Cape Breton Highlands National Park

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Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Montagne au Cap-Breton.jpg
Autumn colours in the park
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Location of Cape Breton Highlands
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Location of Cape Breton Highlands
Location Ingonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
Coordinates 46°44′00″N60°38′30″W / 46.73333°N 60.64167°W / 46.73333; -60.64167 Coordinates: 46°44′00″N60°38′30″W / 46.73333°N 60.64167°W / 46.73333; -60.64167
Area949 km2 (366 sq mi)
Visitors333,746 [1] (in 2017-18)
Governing body Parks Canada
Panorama from the Freshwater Lake Lookoff NS CapeBretonHighlands1 tango7174.jpg
Panorama from the Freshwater Lake Lookoff

Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a Canadian national park on northern Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. [2] The park was the first national park in the Atlantic provinces of Canada [3] and covers an area of 948 square kilometres (366 sq mi). [4] It is one of 42 in Canada's system of national parks.


It consists of mountains, valleys, waterfalls, rocky coastlines and the Cape Breton Highlands, a tundra-esque plateau. Forest types include Acadian and Boreal. The park includes the highest point in Nova Scotia, White Hill, at 533.5 m (1,750 ft) above sea level.

Rivers in the park include the Chéticamp River and the North Aspy River.

In 2014, Parks Canada started a four-year project with the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources, among other partners, to begin regional boreal forest restorations within this park.


One-third of the Cabot Trail passing through the park features ocean and mountain views. The park is known for its "steep cliffs and deep river canyons that carve into a forested plateau bordering the Atlantic Ocean". [5]

The park contains 26 marked hiking trails, [6] including the Skyline Trail.

At the western entrance of the park is the Acadian village of Chéticamp [7] on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and a park information centre. On the eastern side of the park are campsites as well as beaches at Ingonish on the Atlantic Ocean. Also on the east side of the park located in Ingonish at the Keltic Lodge resort is Highlands Links, an 18-hole golf course designed by Stanley Thompson. Golf Magazine ranked it as one of the top 100 courses in the world and the best public course in Canada. George Knudson suggested leaving clubs behind and just walking the course. The course has been certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, a program aimed at conserving wildlife habitat in spaces used for other purposes.

There are five main salt water ocean beaches in the park and two freshwater lakes. The ocean beaches include Ingonish Beach, North Bay Beach, Broad Cove Beach, Black Brook Beach and La Bloc Beach. The two freshwater beaches include Freshwater Lake and Warren Lake. Freshwater Lake and Ingonish Beach are both supervised with a lifeguard during the summer months. There are very strong currents at Black Brook and Ingonish Beach which must be considered when bringing small children to these two beaches. [5]


Birds visible from this park include three species of hawk, two species of owl, northern gannets, kestrel, Bicknell's thrush, and the bald eagle. The first nest records of boreal owl for Nova Scotia were found in the southwestern corner of this park in 2004. [8] [9] This park is listed as an Important Bird Area. [10]

Mammals include white-tailed deer, marten, lynx, muskrat, snowshoe hare, beaver, mink, bobcat, river otter, stoat, red fox, raccoon, moose, black bear, skunk, and coyote. [11] The Gaspé shrew, the local name for a smallish variety of the long-tailed shrew, Sorex dispar, can be found on rocky slopes in the park.

Aquatic life visible from this park includes North Atlantic right whales, [12] humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales, sei whales pilot whales, Atlantic white-sided dolphins, harbor seals, harp seals, and grey seals.

Reptiles include garter snake, red belly snake, ring-necked snake, smooth green snake, wood turtle and leatherback sea turtle.

Parks Canada transferred eighteen western moose (nine bulls, nine cows) from Alberta's Elk Island National Park to this national park between 1947 and 1948. [13]

In late October 2009, country folk singer Taylor Mitchell died as a result of her injuries and blood loss due to coyotes attacking her while she was hiking by herself on the Skyline Trail. This incident became the only recorded fatal coyote assault on an adult as well as a Canadian. [14] [15]


Barrier beach in front of Freshwater Lake showing well rounded boulders. Note the height above sea level. Cape Breton HIghlands National Park Freshwater Lake barrier beach.jpg
Barrier beach in front of Freshwater Lake showing well rounded boulders. Note the height above sea level.
Glacial debris on the north side of Freshwater Lake. Cape Breton HIghlands National Park Freshwater Lake glacial debris.jpg
Glacial debris on the north side of Freshwater Lake.

