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Homeschooling-Lessons of Opportunity: The Tidal Bore

Updated on August 4, 2016

Petitcodiac River At High Tide

What is a Tidal Bore?

The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world. The water entering and exiting the bay with the tide is more than the flow of all the rivers in the world combined. There are rivers that flow into the Bay of Fundy. When that impressive tide rolls in the water is forced up those rivers in a distinct wave. That my friends is a tidal bore. Though it is called a bore it is ubercool.


The Petitcodiac River flows through Moncton, New Brunswick and has one of the most impressive sustained tidal bores in the world. From the mouth of the river it flows sixty kilometers all the way to the town of Petitcodiac. First nations paddlers as well as early european settlers took advantage of the twice daily free ride travelling at roughly 13 kilometres per hour.

Low Tide With the Bore Coming

Messing Up Something Great

You could have one of the most amazing phenomenon on earth and there will always be people who are not happy with it the way it is. The Petitcodiac meanders through fairly flat topography. The tidal bore kicks up so much sediment that the locals often refer to it as the Chocolate River. Saltwater marshes grow on its banks.

At some point people decided that it would be a good idea to build a causeway connecting the City of Moncton to the City of Riverview. This causeway was built in 1968. The once impressive tidal bore was greatly diminished. Fish that spawned up river could no longer reach their spawning grounds. As a result the once thriving local fishery collapsed.

After a long battle the causeway gates in 2010 were permanently reopened to allow the river to slowly return to its natural state. The tidal bore is increasing back in size. Hopefully the fish will also return although the river is horribly polluted. I'm not sure I'd want to take a swim there under any circumstances.

Currently the bore is as high as one metre. In the days before the causeway it was up to two metres high. That would be a much more impressive wave to ride. Will it come all the way back?

The group working toward full restoration has a website you can visit. http://petitcodiac.org/welcome/

The Causeway

Petitcodiac River System

Recreational Trail Following the River

Park Along the River

Highway of the Mi'kmaq

The French called the river Petitcoude meaning little elbow. The English heard that as Petitcodiac, French for little bear. Petitcodiac is actually a corruption of the Mi'kmaq Epetkutogoyek which means the river that bends like a bow.

It was an important part of the route from Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia and the town of Petitcodiac in New Brunswick where they had a winter camp. Using the impressive tides in the region, they were able to travel this impressive distance by canoe efficiently.

Portage routes from Petitcodiac to other river systems opened up much of the interior or New Brunswick. I don't think we give enough credit to the First Nations tribes which lived in this area before the arrival of europeans.

Using the River

Who do you think made better use of the river?

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Acadians Build Dikes

The French settlers who were the first european settlers in this area saw rich farmland under the salt marshes and set about building dikes to claim those areas for agriculture. As a dutchman I have great appreciation for what they accomplished in this part of the world.

To this day there is a lot of very productive farmland on the banks of the Petitcodiac where at one time there were salt marshes. This farmland has been productive for hundreds of years. These dikes prevented the salt water coming in from the Bay of Fundy from entering the new farmland but did not restrict the flow of the river itself.


Acadian Historic Marker Along the River

Tourist Potential

No kidding. One of the most impressive tidal bores in the world. Check out the video. Surfers set a world record here recently. We took the time to see this with the family from Tidal Bore Park. The event took place over several days. This video was taken on a day we weren't there to keep us incognito.

Setting a World Record on the Tidal Bore

River Conservation and Preservation

A lot of the world's rivers are in trouble. Humans have dammed them up without giving thought to the fish species that would be effected. We've dumped unspeakable pollutants into them because once they flowed away they were out of sight and out of mind. We're learning the hard way that this is not only bad for the river but it's bad for people too.

A great deal of the population on this fair planet live near rivers. They have always provided routes for transportation, drinking water and food.There are quite a few groups working hard to raise awareness and begin the process of restoring our rivers.

Check and see there is probably a river conservation group near you.

As a final note,the Petitcodiac River has been selected as a finalist in 2014 for the prestigious Riverprize. This international prize recognizes significant achievements in river restoration. The Petitcodiac was at one time considered Canada's most endangered river. Now it is the focus of the largest river restoration project in North America.

Kudos to all those who worked so hard to make this much happen.

One Last Look At the River From the Recreation Trail

Moncton in the distance.
Moncton in the distance.

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