Western Brook Pond – Best Boat Tour Ever
This is my fifth post from Gros Morne National Park which I consider to be a true Canadian treasure. Previously Alison and I visited the Tablelands, contemplated climbing Gros Morne Mountain and enjoyed a cruise on Bonne Bay fjord, but we have saved the best for last. The boat tour of Western Brook Pond is simply one of the greatest outdoor experiences that Parks Canada has to offer in its forty eight national parks and reserves. Please join us on the the boat and find out why every Canadian must put this on their bucket list of things to do in this wonderful country of ours.
Gros Morne is essentially divided into three parts in terms of what to see and do. First there is the southern portion below Bonne Bay which includes the Discovery Centre and the Tablelands. Then there is the portion above Bonne Bay which includes Gros Morne Mountain and the communities of Norris Point and Rocky Harbour. Lastly there is the northern section of the park that includes the Green Point geological sight, Broom Point fishing exhibit and most importantly the majestic Western Brook Pond. My suggestion for exploring this last portion of Gros Morne is to relocate from Rocky Harbour where we enjoyed two nights at the Ocean View Hotel to the Shallow Bay Motel in Cow Head. Along the way there are a couple of places aside from Green Point and Broom Point that are worth stopping at.
Lobster Cove Head is just north of Rocky Harbour and definitely worth the short side trip to see the lighthouse and check out the tide pools here. Further north on the Viking Trail check out the wreckage of the S.S. Ethie which was blown ashore over a hundred years ago.
Aside from the remains of the wreck you will be amazed by the variety of different coloured rocks that make up the beach here. Newfoundland and Labrador is famous for its interesting geology and this is as good a place as any to find out why.
Western Brook Pond
The same company that runs the Bonne Bay boat tour and water taxi, operates the Western Brook Pond boat tour. Bon Tours charges $65.00 for adults for a two hour cruise and it’s worth every penny. This is an extremely popular excursion so please make your reservations on line well in advance. However, there is one thing you need to know before booking this tour. There is a three kilometre (1.85 miles) walk from the parking lot to the the wharf where the boat departs. It’s a pretty gentle walk on a wide path and almost anyone should be able to handle it. Near the end you round a bend and get your first glimpse of Western Brook Pond.
A couple of words about Western Brook Pond. First, only Newfoundlanders could call this a pond. In reality it’s a big, deep lake that once was a true fjord, open to the ocean like Bonne Bay. Initially carved out by glaciers, once they receded the land slowly rebounded from the crushing weight and eventually Western Brook Pond along with Bakers Brook Pond and Trout River Pond became cut off from the ocean and the salt water was replaced by fresh water runoff.
At the wharf there are interpretive panels showing what this place looked like only 15,000 years ago when covered in ice.
The boat used for the Western Brook Pond tour doesn’t look that big, but it actually will take over a hundred passengers. The best place to sit is on the upper deck providing the weather is good.
What follows is a series of photographs that detail the trip as the boat enters the Western Brook Pond land-locked fjord and follows it to the far shore before returning. The first one below is the view shortly after leaving the wharf.
Next is the first of many waterfalls. You can also see that the sides of Western Brook Pond are heavily forested and in this area mostly with deciduous trees which will be magnificent in a month or so.
As you enter the fjord you start to realize just how high these cliffs really are.
Similar to Bonne Bay, but much higher, some of the cliffs are topped with pinnacles that almost seem like solemn sentinels overlooking the waters far below.
As the boat goes deeper into the fjord the views become almost surreal. On the open part of Western Brook Pond it was quite windy, but the wind is blocked from hereon in to the end of the fjord and it becomes almost preternaturally calm. It is about at this point that I began to realize that I was experiencing a once in a lifetime moment and many people were simply awed into silence.
The boat was captained by Craig Payne and crewed by K.J.Hollahan and Jamie Reid, the latter two who kept up a constant humorous repartee that did not take away from the majesty of the scenery, but added a distinct Newfoundland flavour to the trip.
Rounding the bend on the left we came to a much larger waterfall than the first. Blue Denim Falls gets its name from the distinct blue cast to the mist which the captain showed us by expertly backing the boat into the mist at the base of the falls.
Across from the falls on the other side of Western Brook Pond was probably the best example of a hanging valley I have ever seen. These are commonly seen in the Rocky Mountains and are created by glaciers. In this case one glacier scrapes out the valley you see here, while the much larger one that created Western Brook Pond t-bones it and cuts it off at the knees.
Next comes a set of even better pinnacles than the first we encountered.
The cliffs in Western Brook Pond reach heights of over 2,000 feet and this picture gives one an idea of just how tall that is by comparing the boat in the photo, which comparable in size to the one we were on, to the cliffs.
This is Woody Pond falls
Followed by another great vista.
Next there is a profile of a reclining Thomas Jefferson.
While the boat goes deeper and deeper into Western Brook Pond the views backward are as spectacular as those straight ahead.
Next is White Point Falls.
Finally we reach the end of Western Brook Pond where there is a small dock that serious hikers use as the starting point to climb up into the Long Range Mountains.
This is one of the most recognizable photos of Western Brook Pond and it was taken by hikers who climbed up the valley after being deposited ashore at this spot.
Before turning around, everyone on board had the chance to get their photo taken at this iconic spot so emblematic of Gros Morne National Park.
The return journey featured probably the most spectacular waterfall falling into Western Brook Pond. This is the aptly named Pissing Mare Falls.
While we made our way back out of the canyon of Western Brook Pond, the crew put on a mini kitchen party starting with K.J. playing the guitar and Jamie accompanying him with the spoons singing the Great Big Sea classic, We’ll Rant and We’ll Roar Like True Newfoundlanders.
After this Captain Payne brought out his squeezebox and the entertainment continued.
This was just a wonderful way to end what was an already fantastic trip from beginning to end.
Afterwards we returned to the Shallow Bay Motel which is literally right across the street from Theatre Newfoundland where the Gros Morne Theatre Festival is held every summer. Although sporadically interrupted by Covid the past two years, the festival, which features Newfoundland and Labrador themed performances, should be back on track for 2022.
Sadly, it’s time to leave Gros Morne National Park, but there’s a lot more to see and do as Alison and I head to Port aux Choix National Historic Site before crossing over to Labrador. Hope you’ll join us there.