Track 8: Aspy Fault & Cape Breton Geology

  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/cabo7955/public_html/cabottrail/includes/ on line 1040.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/cabo7955/public_html/cabottrail/includes/ on line 1040.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/cabo7955/public_html/cabottrail/includes/ on line 1040.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/cabo7955/public_html/cabottrail/includes/ on line 1040.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/cabo7955/public_html/cabottrail/includes/ on line 1040.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/cabo7955/public_html/cabottrail/includes/ on line 1040.
  • user warning: Unknown column 'u.signature_format' in 'field list' query: SELECT c.cid as cid,, c.nid, c.subject, c.comment, c.format, c.timestamp,, c.mail, c.homepage, u.uid, AS registered_name, u.signature, u.signature_format, u.picture,, c.thread, c.status FROM comments c INNER JOIN users u ON c.uid = u.uid WHERE c.nid = 16 AND c.status = 0 ORDER BY c.thread DESC LIMIT 0, 50 in /home/cabo7955/public_html/cabottrail/modules/comment/comment.module on line 992.

Awesome sightseeing at the Aspy lookoffs, Cape Breton Island

Adapted and abridged from the Cabot Trail Companion.

For its modest size, Cape Breton has an incredibly varied geological record. For example, near the Chéticamp entrance to the national park, old rock beds can be found pushed up on top of younger ones — evidence of the slow but unstoppable forces released when continents collide...

... Whilst at Louisbourg on the south coast is a rugged volcanic landscape that actually originated off South America! And the extreme southern tip of the island was once attached to Morocco in North Africa!

Perhaps most mind-boggling of all — North Mountain, which you start to climb a few minutes after leaving Pleasant Bay, contains rocks that are one-and-a-half billion years old.

Beyond North Mountain is another geological marvel: so be sure to check out the information panels at the Aspy Valley lookoff. On Track 8, Fenton Isenor, geology lecturer at Cape Breton University, describes the magnificent vista that awaits you.

You wouldn't suspect it today, but the landscape you see around you is all that remains of mountains that were quite possibly the highest that EVER existed on the face of this earth.

They have been worn down over the millennia by the process of erosion. It's natural to think of erosion simply as a destructive force; but 300 million years ago it actually sowed the seeds for Cape Breton's industrial development — because in the sediment washed down from those ancient mountains, plant life took hold, and eventually formed the Sydney coal field: in 1720, just east of Sydney, North America's very first coal mine began operation, supplying fuel for Fortress Louisbourg.(If you plan to visit the Louisbourg area, try to catch the Glace Bay Miners' Museum as well: it's literally a mine of information about geology and industrial history, where you can visit a period mining community and even take an underground tour.)

But let's return now to the present-day Highlands, and after the Aspy Fault lookoff and the descent of North Mountain, you might wish to pay a visit to Beulach Ban — an easily accessible 40-metre waterfall.

It's around this area that the valley starts to widen out as it drops towards sea level. There are actually three parallel Aspy rivers — North, Middle and South — and where the meet the sea you'll discover mysterious-looking spires and hollows carved by Nature from the white sedimentary mineral known as gypsum, or plaster. Fenton introduces us to these geological curiosities, and explains plaster's importance as a building material: Cape Breton wallboard COULD be a part of your home!


If you'd like more information on this section of the tour, the following links may be of interest. Because we have no control over external sites, if you find a dead link please let us know!

Parks Canada geological pages

A Billion Years of Change: The Formation of Cape Breton Island

If you would like your business to be added to this list, please contact us...