Most of the park resides within what is called the Ganderia Terrane, sometimes referred to as the Bras d'Or or Aspy Terrane. This was originally part of Gondwana, referred to as peri-Gondwanan Terrane, and through seafloor spreading separated from Gondwana, and collided with Laurentia during the Salinic Orogeny. The evidence of this collision, the closing of the Iapetus Ocean and the formation of the Iapetus Suture, is seen in the northwest part of the park where the Ganderia Terrane is connected with the Blair River Inlier, itself a remnant of the Laurentia continental margin, referred to as peri-Laurentian Terrane. Other terrane collisions followed, including the Avalonia Terrane during the Acadian orogeny, and the Meguma Terrane during the Neoacadian Orogeny. Then, between 340 and 300 Ma, Gondwana collided with Laurentia, forming Pangea. Rifting started about 200 Ma eventually forming the Atlantic Ocean. [16] [17]

Along the Cabot Trail between the park headquarters at Ingonish Beach and Ingonish, a 402 Ma old Early Devonian granodiorite is exposed, the Cameron Brook Pluton, while the Keltic Lodge, on Middle Head, sits on a 493 Ma old Early Ordovician granite and a 550 Ma old Neoproterozoic diorite. [18] The beach in front of Freshwater Lake is a classic shingle beach, a barrier beach with boulders well rounded and polished from wave action. Glacial debris is evident along the trail at the north end of the lake. A similar bar cuts across Ingonish Harbor. [16] :90 [19] [20]

A Middle to 375 Ma Late Devonian granite is seen along the Cabot Trail between Ingonish and where it leaves the park near South Harbor, while a 403 Ma Early Devonian orthogneiss is exposed at Neils Harbour northward. From Cape North, the Cabot Trail follows the Aspy Fault southwards, where the Early Carboniferous Windsor Group and Horton Group outcrops, until it reenters the park at Big Intervale. These groups of rocks consist of limestone, mudstone, anhydrite, gypsum, halite, siltstone, fluvial sandstone, shale, and conglomerate. The Windsor Group is also exposed at Ingonish and Ingonish Beach. [18]

The Cabot Trail then doglegs to the north, crossing the Wilkie Brook Fault Zone, and entering the southernmost extent of the Blair River Inlier. The inlier is bounded by the Wilkie Brook Fault Zone on the east and the Red River Fault Zone on the southwest near Lone Shieling. The fault zones are marked by a zone of sheared rocks characterized by mylonite. Between these zones are outcrops of Silurian Fox Back Ridge diorite and granodiorite, as well as the Red River Anorthosite Suite of Middle Proterozoic age. [18] [21]

The Cabot Trail then follows the Grande Anse River westwards, with exposed Horton Group until it reaches the coast at Pleasant Bay. This is the location of the 364 Ma Late Devonian granite of the Pleasant Bay Pluton. Moving south along the trail, the 433 Ma Ordovician-Silurian Belle Cote Road orthogneiss is encountered, followed by another granite (Proterozoic-Devonian in age). [18]

As the trail loops west to follow the coastline, rocks of the 439 Ma Ordovician-Silurian Jumping Brook Metamorphic Suite are exposed. This suite consists of metamorphosed siltstone, wacke, conglomerate, arkose, and minor rhyolite. In the midst of this suite may be found the 379 Ma Devonian granite of the Gillanders Mountain Pluton. The trail encounters a 439 Ma Cambrian granite before it exists the park at La Rigoueche. [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cape Breton Island</span> Island in Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Island is an island on the Atlantic coast of North America and part of the province of Nova Scotia, Canada.

The Cabot Trail is a scenic highway on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. It is a 298 km (185 mi) loop around the northern tip of the island, passing along and through the Cape Breton Highlands and the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Chéticamp is an unincorporated place on the Cabot Trail on the west coast of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. It is a local service centre. A majority of the population are Acadians. Together with its smaller neighbour, Saint-Joseph-du-Moine, Chéticamp makes up the largest Francophone enclave on Cape Breton Island. The 2006 population was 3,039 people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aspy River</span> River in Nova Scotia, Canada

