North River Falls, Nova Scotia – The crown jewel of the river
Armed with a bottle of tropical wine, hiking poles and an inflatable dingy, we were ready to embark on a journey to Nova Scotia’s tallest waterfall – North River Falls.
Exploring waterfalls has been one of my favorite outdoor activities for quite some time now. In fact it was hiking to waterfalls that initially got my creative juices flowing for the idea of one day starting and running an adventure tour company here in Nova Scotia.
To me hiking to a waterfall is much like a scavenger hunt – finding clues and pieces along the way until finally the puzzle comes together and you are rewarded with the grand prize and a feeling of accomplishment.
I tend to look at waterfall bagging in the same light that a mountaineer does reaching the summit of a mountain. The adventure and struggle of pushing the limits to reach the highest peak to claim that short victory in time is sweet, but then reality sets in and you realize the battle has just begun, for only half of the mission is complete at this point.
Taking to the forest we followed an old cart path that wonders part way up the hill and eventually down to the rivers edge. Slow, gentle moving water flows gracefully downstream with moments of foam floating by like little peculiar shaped boats, making their way towards the Atlantic Ocean, where they will be met and crushed by incoming waves.
We stop to break for a rest, a quick snack and to appreciate the now turbulent waters at the “Salmon Pools”. Every year the Atlantic Salmon make a strenuous journey to spawn in these very pools, only to then turn around and return to the open waters of the Atlantic for the remainder of the year. A great appreciation is felt in that moment for the endurance and dedication of this incredible species.
Back on the trail we set our pace in high gear, occasionally stopping to get a glimpse of the changing topography – the highlands now rising on either side of the river. This peaceful valley a true wilderness with no signs of the modern world, only a footpath that would lead our way to the spectacle that lie ahead.
We had been hiking for nearly 2 1/2 hrs and we were growing near, we could feel it. What started as a wide path was now a narrow single track with many tree roots and rocks that could easily cause a twisted angle if one was not paying particular attention to where they were placing their steps.
A rope strategically tied to a tree would act as our life line as we made our way down a short steep embankment. We could see the river here made a sharp turn – known as a “meander”, we knew we had made the 9km trek and were ready to make the most our afternoon in this wild country setting.
The stands of Maple, Birch and Beech grew tall and provided great cover from the midday sun, but obstructed our view of the falls which was heard as a thundering roar at this point.
Moments later we broke through the trees and stood in what resembled a natural auditorium, providing incredible acoustics from dancing water and swaying trees, North River Falls performed on the main stage and she was not here to disappoint. She dropped abruptly in 2 separate tiers then joined together like the hands of new lovers before entering a jet black pool of rough and unstable waters.
“if that ain’t some size of a falls” I remarked
We began laughing hysterically at my lack of proper grammar, but later discussed the phrase was a perfect fitting for what we were all feeling during our first encounter within this inspiring location – which he had all to ourselves might I add.
Before long our dingy had been inflated, glasses were topped off with summer refreshments and we were paddling straight into the gale force winds blowing off the base of the falls. We put all we had into our strokes but failed miserably to get under the falls, North River just would not allow that to happen. We push harder and harder, and she pushed harder still.
With what reserves of energy we had left we decided to climb the side trail that led to the top of the falls and another that branched off to a look-off that provided a bird’s eye view of the entire falls, the highlands and surrounding landscape. Here it dawned on us that North River Falls was not getting her full respect. The recorded height of 115 ft only took into account the lower half of the falls, where the 2 tiers leap from the rocks edge. The upper portion added another 80 ft in our estimation, bringing her well over the 200 ft mark.
Back down at the base we gathered our belongings, snapped off a few more photos and began tracing our steps back through the forest. The roar of the falls which once deafened our conversation was now a distant and fading whisper. Our conversation became one of the same. Not much was said from that moment on, but then again the soothing sounds of the river and the wind whisking through the trees provided all the conversation our hearts desired.