ALL SO VERY GRAND (Grand Falls)

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Tessi and I headed to the fence the office worker had pointed out to me. By this time, after more than a week of touring about, road weariness had settled into my being as I once again struggled to find a destination. At this point, I hoped to see the waterfall in the town of Grand Falls—a place that had been on my bucket list. What greeted us at that fence was beyond expectation and boosted my frazzled soul.

No Ordinary Town

As I drove through the hilly town following the signs directing me to the Falls & Gorge campground, hope teased me that I would conveniently discover the water feature there. They were the only indications I noticed mentioning a waterfall. I passed through the typical urban setting—paved roads lined with stores and other businesses, and intersected with traffic lights to keep the inherent bustle organized. Eventually residential buildings took over. Nothing hinted at the incongruous beauty cutting through the town’s midst.

The only falling water I viewed as I threaded my way through the small campground to park in front of the office was in the form of the raindrops starting to splash down around us. Inside, I wearily stated to the man behind the desk, “I’m just looking for the waterfall.” He kindly offered detailed directions that my muddled brain didn’t want to be bothered comprehending. After briefly pondering my blank face he added that if I walk over to the fence, I would see the gorge, and that an accompanying walking trail leads to the falls. “Perfect,” I responded. To add, he didn’t seem to mind me leaving my car parked in the prime spot I had pulled into.

While I searched for my rain pants in my luggage, the drizzle turned heavier. Luckily, as far as Tessi is concerned, the rewards of discovery outweigh any of nature’s challenges.

Beyond the Fence

The vista beyond the greenery at the fence line revealed massive pluvial-induced moody, misty craggy walls bursting with rich woodland on top and cradling a river far below. I watched the narrow flow tumble over the rocky base and pool in deeper sections. Far off, a rush of water fell from a sloped edge to join the procession below.

We followed the pathway under a mostly wooded canopy. My weather-resistant camera—a piece ofimgp0127 equipment that rarely sees daylight since my phone’s camera has taken centre stage—proved handy for capturing those sweeping views in the rain. One spot boasts the Camel’s Tongue—a thrust of outcropping jutting into the river.

I kept Tessi leashed for the usual reasons—just in case we met other walkers and to keep her on the path with me; yet, I was more concerned about the precipice. I noticed fencing for the most part, but I wasn’t sure if it spanned the whole length of the gorge.* Naturally, unimpressed with the amazing scenery, her nose stayed focused on the surrounding vegetation.

Another Camping Spot

Too quickly, we entered another campground. Just as I contemplated on where to go next, a couple appeared out of another treed section. They pointed out where the trail continues. On its route, we passed a recreational park with abandoned puddle-riddled tennis courts before dipping back into the woods again. A couple of short side trails took us to lookouts commanding more majestic panoramic views.

There it is!

On the other side of a bridge, where downtown competes with nature, we finally arrived at the 23 m (75 ft) waterfall. I had been warned earlier in the day that there might not be much of one because of the dry season. The narrow cascade crashing down the rugged rock face before me, however, boasted enough personality to impress me. Pictures I pulled up in later research revealed the forceful cataract it is more likely known to be.


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Circling

As we returned to the car, we walked back into what I had thought was that second campground; yet, at the angle of our approach I did a double-take when I noticed my car. We had only circled into the original one on what was called the Camel’s Back Trail.

While driving out of the town, geared up and temporarily rejuvenated for the long trip home, we passed the waterfall. It would have been simple to find if I had stayed downtown. But in this way, I benefited from an easy parking spot, a rewarding walk along the gorge—and a story to tell.

 Little Bits of Info

 I must admit, my tiredness kept me from fully grasping some of the details of Grand Falls. Thanks to Denise LaFrance Dionne, Tourism Coordinator & Special Projects for filling me in.

  • *The whole length of the 1.6 km (about a mile) walking trail along the gorge is indeed fenced.
  • The rock in the gorge is comprised of limestone, sandstone, plus silt, salt and clay.
  • The river is the 673 km (418 mi) St. John River. The gorge squeezes it down to its most narrow point.
  • There is a set of steps (401 of them), which I somehow missed, that leads to the bottom of the gorge.

For More Info

© Cheryl Smyth, 2016

Denise sent me some extra info to add:

  • Bring your camera to capture the seasonal falls (when she talks of the falls she now always uses the word "seasonal") and the Grand Falls Gorge, one of New Brunswick’s Best Kept Secret
  • Their downtown is named the Broadway Boulevard, and has a special character featuring the widest main street east of Winnipeg.
  • From the La Rochelle Center you can walk down the 401 steps to reach the shore of the St. John River. Here is the ideal place to observe the impressive gorge with its wells in rocks.
  • Wooded nature, rumble of the falls, a spectacular gorge, this is what the Falls & Gorge Campground has to offer.
  • Guided tours are offered daily to observe this natural wonder offering amazing views from various lookouts.
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