The Aspy River is a river on northeastern Cape Breton Island which rises in the Cape Breton Highlands and empties into Aspy Bay. The North Aspy follows the ancient Aspy Fault which extends for 40 km inland from the coast and extends along the upper section of the northeast Margaree River. This geological fault is thought to be a part of the Cabot Fault (Newfoundland)/ Great Glen Fault (Scotland) system of Avalonia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cape Breton Highlands</span>

The Cape Breton Highlands, commonly called the Highlands, refer to a highland or mountainous plateau across the northern part of Cape Breton Island in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

White Hill is a peak in the Cape Breton Highlands and is the highest elevation point in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aspy Fault</span>

The Aspy Fault is a strike-slip fault that runs through 40 km of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and is often thought to be a part of the Cabot Fault/ Great Glen Fault system of Avalonia. Part of the fault runs through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This fault runs southward from Cape North through the Margaree Valley. The Aspy River and the upper section of the Margaree River follows the trace of the fault. Evidence shows movement in this fault dating back to the Ordovician period when it was probably created when two continental plates collided and pushed the seafloor upwards, also creating the Appalachian Mountains. Erosion and the presence of this fault have created much of the scenery known today as the Cape Breton Highlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wilkie Sugar Loaf trail</span> 3.2-km. (return) hiking trail ascending Wilkie Sugar Loaf Mountain

The Wilkie Sugarloaf Trail is a hiking trail in northern Cape Breton Island in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The trail leads to the 411.8 metres (1,351 ft) summit of Wilkie Sugar Loaf in the Cape Breton Highlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Keltic Lodge</span> Nova Scotia lodge

Keltic Lodge is a premier resort hotel in the village of Ingonish, Nova Scotia in Canada, on the northeastern coast of Cape Breton Island.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Skyline Trail (Cape Breton Highlands National Park)</span>

The Skyline Trail is a seven-kilometre, looping, hiking trail at Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada. It lies on the western side of the Cabot Trail, near French Mountain's summit. This trail is well known for its scenic views, but also for the 2009 fatal coyote assault on Taylor Mitchell.

Franey Mountain is located in Victoria County, in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, within Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Franey Mountain is part of the Cape Breton Highlands plateau and is located 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) west of Ingonish, Cape Breton Island. The elevation of the mountain is 430 metres (1,410 ft). It is the highpoint of the massif between Dundas Brook and Clyburn Brook.

An inlier is an area of older rocks surrounded by younger rocks. Inliers are typically formed by the erosion of overlying younger rocks to reveal a limited exposure of the older underlying rocks. Faulting or folding may also contribute to the observed outcrop pattern. A classic example from Great Britain is that of the inlier of folded Ordovician and Silurian rocks at Horton in Ribblesdale in North Yorkshire which are surrounded by the younger flat-lying Carboniferous Limestone. The location has long been visited by geology students and experts. Another example from South Wales is the Usk Inlier in Monmouthshire where Silurian age rocks are upfolded amidst Old Red Sandstone rocks of Devonian age.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Still Brook Waterfall</span> Waterfall in Nova Scotia, Canada

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cap-Rouge, Nova Scotia</span> Ghost town

Cap-Rouge was an Acadian village of some 30 families situated on Cape Breton Island, north of Chéticamp, in Nova Scotia, named for the nearby cape of the same name. The Cap Rouge region followed the western coast of Cape Breton Island, extending about seven miles to the north of Chéticamp. It included La Bloque, Ruisseau des Maurice, Rivière à Lazare and Ruisseau du Canadien. Today however, the name Cap-Rouge is used to refer to all Acadian communities expropriated for the creation of the National Park, including the Rigouèche, the Buttereau, the Presqu’île and the Source de la Montain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cabots Landing Provincial Park</span> Provincial park in Nova Scotia, Canada

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wilkie Sugar Loaf</span> Mountain in Nova Scotia, Canada

Wilkie Sugar Loaf is a Canadian peak in the Cape Breton Highlands near the community of Sugar Loaf in the province of Nova Scotia.

Aspy Bay is a bay of the Atlantic Ocean near the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Principal features along the bay's coast are the Wilkie Sugar Loaf hill and the Aspy Fault.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Municipality of the County of Inverness</span> County municipality in Nova Scotia, Canada

The Municipality of the County of Inverness is a county municipality on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. It provides local government to about 17,000 residents of the historical county of the same name, except for the incorporated town of Port Hawkesbury and the Whycocomagh 2 Miꞌkmaq reserve, both of which are enclaves. Public services are provided in the areas of recreation, tourism, administration, finance, and public works.


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