Only the truly brave sit at the front of the boat when they are white water rafting on a tidal wave. Oblivious to this fact, I climbed in the front of the inflatable zodiac when we set out to go tidal bore rafting on the Schubenacadie River near Nova Scotia’s famed Bay of Fundy. It didn’t take long for me to feel the full impact of my mistake. I wrapped my fingers around the rope along the sides of the raft as we headed at high speed directly toward the tidal bore. The raft jolted upwards and everything was obscured from view as brown sludgy water engulfed us. When I checked my knuckles afterwards, I was missing some skin.
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What is Tidal Bore Rafting?
The Bay of Fundy is famous for having the world’s highest tides. When the moon is right, the incoming tide from the Bay forms a wave of water in Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River that is more than three metres high. This tidal wave moves very quickly and several people have died over the years when they got caught on the shoreline as it rushed in. Known as the “tidal bore,” this unique phenomenon is created when the world’s highest tides enter into the V-shaped Bay of Fundy and flow against the current up the mouth of the ever-narrowing river. Tidal bore rafting is the best way to experience the tidal bore up close. Using zodiac boats with strong engines, experienced guides hit the wave head on, ride the wave and more. It’s one of those experiences of a lifetime you can only have in Canada.
The Rafting Experience
After driving through the tidal bore several times in a narrow spot in the river, our guide manoeuvred the Zodiac up the river to a wider spot. He let us out on an enormous sandbar, so we could watch how quickly the tide advanced. At low tide, these sandbars take up about 80 percent of the river bed, but in only a matter of minutes the entire sandbar was covered with water and we were climbing back inside the boat. We noticed several Bald Eagles soaring overhead as our boat pulled away from the sandbar. Our guide explained that the advancing tide provides an excellent fishing opportunity for the eagles and they are often sited along the river as the tidal bore advances.
Rafting the Rapids of the Tidal Bore
Once the sand bars were covered, the speed of the water flowing over them created a series of rapids. The largest rapids were about three metres in height. For the next fifteen or twenty minutes we rode through the rapids and took turns switching positions in the boat. Those in the front always got the biggest jolt and swallowed the most water. Once those rapids began to subside, we traveled up the river. We found another spot where the tide was beginning to rise and another set of rapids was forming. We repeated this process for several hours until the water was so high there were no more rapids.
A Mud Slide and a Mud Bath
When the rapids had died down, our guide maneuvered the boat over to one of the banks where previous guests had created a mud slide into the river. We crawled up the slippery red banks and slid down the makeshift slide into the dirty water below. Then we jumped in and floated down the river for a bit before climbing back into the boat for the ride home.
Redefining White Knuckle Adventure
Bald eagles were circling overhead as our zodiac moved at high speed back up the now swollen river. That was the moment I realized that my hand was hurting. I took a quick glance at my skinless knuckles and realized that tidal bore rafting had added a new dimension to what I thought a “white-knuckle adventure” was all about.
Related: Do you like to push yourself to try new adventures? Check out our post Canmore Cave Tours and a Claustrophobic Caver.
Tidal Bore Rafting Tips
- Your white shirt will never be white again. Wear dark colors and bring water shoes. If you don’t have water shoes, the company has old runners you can borrow.
- Wear insect repellent. It will help you not get as many bites walking to the rafts. Residual mud will help you on the walk back.
- Like all tides, the tidal bore is affected by the phase of the moon. Certain times of month are better to book if you want to experience the largest waves possible. Check out the tide charts on the website.
- Wear swimming trunks or shorts. Bring a change of clothes, a quick dry travel towel, shampoo and other toiletries to use in the onsite showers afterwards. Survival gear is available during cold weather.
- At Tidal Bore Rafting Resort, there are 14 cottages, hiking trails and a rafters’ lounge. The resort is a one-hour drive from downtown Halifax.
- Two or four hour trips run from May 1 – October 31.
The water shoes above would have been nice. I went with the “wear the old runners someone else left behind” option. I tried not to think about how many other feet they had been on and I hoped nobody else who wore them had any kind of foot disease.
Related: For a substantially less muddy paddling experience, check out our post Florida Everglades Kayak Trails.