Track 7: North River Provincial Park & Falls

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A Great blue heron takes flight at North River Bridge, St Ann's Bay, Cape Breton

Adapted and abridged from the Cabot Trail Companion.

This stop is another of the Cabot Trail's hidden gems; in fact it's so hidden that even many Cape Bretoners have never seen it.

You'll find the North River Provincial Park wilderness area a few kilometres up the Oregon Road (at North River Bridge, where the Cabot Trail crosses North River).

An attractive map and guide explores both the natural and commercial history of the forest: called North River Wilderness and Hiking Trails, it is available at local shops and accommodations, as well as at the North River trail-head kiosk

You can see the romantic-looking ruins of a log de-barking mill from the Cabot Trail; alternatively, drive down the track at the mouth of North River to where the town of Murray once housed many of the lumberjacks. Here you can also see vestiges of the logging booms that were stretched across the river to catch the logs as they drifted downstream.

This was a tough existence, but at the peak of production there were several hundred workers in these hills: the North River watershed alone had as many as 30 logging camps. The camps didn't just accommodate lumberjacks — there were also cooks, farriers, stable-hands and other workers to help keep the operation running smoothly.

Nowadays, much of the land outside the protection of the Highlands National Park is given over to softwoods destined for paper mills, but increasingly, passionate craftsmen and sympathetic landowners are working towards the re-establishment of the traditional and diverse Acadian forest. This sort of thinking is the start of great things for the local economy, because craftsman-made hardwood products are worth ten times more than plain round logs sold to make newsprint. And of course, it's also good news for rare forest plants and the endangered pine marten and Canada lynx, which are both found in and around the North River Wilderness Area.

Hiking the canyon trail to see the magnificent 32-metre falls is well worth the effort, but bear in mind that with a round trip of 18 kilometres — about 11 miles — it can be physically demanding. If time is at a premium, much easier and shorter trails are also offered beside smaller waterfalls and idyllic salmon pools.


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!

Cape Breton Adventure (user-friendly guide to several hikes across Cape Breton Island)

User-submitted guide to North River Falls trail

Hike the Highlands annual pre-autumn festival

Understanding The Value Of A Hardwood Forest: A Case For Selection Management (by Aaron Schneider)

Quality Hardwood Flooring from Middle River

Accommodations & other businesses along the way

Am Bothan Cottage Accommodation ($$)
58 Oregon Rd, North River Bridge. TF: 1-877-929-2673;

North River Kayak Tours
Murray Road, North River. TF: 1-888-865-2925;

Pamela’s B&B Accommodation ($)
48840 Cabot Trail, North River Bridge. TF: 1-800-532-6705;

Shape Shift Pottery
31 Oregon Road, North River. T: (902) 929-2273;

Stephen’s B&B Accommodation ($)
279 Murray Rd, North River Bridge. T: (902) 929-2860;

Taigh Mairi B&B Accommodation ($–$$)
50972 Cabot Trail, Tarbot. TF: 1-888-393-0670;

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