The Fundy Biosphere Reserve

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Mud Monster - Riding the Tantramar Marshes

Most people find the muddy upper Bay of Fundy less appealing than the rocky or sandy areas of the bay.  Mud, in general, is disapproved of from the time you learn how to walk, so the mudflats and silty channels of the upper bay are not well regarded.  We are looking to change that, which is why we enlisted Mount Allison University student Taylor Crosby and some friends to visit the mud at the best possible time and trade some stories about it.

Muddy stream channel and old wharf on the LaPlanche River. Photo credit: Craig Norris 

We biked out late on a fall afternoon, across the Aulac dykes, Taylor explains, “As long as it is not too windy, the dykes are a great way to experience the expansive Tantramar dyke lands, and they take you right up to the coastline." Our destination was the Amazing Place on the dyke near Fort Beausejour, where we can gaze directly down the axis of the bay.  In the Maritimes, wide open spaces like this are the only way to get a little taste of the big prairie sky.  This is why we have come, to take in an epic open sky sunset during low tide over the mud of the empty Cumberland Basin.

Sunset on the Aulac River. Photo credit: Craig Norris

The last rays of sunshine beaming through the fields and marsh grasses are a glorious sight, but Taylor is much more taken by the mud.  "It is wet, shiny, covered in drainage patterns, unusual topography and it reflects the sky’s light back in so many colours, but it is more than that,” she says, “the smell of the salt marsh, the mud and clay, it is so cool, such a beautiful scene.”   The full spectrum of light raining down on the wet mud and cord grasses makes the scene absolutely hypnotic with its fully saturated palate of colours.

Moments after sunset from the dyke overlooking an empty Cumberland Basin. Photo credit: Craig Norris
Muddy stream channel and old wharf on the LaPlanche River. Photo credit: Craig Norris

While taking in the view, I ask Taylor if she has ever been mud sliding.  She has a defensive response, "Don't knock it until you try it!"  Taylor is a person who loved her mud sliding experience, "You can slide all the way down to the water, just don't stand in one place too long and don't go in the water too deep," she warns.  Besides all the fun, Taylor says it is a workout climbing back up the mud, and it is a challenge to get clean.  "You hope for a nearby generous person who'll lend you their hose; otherwise it turns into mud-monsters marching home through the streets,” she cautions.

Taylor and Anna after mud sliding. Photo credit: Sylvan Hamburger

Standing on the edge of the dyke lands listening to Taylor’s mud-sliding story, there seems like no better time to discuss the 7000 years of sea level rise it took the Bay of Fundy to build these mudflats and marshlands.  According to cores drilled in the marshes, this outer dyke location sits on 35 meters of mud layers; enough to completely bury a ten story building.  We feel like tiny specks on this landscape, standing here for a short flash in time.  Several important portage routes came through the Tantramar Marshes, and it is interesting to think about how different this landscape would have been as the Mi'kmaq watched similar sunsets from their campsites here hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

Taylor soaks in the last moments of the day. Photo credit: Craig Norris

While day changed to night, the full moon rose behind us to light our way back.  “Biking under a full moon on the dykes is beautiful in a different way, there is no light pollution out here, the air is cool, and the reflections have turned to shadows,” Taylor describes, “And the sea floor is such a weird place under the moonlight."

The Edge of the Tanramar Marshes at low tide under the full moon. Photo credit: Craig Norris

The Bay of Fundy has many hidden opportunities to experience strange and exhilarating landscapes.  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.

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

Financed by The Government of Canada