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Kouchibouguac National Park, NB
Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 12:00pm by Lolo
170 miles and 4 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay
After leaving Prince Edward Island, we headed north along the Acadian Coastal Drive, which traces the western shore of the Northumberland Strait. This was the French speaking portion of New Brunswick, and the names of the towns, like Bouctouche and Richibucto, reflected that. New Brunswick is really a microcosm of Canada in that its population is split between British and Acadian ancestry. I was surprised to learn though that the New Brunswick French do not share many cultural roots with the Quebecois French and that they actually have very little to do with each other.
We stopped to food shop in the Acadian village of Bouctouche and quickly discovered that we were the only ones in the store speaking English. The kids became quite entertained with trying to make me say stupid things in French. Eventually, we arrived at Kouchibouguac National Park, which the boys tried to convince me was pronounced Koo-chi-butt-crack. I highly doubted it.
Although the drive from PEI had taken us about 3 ½ hours, we could practically look across the Northumberland Strait and see where we had started from that morning. Kouchibouguac is only about 25 miles away from western PEI as the crow flies, but over 170 miles by road.
We stopped at the Visitor Center, as we always do, to purchase hat pins and gather information about the park. We also stayed to watch the award-winning audio-visual presentation portraying the beauties of the park in all four seasons. I’m glad we did; the photography and music were spectacular.
It was early in the day, so we had no trouble getting a campsite at the park’s main campground—South Kouchibouguac. Half of the 311 sites are kept for campers without reservations, so if you get there early enough in the day, it’s not a problem getting a site. Rather than a site in the woods, we chose one of the electric sites in an open field near the Kouchibouguac River. The view of the river and the boats in the marina across the way was lovely.
Another nice feature of the campground was that the bike path went right by the campground, and bike riding was actually what brought us to Kouchibouguac in the first place. Since, mountain biking is probably are #1 favorite family activity, I often base our itineraries around great places to bike. I found out about Kouchibouguac in a book entitled Mountain Bike! Atlantic Canada. I feel that if you get one good ride out of a book, it was worth the price. This book gave me two—the Homestead Trail in PEI and the 17-mile loop trail through Kouchibouguac.
Having decided to save the long bike ride for the morning, we hopped on our bikes and headed over to Kelly's Beach, the most popular beach in the park. The ride was an easy 2 or 3 miles over a well-groomed, crushed cinder trail. Since the Beach is actually on a barrier island, we had to leave our bikes in a bike rack, and walk along a 600-foot boardwalk over salt marshes to get to the beach. You can either swim in the lifeguard-protected waters of the Northumberland Strait or the very warm (80+ degrees), shallow waters of the lagoon. We chose to swim in the lagoon. Afterwards, we explored a little further by bike and then headed back to the campground.
We still had some time before dinner, so the boys and I decided to go for a 5-mile run on the bike path in the opposite direction from the beach, along the banks of the Kouchibouguac River. The scenery along the river was lovely. We didn’t stay together too long—I’m afraid that the days where I had to slow down for the boys to keep up with me are long gone. I’m a pretty good runner, but nothing compared to teenagers that run track. By the time I got back to the campground, they had already showered. I must be getting old.
The next morning we set out early to bike the 17-mile loop described in the mountain biking book. However, since we were starting from the campground rather than the visitor center, we were cutting about 4 miles off the loop.
We left the campground and headed southwest along the Kouchibouguac River where we had run the previous evening. This was easy, flat riding along a gravel trail. After about 2 miles, we came to a picnic area named La Source, and turned inland following the trail for about 2 ½ miles through a forest to the Petit-Large campground. At Petit-Large, there were several choices of trails to take. We wanted to ride the 6-mile single-track section, which is a lot more challenging and technical than the gravel trails. According to the book, we were supposed to look for a sign for the Major Kollock Trail, but we had a bit of trouble finding it. Eventually, we managed to get on the single-track trail, but I don’t remember ever seeing the sign for it.
Now the trail got interesting. It started out through an area of ferns and low-lying vegetation that looked like the bottom of the sea. Over the more boggy sections there were boardwalks that were wide enough to ride on without even me getting too nervous. Of course, the boys, in their constant quest to make things more extreme, spent a lot of time lying in the ferns alongside the boardwalk. In fact, Andrew rode most of the trail with ferns sticking out of his helmet. As we got further into the woods, there were a few more interesting twists and turns in the trail that tested our bike-handling skills. However, we did okay though and before we knew it we were back out on the gravel trail near the Salt Marsh. From there, we turned left and rode along the Northumberland Strait for about 3 miles or so back to the campground.
It was a great ride and we got back just in time to check out and continue on our journey.
Kouchibouguac (pronounced "Koosh-uh-boog-oo-whack") National Park is located along the Acadian Coast of New Brunswick, along the warm waters of the Northumberland Strait. Its acres of salt marshes, lagoons, bogs, rivers, warm-water beaches, and extensive network of bicycle trails make it a popular destination for families.
The park has more than 9 miles of sandy beaches protected by sandy barrier islands. The most popular beach is Kelly's Beach with its warm waters and gentle waves. Access to this beach is over a 600-yard boardwalk that crosses salt marshes and lagoons. You can swim in the lifeguard-protected waters of the Strait or in the shallow, very warm waters of the lagoon. The temperature of the water in the lagoon is well into the 80s, making it some of the warmest water north of the Carolinas.
The park has more than 30 miles of bike trails that traverse forests and bogs and meander along rivers and lagoons. Most of those miles are along well-groomed, crushed cinder trails that are easy for all levels of cyclists. However, there are also about 6 miles of single-track trails, which are a bit rougher and more technical to handle.
The park contains over 20 miles of hiking trails through a variety of ecosystems: salt marshes, bogs, river banks, lagoons, beaches, tidal pools, and barrier islands. Most of the hikes are fairly short and easy, ranging from a quarter of a mile to more than 8 miles. One popular hike is the 1.2-mile Bog Trail, which leads across a 4,500-year-old bog on a boardwalk to a wooden observation tower with panoramic views of the area. The longest trail in the park is the 8-mile Kouchibouguac River Trail, which traces the south bank of the river.
Other popular activities in the park include sea kayaking or canoeing along the lagoon, marshes, and rivers. Rentals are available near the South Kouchibouguac Campground.
The main campground in the park is the beautifully maintained, 311-site South Kouchibouguac Campground on the Kouchibouguac River. Conveniently, the bike path starts right from the campground, allowing you to get everywhere you need to by bike. This campground is quite popular and fills up early. Although reservations can be made, half of the sites are held for campers without reservations. There are only 46 sites with electricity. These sites are located out in the open near the river.
Kouchibouguac National Park location map in "high definition"