Off the bike and on the river to ride the tidal bore rapids

Today was about having a bit of fun off the bike and doing something a little different. This was never part of my itinerary, but these huge tides mentioned in previous blogs still have me captivated and the thought of actually riding the tide and rapids it creates as it pushes up river sounded exciting.

As I came into Maitland I came across the Shubenacadie River Runners which looked like a fairly substantial outfit with numerous zodiacs ready to go, wet weather gear and life vests neatly hanging up in sheds etc. So I called in to check it out and book myself a place given that this is now a very popular tourism adventure. All I had to do was show up at 3.30pm for 4pm start by which time the tide will start to come back in. I signed up to do the extra section which included the best rapids and dinner at the end. In the meantime I went and set up camp a few km’s away.

Perhaps a few figures might help to put this event into perspective. We are talking about a height difference of 12 meters (40ft) in about 3 hours so there is a huge amount of water flowing up the river and this causes massive turbulence as the right ratio of sand and water is reached. It takes about 8 hours for the tide to go out so you only get the big rapids when the tide is coming in.

These photos give you an idea of the height difference (note: there was still a little way to go before the actual high tide was reached). The River Runners link above has a gallery which is good to see what the rapids are like.

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We set out not long after the tide had started to come in so there is enough water under the boats then wait until the tidal bore passes us and starts to generate the first set of rapids. When they are at their peak we head straight into them at a reasonable speed and get our first taste of the brown salty water as the waves crash over the boat. We double back a couple of times to take advantage of the rapids before the water gets too deep and the rapids die down.

We then have a short break as we wait further upstream for the water level to rise to generate the next set of rapids and so on. While we were waiting for the 2nd set of rapids to build we were able to get out of the boat and wander over a large sandbar in the river. This was also a good experience as well because you could physically see this wall of water coming cross the sandbar at walking pace. It was hard to believe that the same sandbar would have about 9m (30ft) of water over it by the time we came back. All up I think we went through about 6 or 7 sets of rapids in about 12km. The largest rapids were those at the end. They had a very sharp pitch and being so close together it was little wonder we completely flooded the boat.

It was great fun and I recommend it to anyone coming this way. Remember to have your sunglasses and hat strapped on. A girl on our boat lost hers when a big wave came crashing over the bow.

When we weren’t pushing through rapids we became more conscious that we were being watched by American Bald Eagles. There are quite a number in this area as the tides bring in some easy food for them which they pick off the beach as the tide goes out.

I mentioned how popular this adventure is, I counted 20 zodiacs (from 3 adventure companies) and a few more zodiacs came from further upriver from yet another adventure company. Needless to say it was pretty crowded out there at times and our drivers had to be vigilant all the time.

Dinner afterwards was a steak, macaroni salad and a bun, all of which was most welcome given the can food I have been consuming over the last two days. I found the trip from Windsor to Maitland quite devoid of options for meals (other than cans) or the “take-out” kitchens all of which were closed when I came past them. Although there were a number of houses along the roadside the whole area felt quite isolated. I didn’t come across any other cyclists which was surprising given how beautiful the ride i, so with a bit of thought I believe there is potential to develop and promote the “Glooscap Trail” on route 215 a bit more.

A few more photos from my trip along the “Glooscap Trail” on 26th July.

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7 thoughts on “Off the bike and on the river to ride the tidal bore rapids

  1. Great stuff Al. It’s always those little adventures that are unexpected and a little off the beaten track that stay with us forever. The tide shots are sensational. Loving your trip.

    • Thanks Kathy, all good fun. I don’t think there is anywhere in Australia we could do that. Heading to Prince Edward Island towards the end of the first week in August, then Cape Bretton (Cabot Trail) which everyone has said is the must do place to visit for stunning scenery so looking forward to that. Alistair.

  2. Your travels have been varied and interesting, but this story has captivated my imagination and sense of adventure, thank you, Jeannie

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