Walk to Bear Island on the longest day

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier jriley@digbycourier.ca
Published on July 6, 2011

I landed from Germany and pretty much went right to work at the Courier. DeMings, my editor, had been working without a full time reporter for a few months. So as soon as it looked I remembered the ropes, he was gone for a well-deserved break.


And so it happened that June 21 came round on the calendar and I couldn’t remember my last day off.

As luck would have it I managed to keep the longest day of the year free of appointments. And so I thought to myself: if you’re only getting one day off this month, you might as well make it the longest day possible.

I watched the sunrise from the Cannon Banks in Digby with a coffee and my camera. If DeMings saw all these sunrise photos, he’d say, “Oh the sun came up again.”

He doesn’t figure the sunrise is news. I guess he’s right but this was the longest day of the year and I was going to seize every second of it.

Except I got dragged onto the computer when I noticed the Point Prim webcam was up and working. I posted only a quick bulletin about that and then rode off on my bike exploring the old railbeds behind Digby on my way to Smith’s Cove.

The last time I’d biked over, I’d taken the rail bed from the south end all the way to the Joggin Bridge but I found the gravel too loose and too slow for biking. This time I used the Robinson Weir Road until almost the bridge.

The view from the bridge is gorgeous with the remains of a weir sticking up through the calm water, the town and the wharf and the Gut in behind.

I explored every back road and beach path on my along until I was just about late.

Late? On my day off? Well that’s the tricky thing about tides.

If you want to walk out to Bear Island you need to arrive at best a half hour or more before the scheduled low tide.

As soon as the waters recede enough, you can cross the long low causeway without even getting your feet wet. It feels very much like Moses parting the Red Sea.

On the other side of the Bay of Fundy, in Five Islands they actually stage a run/ walk out and around their islands at low tide which they call the Not Since Moses Run and Fun Walk. Smith’s Cove and Bear Island are just crying out for such an event.

I had a great chat with the clammers who were working the shore of Bear Island. They gave me some good tips for timing my home leg. They told me yo usually have about 2.5 hours between tides.

Most importantly they told me you can’t see the lowest part of the causeway from Bear Island. The part that gets covered with water first is way in near the mainland.

Another helpful tip is to watch the clammers who have their “buggies” or four-wheelers out on the causeway.

“When you hear them go, you’d better be running,” they told me. Of course worse come to worst, I could have jumped in a boat with one of the clammers.

I didn’t explore much of the island because I was pretty unfamiliar with the timing of my return trip but also because it was not a good time to be on the island.

The gulls eggs had hatched and the parent gulls were busy rearing their fluffy fuzzy young. My presence upset the gulls and some of them were swooping at me steadily.

I decided maybe it’d be better to come back for the lowest tide in July or August.

I want to walk right round the island, and I want to bring a ladder. I think I can get much better shots of the causeway with just a bit more elevation.

My favourite memory fro the day was calling my grandmother from the island. It was close to 11 a.m. I was sitting in the sun on some driftwood on a gravel bar in the middle of the Annapolis Basin and I thought I’d share it with somebody.

I called my grandmother.

“I’m on Bear Island,” I told her.

Without missing a beat she answered, “Do you want me to come pick you up?”

I laughed about that the whole walk in, and literally just crossed the causeway ahead of the water.

I had to wait another ten minutes for the last clammer on a buggy to come over. I photographed him splashing through a couple of feet of water.

And just one final note, I drove my car out to Point Prim round 9:30 p.m.

“Oh the sun went down again.”