Stone pillars and chocolate tides: the amazing Bay of Fundy

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If you’ve seen a tourist brochure touting Canada’s natural wonders, you’ve likely seen photos of strange-looking, clay-coloured stone columns rising out of the sea. They’re the Hopewell Rocks of New Brunswick, guardians of a piece of Atlantic coastline with a world-famous distinction.

The rocks themselves, called flowerpot rocks because of their shape and the vegetation that grows on them, have become a symbol of Atlantic Canada, But the real secret of Hopewell Rocks is the natural force that carved them into the slender columns you see: the tides. Hopewell, situated on the Bay of Fundy, has the highest tides in the world.

Every six hours, the water line advances and retreats farther than anywhere else on earth. When the tide is out, you can walk across a wide beach filled with seaweed and stones. When it starts to come in, the water can be over your head in half an hour. These photos show the beach at low and high tide.

Hopewell Rocks low tide

Hopewell Rocks high tide

The phenomenon is caused by the shape of the bay, which funnels the water into the narrow end in huge volumes: 160 billion tonnes flows in, raising the water level up to 14 metres, or 46 feet. And since the water is in almost constant motion, flowing in and out of the bay, sediment that’s churned up from the bottom never gets the chance to settle. That makes the water a rich brown colour, like chocolate milk.

The Hopewell Rocks have become a major tourist attraction. And it’s one that’s worth the trip to southern New Brunswick. Wandering through the maze of flower pot rocks is a fascinating experience. The current has moulded them into a dozen shapes, some slender and graceful, others strange and top-heavy, like stone mushrooms. Here and there the rocks have split, creating a natural passage way. And a few have given way to the force of gravity, like the elephant rock, which collapsed a few years ago.

And of course, it’s an amazing experience to walk across the ocean floor itself, covered with small stones and carpeted here and there with a thick growth of seaweed. Oddly enough, the starfish and other creatures you’d expect to find are missing: I guess the rushing tide sweeps them out to sea when it leaves. Even these creatures need a home with a bit more stability.

Here are a few shots of the Hopewell Rocks, one of Canada’s iconic wonders. It’s a landscape that can remind you of the Grand Canyon one minute, and Alice in Wonderland the next. Enjoy.

Hopewell Rocks bluff
Hopewell rocks pillars

Hopewell Rocks keyhole

Hopewell Rocks rockface

Hopewell Rocks sea floor

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About Author

Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.

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