The Fundy Biosphere Reserve

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Big Tires and Big Tides at Waterside Beach

If the water were about ten degrees warmer, Waterside Beach would be over-run with people. Fortunately, the cool Bay of Fundy water has kept this place relatively undiscovered. With about 400 hectares of sea floor exposed during low tide, Waterside Beach, Red Head Cliffs and Dennis Beach combine to form the largest non-mudflat tidelands on the Bay of Fundy. Too much to see in one low tide by foot.

Zoe bikes by the tide sculpted, Redhead. Photo credit: Craig Norris

The newest and most fun way to cross this mega-tidal landscape is by fat-bike, and that is what Zoe Levesque and her friends did one summer evening. Zoe should be a fat-bike salesperson as she loves telling people how cool they are. "I feel like a kid driving a monster truck when I'm riding a fat-bike," she remarks, "They are so easy and comfortable to ride, not intimidating, and the big, low-pressure tires will roll over almost any surface.”

Zoe (right) and her friend Roxy (left) roll over the sand at Waterside beach. Photo credit: Craig Norris

During the most extreme low spring tides, the beach at Waterside will extend nearly a kilometre from the shoreline, exposing a soft sandy plane etched with ripples by the ebbing tide. As the water level falls, the bedrock shore-platform becomes accessible to the west, allowing you to reach the point of Red Head. Here barnacle fields, intertidal pools, wave-sculpted rocks, resting seaweed forests and soaring, red cliffs offer an alternative tideland. Beyond that, Dennis beach is strewn with the wave sorted cobbles, sands and silts washed from the glacial bluffs looming over the beach berms. Zoe had a mind-blowing experience at each type of sea floor, but she asserts, “The red rocks at Red Head are the most fascinating, it's like being on Mars and reminds me of the Hopewell Rocks."

Fat-bikers bike on cobbles below the cliffs at Red Head. Photo credit: Craig Norris

The coastline of this area is underlain by soft, red, Triassic sandstones and conglomerates with the cathedral-like cliffs at Redhead offering the best exposure of these 230 million-year-old rocks. Formed during the evolution of the early dinosaurs, these cliffs are now being carved down into a large wave-cut bedrock platform with the perfect relief for fat-biking.

Zoe explores the bedrock platform. Photo credit: Craig Norris

Cycling by high beach dunes, crossing swift creek channels, dropping off steep-sided barrier bars, racing across sand planes, powering over boulders, hustling down platform transitions, rolling across cobble berms, and skirting wave-sculpted cliff bases are some of the highlights Zoe and her fat biking friends have come to this place to find. "Fat-bikes pump up your confidence to ride all these tidal features, but what is really different about biking the ocean floor is that you make your own trail and you decide what it goes over," explains Zoe, "Just make sure your trail stays off the sea life."

Craig Harper circles the soft, undercut red Triassic rocks. Photo credit: Craig Norris

The intertidal zone is where fat-bikes were meant to take riders, and this is the unique experience that Zoe can't get on any other type of bike. The world's highest tides provide ocean floor access that makes the Bay of Fundy a fat-biker's paradise. Despite the self-propelled power these bikes give their riders, Zoe warns, “Don’t rely on anyone, each person should be knowledgeable about the tides because you can get trapped against the cliffs. It's not a good place to be on an incoming tide."

Riding the Red Head Platform at sunset. Photo credit: Craig Norris

At Amazing Places like this, Zoe exclaims, “A perma-smile is guaranteed!” The Amazing Places Challenge is encouraging people to get out and visit all 50 Amazing Places in the Fundy Biosphere Reserve to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. What better way to celebrate than to spend time on the land visiting the very “Canadian” Amazing Places.

This article is the second of seven in the Amazing Places Challenge series. 

Financed by The Government of Canada