If you take to Highway 117 to explore the lesser developed northern regions of Kouchibouguac National Park, a 31-km (20-mile) drive will bring you to the first community located outside it's northern boundary - Pointe Sapin. This small and picturesque community of about 200 families is located at the north end of Kouchibouguac Bay.
Russ and I took a drive up here on our first morning in the area, because scattered showers lingering from the overnight rain were delaying our biking plans. We stopped at the large wharf in Pointe Sapin and admired the fleet of fishing boats tied up there - with not much activity taking place. The boats all looked well-maintained and ready to head out into Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence after various species such as herring, lobster, scallop and mackerel, depending on the season.
The majority of people along this part of New Brunswick's coast are proud 'Acadians' of French descent, tracing their roots in this land back to 1604 when Samuel de Champlain (eventual founder of Quebec City) and his men spent their first winter in Canada at St. Andrews, NB. Gradually more French settlers arrived and co-existed well with the indigenous Mi'kmaq (Nova Scotia), Maliseet (New Brunswick) and Abnaki (Maine) peoples. However, fall-out from the British-French wars of the next 150-years eventually led to British control of the Maritime Provinces of Canada. It was 250 years ago, in 1755 that a British decree was issued expelling 10,000 of these settlers as a result of a dispute over their swearing allegiance to the British Crown while the Acadians merely wished to be left out of the backlash of European wars. Many returned to Europe and some ended up in Louisiana (where they became known as 'Cajuns). In 1763 the British allowed some to return after they swore allegiance, but they now had to find and settle new lands in the remote parts of the Maritimes. And thus it was that Acadians finally arrived on these out of the way shores of New Brunswick.
The province of New Brunswick is noted for its wooden covered bridges, many of them dating from 100 years ago. On the short drive from our motel in Richibucto to Kouchibouguac National Park on old Highway 134, I was intrigued by this wooden bridge at St. Louis de Kent.
Built in 1943 to span the Kouchibouguacis River, this 2 lane bridge uses the Arched Burr design incorporating a long curved support section in each of its two spans (on the right side, you can see one arch starting up from where the cars are and then curving back down in mid-span). This is a very old design, named after Theodore Burr for a bridge built in 1817 over the Hudson River in New York. The distinctive arch allows for a very long span of 250 feet, requiring fewer support structures in the middle of a river if more than one span is needed to make the crossing.
Because this bridge at St. Louis de Kent is constructed of rot-resistant cresote timber (tarred), the wooden frame was simply left 'un-covered' and seems to be holding up quite well 60 years later! Of course it helps that this section of highway has now been bypassed by a modern highway with a steel and concrete bridge. The red 'balls' on the 12,000 volt power lines to the right are to make them more visible to aircraft in case they happen to be flying exceptionally low!!
On our final morning in the Park, we took the southern biking route back to the Information Centre where we had left our car. This route took us past another very nice beach, Callanders Beach, as well as a large open grassy picnic area.
Located here, was this large native American 'teepee', in which members of the local Maliseet people present aspects of their culture to Park visitors. In actual fact, this type of structure is common to western aboriginal people. In the east, the traditional form of housing was called a 'wigwam' and consisted of a smaller circular structure with a rounded roof. The basic frame consisted of slender birch and sassafrass saplings that were bent and tied into the required form. The bottom was then covered with layers of bark while the upper roof area was protected by waterproof cattail mats.
Over the past few years, a great deal of discussion and several legal cases have taken place in Canada to decide how much of the forest and fishing resources should rightfully be allocated to aboriginal harvesters. It all boils down to the interpretation of the intent of the term 'traditional activities' in the treaties signed between the aboriginals and the British in the mid-1700s.