Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: September 2022
Kouchibouguac (pronounced koo-shee-boo-gwack) is a Mi’kmaq expression meaning “river of the long tides”. Kouchibouguac National Park is located along the Kouchibouguac River in the east coast of New Brunswick. It contains sand dunes, salt marshes, ancient bogs and dense forests. It offers plenty of recreational activities like camping, hiking, paddling and bird watching.
Day 1: Beaches, Boardwalks and Bugs
We flew from Toronto into Moncton and (surprisingly) had no delays or issues at the airport. We landed just before noon and were picked up at the airport by my mom and uncle who drove in from Ontario the day before. This marked the start (for us at least) of our ten day road trip through eastern Canada.
We stopped to pick up some groceries and supplies in town and then drove to Kouchibouguac National Park, which is located about an hour and a half north of Moncton. We checked into the South Kouchibouguac Campground and picked up the keys for our oTENTik, which would be our home for the next two nights.
An oTENTik is a mix between an A-frame cabin and yurt and has a raised wooden floor. We stayed in one before when we went to Point Pelee National Park in Ontario and the layout is typically the same for all oTENTiks managed by Parks Canada. They can sleep up to six people and they come equipped with beds and furniture. We just had to bring our sleeping bags, pillows and flashlights. This one didn’t have electricity, but it did have a BBQ outside.
After unpacking, we hit up some of the trails as we were eager to stretch our legs. Plus the weather was beautiful. We first went to Kellys Beach. Since we were visiting late in the day, the main parking lot was mostly empty. From the parking lot, there’s a long boardwalk (1.2km one-way, rated easy) that passes through a forest, a salt marsh, across a lagoon and onto an offshore barrier island. Along the way there were a few storyboards about the critters and creatures found in the salt marsh. The boardwalk ends at Kellys Beach where there was a pair of Parks Canada Red Chairs overlooking the ocean.
We then drove to the trailhead for the Salt Marsh Trail (0.9km loop, rated easy). The trail winds through the forest and follows a short boardwalk through a salt marsh overlooking the lagoon. The mosquitoes were awful so we pretty much raced through this trail. And here we thought we’d be safe from the bugs in mid-September. Apparently not. Maybe we should have packed that bug spray.
We made an attempt to hike the Mi’gmaq Cedar Trail, but as soon as we opened the car, the mosquitoes started to swarm. So that was a hard pass. Instead we drove into town to buy some insect repellent.
We then headed to our campsite to make dinner on the BBQ. Afterwards we attended the ranger program, “Cinema under the Stars”, which was located in the amphitheatre in the campground. The program featured five short films. We were also given a brown paper bag filled with popcorn. Before we began, one of the rangers indicated that there would be a special surprise for us at the end. It turns out that the guy that was featured in the fifth film was here. He brought his guitar and sang us two of his songs. They were in French and we didn’t understand much, but the tunes were pretty catchy. We then headed back to our campsite to escape from the mosquito infestation for the rest of the evening.
Day 2: Bogs
It was foggy and lightly misting outside when we woke up the next morning. After eating breakfast, we headed out to go for a hike. But first we went to the Visitor Centre to check out the exhibits, including one about the history of the park. It was created in 1969 to protect the sensitive sand dunes and bogs within the area. But in order for the park to be established, the government had to first expropriate the lands from about 215 families spread across seven communities within the proposed park area. While some families went willingly, many put up a fight.
We then went for a hike along the Claire Fontaine Trail (3.5km loop, rated easy), which is named after the village that was located here before the national park was created. The trail is marked by a series of red squares on the trees. The path winds through the forest and passes the Rankin Brook, Black River and the Kouchibouguac Lagoon, as well as a pair of Red Chairs overlooking the water.
By the time we wrapped up our hike the clouds were starting to clear and the sun was out. We then hiked the Osprey Trail (5.3km round trip, rated easy). The trailhead is located in the Côte-à-Fabien Campground, which was closed for the season and gated at the entrance. We parked along the shoulder of the road and walked a few hundred metres past the gate to get to the official trailhead. The trail winds through the forest and follows the shoreline of the Kouchibouguac Lagoon. There’s also a short detour for the Black River Point which leads to a scenic overlook of the ocean.
We drove back to the campground to eat a late lunch and to take a break. We headed out later in the afternoon to complete the remaining trails (that were open) in the park. We started with the Pines Trail (0.9km, rated easy). The trail meanders through an Acadian forest of white pines and contains a series of storyboards along the way that provide more information about the trees and their connection with the First Nations people. This forest once contained giant pine trees, but they were cut down in the early 1800s to build ships for the British Royal Navy and to build homes as more people populated New Brunswick.
We then hiked the Mi’gmaq Cedar Trail (0.9km loop, rated easy). Thankfully this time we came prepared with the bug spray and had much better luck with the mosquitoes. Parking for the trail is located at Callanders Beach. We first had to walk a few metres along the bike path to get to the trailhead. The trail follows a boardwalk through a cedar swap and contains a series of interpretive signs about the habitat and its connection with the Mi’gmaq, a First Nations people in the area.
We saved the best trail for last with the Bog Trail (1.9km round trip, rated easy). The first part of the trail meanders through the forest towards a six-metre high observation tower. We climbed the spiral staircase to the top of the tower, which provided a panoramic view of the bog.
The path then follows the boardwalk through the open bog and contains a series of storyboards that provide more information about the importance of bogs, how they are formed and about some of the plants found here. A bog like this took a very long time to form. We passed through the swamp forest, the lagg zone (the outer edge, which is the newest and thinnest part of the bog and is rich in minerals), the rand (the outward sloping margin of the bog which has a thick layer of peat) and the dome (the higher central part of the bog with a thick accumulation of peat). The trail ends at a viewing platform with a set of Red Chairs. We turned around and walked back the way that we came.
We drove back to our campground to make dinner. Afterwards we returned to Kellys Beach to attend the “Mindfulness under the Moon” ranger program. Since we arrived early, we went for a walk along the boardwalk. The mosquitoes were out in full force and seemed immune to the bug spray. We walked to the beach hoping for some reprieve from the bugs, but there was none. And so we turned around and raced back to the parking lot.
We decided to skip the ranger program and bunker down in our oTENTik and play cards instead. We also had a bit of packing to do as the next morning we planned to head to Fundy National Park.