Eye of the Needle

Area Detail: The rapid melting of the Laurentide Glacier released immense quantities of water that eroded the land leaving deep-sided valley as it rushed to the ocean. In the area of Walton Glen and Little Salmon River Gorges the water followed the path of least resistance by quickly removing the rock along the edge of a fault. As the water rushed through the valleys it engraved down to sea level while forcing the rock and other materials into the lower valley.

It is important to note that the last glacier in New Brunswick was about 25,000 years ago, when it moved south covering New England and Eastern Canada. During its peak development, this ice sheet was centered over eastern Canada and flowed east to southeast across New Brunswick into the sea. The ice was several thousand feet thick, with its massive weight, shaped the land as it meandered south. Climatic warming forced the massive ice sheet to stop and begin to recede.

The Walton Glen Gorge is one of the most remote yet beautiful river canyons in New Brunswick, this little known area is home to some very unique geology and in particular the ‘Eye of the Needle. It is aptly called the ‘Grand Canyon of New Brunswick’. Walton Glen Gorge and Eye of the Needle are a must, and can only be truly appreciated by hiking up stream to get there.

There are different ways to hike to the Eye of the Needle. The following description is one of the most popular. The best time to hike through the Eye of the Needle is summer when the volume and velocity of the river is low.

Drive to the end of the McCumber Brook road and park at the path leading to the Fundy Trail. From here hike approximately 400 meters to a sign and trail on the left. This trail is 1.6 km to the junction with the Fundy Trail. At this point there are signs indicating direction and distances. Head east to the Little Salmon River a distance of 2.9 km. When you reach the end of this trail there is a sign for Mouth of Little Salmon River or Dunstan Brook. Take the Dunstan Brook trail. The trail is relatively short and leads downward about 300 feet to sea level and the Little Salmon River. At this point the river is still tidal. When you reach the river its time to switch from boots to sandals as the walk from here is mostly in water. The scenery is incredible with remnants of the former logging and shipbuilding heritage of the area. The hike leads up river for about half an hour and then on the left is the Walton Glen. At the mouth of Walton Glen there are two blue markers painted on large boulders indicating the direction. This is where it really starts to get interesting. Head upstream for about 300 meters. The water is faster and the rocks are bigger and the gorge gets narrower. The cliffs tower a couple of hundred feet straight up. This is “The Eye of the Needle”.

To continue on to the falls further upstream, look for red survey tape on the left in the woods right after the Eye of the Needle. The route is marked from the end of the ‘needle’ all the way to, and past the falls. Bouldering upstream ranges from difficult to just plain impossible at times. At the base of the falls there is a second falls. Look up and high above another waterfall shoots over the cliff face and this is the Walton Glen Falls. From here there is a trail that climbs up a few hundred feet and eventually leads to the top of the canyon and an incredible lookout.

Visit Detail: It’s Sunday morning, the weather is sunny and warm and Bart Myers, Ed Pelger, Barrett Williams and myself are amazed by this natural phenomenon. Everyone is silent, our necks are aching, as we look almost straight up at the towering cliffs. All are musing about how the Eye of the Needle was formed. We are simply amazed by the rugged beauty of this gorge.

I’ve heard about this place from hikers and naturalist who hiked the Fundy coastline between St. Martins and Fundy National Park. The first time I hiked Walton Glen Gorge was November 2007 and intended on hiking through the ‘Eye’ but ran out of time. On this trip we hiked along the Fundy trail down into the Little Salmon River Gorge. The Little Salmon is impressive to say the least. From this point we walked up the river to the Walton Glen Brook. With anticipation we scrambled over and around large boulders, as the cliffs bordering the brook grew steeper and higher. At, a sharp 90 degree bend in the brook we arrived at our destination. The “Eye of the Needle” lived up and exceeded our expectations.

After spending 20 minutes admiring the Needle, we continued our hike up the brook to the Walton Glen Brook Falls and then upward along a very steep path to the top of the gorge.

This is a must see area of our beautiful province. I for one am very thankful that the Government of New Brunswick has set aside the Little Salmon River Gorge as a protected area for all to enjoy.