The Reversing Falls

On the St. John River

St. John New Brunswick, Canada

September 15, 2001

As our trip through the Maritime Provinces of Canada began to wind down, we started west across the south side of New Brunswick. This is the famous Bay of Fundy area which is known for its fantastic high tides and low tides. The primary city along this coast is St. John. This seaport for centuries has made a living out of the fishing and trade business. We stopped in this somewhat quaint town for a few days to get the last fleeting feelings of country we had learned to love over the last several months. There were several things that we found of interest. The town is trying to stimulate its tourist trade with some well deserved advertising about its history and points of interest. One of these was a natural phenomenon which is billed as St. John's reversing falls. The "falls" part is somewhat questionable but still in all the event is interesting. The St. John River runs more or less through the center of the city. It is a reasonably large waterway capable of small to medium boat traffic. As it passes under a bridge between the two halves of the city, it passes through a deep narrow gorge, headed by a series of rock formations jutting out of the middle of the river bed. When water is forced into the narrow part of the gorge it naturally picks up speed causing quite a turmoil. The conflict comes from the extremely high tide of the Bay of Fundy, known as the highest tides in the World. The volume of river water is no match for the tide and sea water rushes back up the river, overpowering the natural flow and causing quite a turbulence in its passing. Hydraulics and whirlpools appear in the middle of the gorge and shoot out into the open water leading up to the bridge. The effect of the water rushing over the tops of the jutting rocks appears to create a waterfall effect. From the observation deck of the information center/gift shop/restaurant, it is a view almost straight down into the turbulence. At the peak of activity, daring tour boats rush the rapids and hydraulics to take tourists through the churn. The boats are tossed around like twigs as they battle to stay in line with the river banks. Spray flies everywhere as those with the daring to try this ride, raise their hands over their heads as if on a roll-a-costar ride. For those with sufficient patience, not including us, you can watch the violent currents simmer and abide until the water becomes a glassy finish on a tranquil river. The rocks, once the source of cascading water sit quietly in the middle of the stream. It is the matching of the tide with the river and for a few minutes the water stands still as the enormous powers of river and bay balance in quiet symmetry. It is only for those few minuets that quite exists, for as fast as it rose, the tide falls away creating a down hill run for a river whos waters have been held back for hours. Soon the hydraulics and whirlpools are back, spinning and churning in their mad rush to the sea. The rocks again create a barrier that causes water to gush over the top creating the waterfall effect. This time in the opposite direction. Thus the claim of the "reversing falls". The outdoor observation platform attached to the information center is a comfortable relaxing place to spend a few hours watching the river go through its gyrations. This was just another little adventure in a long line of interesting things we found in the Maritime Provinces.

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