitely post some more photos of tidal flats taken at different times during the day. Might take me awhile though as we’re doing so much each day!

  12. jon duggan Says:

    Just found your website here while looking for info on the bay of fundy tidal bore. You see, I moved to Maitland (well Selma actually-just outside Maitland about 4 years ago and I never get tired of the scenery and the smell and the sound of the tide. I live pretty much 200 yards away from the cobequid bay and often late at night while I am by myself enjoying a beer in my large backyard – lotsa space out my way :) ) I can hear the thunder-rush of the tide coming in.When I first moved here my kind and elderly neighbour said that I was lucky to settle down here “this place is like no other place on earth” he said then and now I believe him. Anyway – I am ramblin’ on here – but I hope you enjoyed the maritime hospitality and come on back to the bay – the land of red sky, red rocks, and red water :)

    take care

  13. burning silo Says:

    Hi Jon – Glad you stopped by to visit my blog. Sounds like you’re located in a great spot. And yes, we did enjoy the maritime hospitality — this time as in past visits — and surely, we will be back to visit the bay… I don’t think we can stay away for more than a year or two. We may yet end up out there listening to the tides in the evenings before much longer.