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Sea Kayaking in Nova Scotia

A Guide to Paddling Routes Along the Coast of Nova Scotia

3rd Edition


The revised and updated book by Scott Cunningham
from Nimbus Press

Tangier Harbour

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Departure Point:
Tangier Government Wharf
Route 7 to Tangier, approximately 85 km (53 mi) from Dartmouth. Right at Masons Point Road and 1 km (0.6 mi.) to the wharf. Caution: wharf is in very poor condition.

Arrival Point:

Same as the departure point.
Trip Length: Weekend, 17 km (11 mi.).


Charts and Maps:

Topographical map: 11/D/15
Marine chart: Taylors Head to Shut-in Island (#4236; 60,000)


Route Description:

The waters between Murphy Cove and Tangier Harbour are known as Shoal Bay, and as the name implies, it is a shallow basin with numerous reefs, islets, and islands. These create diversity as well as some protection from the open sea. It is close to Halifax but offers a degree of the seclusion common to more remote areas. All the islands in the Tangier grouping are crown owned and have a variety of exceptional campsites. Several interesting day-long and weekend excursions are possible and you can put in or take out at many different spots, other than the one mentioned, since the coastal highway runs almost parallel to the shoreline. Beautiful sand beaches, protected lagoons, seal and sea bird colonies, and hidden homestead remnants will make this a charming and fascinating paddle route. Mussel beds and clam flats can add to the evening meal. Although not yet inundated with paddling visitors, this has become one of the more popular locations. Take special care with campsites.


Safety Considerations:

Tangier Harbour is well sheltered from the prevailing south westerlies. Even with a change in weather, you should have little trouble returning to the departure point. If necessary, you can follow the protected shore and land at Popes Harbour. The water is shallow and there are countless shoals, great for seals but treacherous for large boats. You will encounter few vessels, except in lobster season (mid-April to mid-June). The exposed areas can be transformed from a quiet sea into a frothy maze of whitecaps in very little time. Of particular concern are the areas beyond Baltee, Tangier, and East Ironbound Islands, which should be avoided by the inexperienced paddler.


Points of Interest:

1 Hog Island: Collect some wild mussels for the evening meal. At very low water the channel is impassable.


2 Jeans Field Point: An early homestead is overgrown with white spruce where remains of a root cellar and stone wall are clearly evident. Note the cone-shaped trees at the water's edge, an indication that they originated on an open field where they had space to develop understory branches. A glance at the mainland fields shows this process currently under way there.


3 Saltwater Pond: This sheltered cove is a good stopover for migrating ducks. I have seen deer browsing at the water's edge. Their trails crisscross the island.


4 Inlet: The ocean prods deep into Inner Baltee, almost slicing it in two. A small sand beach juts into the upper reaches beside a developing salt marsh.


5 Outer Baltee: At very low water the passage between the Baltees is shallow (even for canoes and kayaks) and is at times impassable. At the eastern entrance a small crescent sand beach offers an ideal campsite. Behind the beach, along the passage, is a soft-shelled clam bed, and in deeper water are the quahogs. A long-standing osprey nest sits atop one of the shoreline trees south of the beach.


6 Baltee Head: The remnants of another homestead lie atop a bluff of blueberries and blackberries. Great view and even better campsite. The dead bleached trees are from a forest fire purposely set years ago to enhance blueberry growth. An interesting hike west along the sea cliffs offers a spectacular show when a heavy sea breaks against the shore. Large glacial erratics are scattered about the treeless barrens, and ridges of greywacke and slate dominate the landscape.


7 Western Cove: This offers a protected sand beach and campsite during an easterly blow. A high sea, breaking on the barren bedrock ledges of Baltee Point, puts on an impressive show.


8 Tangier Shoal: Keep a lookout for Harbour Seals around these shoals and islets. Terns sometimes nest here.


9 Tangier Island: The island and then the village got their names from a ship that foundered on the outer shoals in the 1700's. The first settlers along this shore arrived about 1790 and the foundations of the original homestead are still visible at the edge of the open field. This is a perfect campsite for a large group, although it is gradually be swallowed up by the regenerating white spruce. The saltwater lagoon also has a clam bed which is exposed when the tide drops. This is a nesting and feeding spot for sea birds, and the deep pool at the entrance becomes a warm swimming hole when, during low tide, the trapped water heats up.


10 Outer Island: This former cormorant colony is a good example of how devastating the guano can be to the woods. Most of the trees are now dead. The birds, nesting each year until 1994, have moved to a healthier forest on the outer-island of Route 4. Note: The channel leading into the lagoon is chaotic in rough weather (even from the southwest) and should be avoided at such times. Hike around from the campsite instead.


11 Sandy Cove: With its classic crescent beach and turquoise waters, this cove suggests a tropical lagoon on a warm summer day. A must! It is a sharp contrast with the rocky southern peninsula, where the tidepools are an excellent place to examine the intertidal plants and animals.


12 Bulls Gut: In the cliff flanking the pocket sand beach is a vertical section with rock fragments embedded in a matrix. These are known to geologists as the "Tangier Dykes" and are thought to be parts of the bottom of the earth's crust which have been broken off and transported by molten lava upward through fissures. The mixture solidified before reaching the surface and subsequent erosion and uplifting has exposed it. This is among the oldest rock on earth.


13 Glacial striations: The cliffs display clear horizontal gouges produced by the rock-embedded ice sheets over twelve thousand years ago. The adjecent point to the north also have an excellent example of a Tangier dyke.


14 Carryover Cove: As the name implies, this once served as a portage, but an hours on either side of high tide you can ease a kayak or canoe through. At low tide you will be lugging your over 75 m (246 ft.) through salt marsh and mud.


15 Abriels Fish Plant: Usually fresh fish and lobster (during season), always frozen fish available. Lobster can be obtained at Ferguson's pound a few miles west, and smoked fish-salmon, mackerel, trout and eel at Willie Krauch's in Tangier.


16 Coastal Adventures: The only sea kayaking outfitting business along the Eastern Shore is located on Mason Point Road where you can rent equipment, or take a course or tour. They also overnight at their Paddler's Retreat Bed & Breakfast.

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