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Bay of Fundy FAQs

With thanks to Terri McCullough from Bay of Fundy Tourism

1. Are the Bay of Fundy tides a 50-foot "wall of water"?
The Bay's tides do officially measure 50 feet in height but the tidal bore (just one of several ways to see the tides) is not a 50 foot 'wall of water' twice a day. More information about the various tidal effects you can experience in addition to the bore below.

2. Why do people call the tidal effects by different names? Isn’t a tide simply a tide?
There are actually four tidal effects that can be experienced around the Bay of Fundy.

They are:

Vertical Tidal Effect
high_low_tide_ani2This is the effect that gives the Bay of Fundy the highest tides in the world (approx 50 feet) designation. This effect can be seen at most of our wharves around the bay.

At low tide local fishing boats are sitting high and dry on the ground against the wharf while the tide is a mile or so away. At high tide, these same boats are floating alongside the top of the wharf.

Remember: the time between high and low tide is 6 hr 13 minutes. To best appreciate the vertical tidal effect, visit the same wharf at low tide then again at high tide.

Tidal Bore
Bore_Shubenacadie_RiverEven if you've never previously been to the Bay of Fundy, you may have heard about the phenomenon known as the tidal bore: outflowing rivers flowing back upstream as the tide comes in.

Folks who have never been to Fundy before tend to take our 50 foot tide measurement and combine it with the bore concept - then end up thinking that we have a 50 foot (think: tsunami!!) bore twice a day, which we do not. The actual rapids of a tidal bore are between 10 and 12 feet, which is still pretty cool.

Many rivers in the upper part of the Bay have tidal bores but, unless you're a local, you may have trouble finding them. Visitors usually like to visit those with some interpretation. Most of these are on the Nova Scotia side of the bay.

Note that the bore time does not match either the high or low tide times listed on the tide chart for that community. The bore time varies depending on where you're perched to view it from the riverbank.
One of the best ways to experience this tidal change is to go white water rafting in it... it's interesting to watch from the shore but it is hugely fun to raft in.

Horizontal Tidal Effecthorizontal_St_Martins_Tides_aniThis phenomenon occurs in many locations in the upper part of the Bay of Fundy but you need to allow 6 hours to appreciate it. Basically, it involves going to the same beach at both high and low tide to see the huge distance that the tide travels from high to low. If you are accustomed to the 1-6 foot tides in the rest of the world, this may not sound very impressive. However, with the volume of water we have moving in & out of the Bay (100 billion tonnes each tide) the horizontal effect can be a truly an amazing sight!

At low tide a vast expanse of the ocean floor is exposed. In the upper part of the Bay the tide can be a few miles away from where it was at high tide. And, of course, there is nothing like sea kayaking at high tide over where you were previously walking at low (see links).

Tidal Rapids, Whirlpools & Rips rapids_ReversingFallsJBTThe fourth way to see the tides is to visit a location where the tidal rapids, whirlpools or rips can be seen.

The Bay of Fundy coast is definitely not smooth and linear; there are many craigy cliffs and sharp headlands jutting out into the Bay which “interfere” with the flow of water in and out of the Bay, or at the very least cause the water to flow in interesting patterns.
The "Old Sow off the coast of Deer Island: the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere, the second largest in the world - second only to the Maelstrom Whirlpool of Norway. This natural wonder can be seen from the shores of Eastport, Maine. The best time to see the "Old Sow" is 3 hours before high tide.

3. Where can I go to ‘see’ the tides?
Vertical Tidal Effect
In New Brunswick: St Martins, Alma, Cape Enrage, Hopewell Cape, the Chocolate River near Hillsborough, Petticodiac River in Moncton.
In Nova Scotia: Advocate Harbour, Parrsboro, Hantsport, Hall's Harbour, Margaretsville, Harbourville, Digby.

Horizontal Tidal Effect
In New Brunswick: St Andrews, New River Beach, St Martins, Alma, Cape Enrage, Hopewell Rocks, Dorchester Cape
In Nova Scotia: Joggins, Parrsboro, Five Islands, Grand Pre, Blomidon.

Tidal Bore
Most of these are on the Nova Scotia side of the bay.

  • the Maccan River about 10 minutes from Amherst where there are interpretive panels
  • the tidal bore in Truro just out by the Palliser restaurant
  • the South Maitland Tidal Bore Lookoff where there is an interpretation centre and some panels.

Note that the bore time does not match either the high or low tide times listed on the tide chart for that community. The bore time varies depending on where you're perched to view it from the riverbank.

Tidal Rapids, Whirlpools Rips
In New Brunswick: Reversing Falls in Saint John, Cape Enrage, by boat in the Passamaquoddy Bay (such as off the coast of St Andrews or between Black's Harbour and Deer Island). The "Old Sow off the coast of Deer Island: the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere, the second largest in the world - second only to the Maelstrom Whirlpool of Norway. This natural wonder can be seen from the shores of Eastport, Maine. The best time to see the "Old Sow" is 3 hours before high tide.

In Nova Scotia: Cape d'Or near Advocate, Cape Split - it's a 4 hr hike out there (near Wolfville), in the water channels of Digby Neck between Digby Neck and Long Island, and between Long Island and Brier Island.

4. How do the tides work?

  • Tides are the periodic rise and fall of the sea caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun on the Earth. Fundy’s tides are the highest in the world because of an unusual combination of factors: resonance and the shape of the bay.
  • The water in the Bay of Fundy has a natural resonance or rocking motion called seiche. You could compare this to the movement of water in a bathtub. Although the water in a bathtub sloshes from one end to the other and back again in a few seconds, it takes about 13 hours for the water in the bay to rock from the mouth of the bay to the head of the bay and back again. As the ocean tide rises and floods into the bay every 12 hours and 25 minutes, it reinforces the rocking motion.
  • To imagine this, picture an adult giving a gentle push to a child on a swing. Just a very small push is required to keep the swing moving. Likewise the seiche in the bay is sustained by the natural resonance of the ocean tides. The bay’s shape and bottom topography are secondary factors contributing to Fundy’s high tides. The bay becomes narrower and shallower [from 130 m (426 ft) to 40 metres (131 ft)] toward the upper bay, forcing the water higher up onto the shores. Source: “Tides of Fundy” by the Fundy Guild at Fundy National Park.

 

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