Nepisiguit (Grand) Falls

Waterfall Detail: Arthur P. Silver in his book “Farm-Cottage, Camp and Canoe in Maritime Canada” 1907 writes about the problem of driving logs over the Grand Falls of the Nepisiguit River: “I once witnessed an imposing ‘jam’ of logs on the Nepisiguit River, in New Brunswick, above the Grand Falls. Here the river plunges over a precipice of eighty-five feet in height. The water above became backed up by the ‘jam’ for several miles. When the river fell the logs were left arched over the summit of the falls, wedged between the steep rocky heights which formed the river banks. Here they remained for a whole season. During the ensuing spring, when the river rose to an unprecedented height, they were suddenly started and carried away with an appalling crash; some huge logs were split entirely in halves. Below the falls the waves bound and wallow through a steep gorge for half a mile with a great swelling noise, and the passage of the timber through this rock canyon was most impressive. The sound of the huge logs striking the rock walls resembled the bombardment of a battery of artillery-and much good timber was utterly ruined by being bruised and smashed against the sides of the canyon, as the logs rushed past and were borne along by the resistless fury of the current. It was a striking spectacle to see the surging mass careering on the tumbling billows, and vaulting over the frightful brink of the cataract.”

Construction started on the Power dam in 1919 and produced power for the first time in 1921.  Log drives did not stop because of the dam.  In 1925 wood contractor Odilon Thériault would meet a tragic death on the river drive. While opening one of the sluices at the Nepisiguit Power Dam, Thériault was accidently carried over the dam in the raging waters of the Falls.  The Gloucester Northern Light carried the story of his accident in the May 14, 1925 edition with the headline “Theriault’s Body Not Yet Found”. His body was only found 40 days later down river. The accident is recorded in the log-book at the dam.  The drive of long-logs ended in 1929 but the 4 foot drive replaced the long-log drive and the 4 foot river drive on the Nepisiguit River only ended in the spring of 1965. The power station has changed ownership over the years until NB Power purchased the property. There are plans to increase the head by raising the height of the dam and spillways. The current installation generates 10 Megawatts of power.

From Route 11 take exit 304 in Bathurst. Drive away from the city on Route 430 heading west for the community of Bathurst Mines near the falls. At approximately 25 km there is a turn off to the mine itself. Continue past this an additional 1 km and the road turns sharply to the left. Follow this road passing though the small community of Bathurst Mines to the dam and falls.

Visit Detail: Finished photographing Millstream and Hadley Falls, I decided to drive out to Nepisiguit (Grand) Falls. By this time the afternoon sun rejuvenates my spirit after the cold north wind of the day previous. My last stop of the day will be Pabineau Falls and I was waiting until later in the day, when the sunlight was less harsh to photograph.

Unsure of the exact location of the falls I stopped along the road to ask directions from an elderly gentleman on his morning walk. Through his broken English I understood that Nepisiguit Falls was just up the road near the Bathurst Mines and that there are road signs. Thirty minutes and several U turns later I arrived at the community of Bathurst Mines and falls.

Parked near the hydro dam, I grabbed my camera gear and walked down an old road to a spot below the falls. There was a trail leading to an open spot with excellent views of the lower falls and the gorge. The falls is somewhat restricted from flowing through the rocky gorge by the dam. Never the less the gorge below the power plant is simply striking. Rising almost 40 metres above the river the narrow channel provides a dramatic scene with large white pine standing sentential over the river.

I spent the better part of an hour photographing the falls and gorge. I was glad I took the time to drive out to this site. Regardless of the dam, the area is well worth the visit.

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