New Brunswick–the Land of……Peat Bogs!

We took a two-day detour through New Brunswick on our way to Quebec.  We were enchanted by her beautiful and uncrowded coasts, but we were especially impressed to see the vast deposits of peat.  So here’s where peat moss comes from!

new brunswick route

We Finally Leave the US

Our last night in the US was in Millinocket, ME (green dot on the map.)  We had wanted to stay in Baxter State Park, but the campground was full (it was Friday in high summer), so we stayed in a cheap hotel in the small town of Millinocket.  The next morning we drove into Canada on I-95.  As soon as we crossed the border, we encountered the first cool weather of the trip.

We planned to camp in Kouchibouguac National Park on the eastern coast, but as we were coming in on a weekend (Saturday) we needed an alternate plan.  Just a few miles inside the border is a wonderful visitors center with a playground!  They called ahead to the National Park and confirmed that there were no campsites.  They helped us find an area that was similar just to the north of the National Park.  They called a private campground in Escuminac and were told that they had plenty of tent campsites and that we should just come on.

The Drive Through the New Brunswick Interior

The first section of our drive was to the capital city of Fredericton (B on the map.)  To most of us a city of this size, with its 60,000 inhabitants, would be called a “town.”  It took less than two minutes to traverse the “city” before we turned northeast to the coast. The interior north of Fredericton is sparsely populated, and the landscape with its short trees and thick forests is reminiscent of the Alaska interior.  Occasionally we came upon small towns that looked like pleasant places to live.  We were surprised to find a free water park in one of these towns and we stopped here for a couple of hours.

Water Park in a Small Town, New Brunswick
Water Park in a Small Town, New Brunswick

The last city of any size that we passed on our way to Escuminac was Miramichi (C on the map.)  Many of the residents are of Irish descent, and they were having an Irish festival.  We got there about noon, and festivities were just getting started. Here a display of Irish sigils frames a view of the Miramichi River at the festival site.

Sigils of the Irish Clans in Miramichi, NB
Sigils of the Irish Clans in Miramichi, NB

Regretfully we left the festival as we needed to be in Escuminac by nightfall.

Escuminac–On a Sea Cliff Made of Peat Moss

We loved the campground at Escuminac (D on the map.)  Tent campers had a separate area from the RV’s.  We shared the campground with several other families with kids, and they were all playing on the playground until dark.  In the morning we walked on the beach, and were surprised to find that the cliff was made of peat moss!  We have traveled the world and have seen many outcroppings of rocks and dirt but this was a first for us.

Peat Moss Sea Cliff, New Brunswick
Peat Moss Sea Cliff, New Brunswick

Driving Tour of the Acadian Peninsula

We had heard about this area and wanted to see what is was like before we drove into Quebec.  We drove all the up to Miscou Island at the end of the northeast coast.  Before the last bridge we came to the town of Shippegan (E on the map), which has a large fishing fleet.

Shippagan, Acadian Peninsula, NB
Shippagan, Acadian Peninsula, NB

The scenery was similar to what we had been seeing near Escuminac, but the inhabitants spoke French.  When we got to Miscou Island, we realized that we had been driving around all day on peat bogs!

The Province of Peat

On Miscou Island, there is a natural area where you can walk through the peat bogs on boardwalks.  The bogs contain many small ponds that are the remnants of the retreat of continental glaciers following the last ice age.  Vegetation dies in these ponds and does not decay completely before it is buried by other vegetation.  The peat accumulates slowly and can be considered a true fossil fuel. The ground is spongy and wet, and can be difficult to traverse.  Think the Dead Marshes in Lord of the Rings.

Formation of a Peat Bog, New Brunswick
Formation of a Peat Bog, New Brunswick

There are several peat farms where the peat is being mined by huge tractors. They leave behind a huge area that now looks like a desert.

Mining Peat in New Brunswick
Mining Peat in New Brunswick

Two Days is Not Enough Time

After we left the Acadian Peninsula we turned west towards Campbellton which is on the Quebec border.  I feel like we did enough driving through New Brunswick to be able to say that if we visit again, it will be to see more of the coasts.  The interior is miles and miles of trees, and the spectacular scenery is on or near the coasts.  A future visit will be to see the Bay of Fundy.  We knew going into this trip that it would be rushed.  We needed six weeks instead of three!

As we headed west to begin our drive into Quebec, it began to rain.  We don’t mind camping in the rain, but we don’t like setting up camp in the rain.  So our visit to New Brunswick came to a bleary end in a cheap hotel on the road.

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