Waterfall Detail: The Nepisiguit River (Winpegigewig) means troubled river, or rough flowing water in Mi’kmag and is a major white water river in the province. Located approximately 51 miles up the river from Bathurst, Indian Falls add excitement to this already beautiful New Brunswick River. It is one of the many waterfalls on the river and is known to many. The river gets progressively boisterous through the rapids that starts at the upper falls and culminates in a 2 metre drop at Indian Falls. To those who canoe the river each year it is one of the take out points. For those who continue further on the series of falls must be portaged. The encumbrance is such that attempting to run these rapids can be disastrous.
An ancient and worn path (Sentier Nepisiquit Mi’gmaq Trail) on the north side of the river is used to bypass the falls. There is a trail system, which follows the shoreline of the Nepisiquit River some 80 miles to Mt. Carleton and was used by the Mi’kmag people for a variety of purposes, including access to tribal hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering sites, Spring and Fall migration, as well as a thoroughfare over which they traveled to interact and trade with other First Nation communities. This historic pathway into the New Brunswick wilderness is rich in cultural heritage sites dating back much earlier than historical records would indicate. Fragments of stone tools have been recovered from archeological sites along the. To this day, rock blinds used for hunting caribou can be found along various sections of the trail.
Driving north on Route 11, take exit 304 to Bathurst. Drive away from the city on Route 430 west toward the community of Bathurst Mines. Continue past the mines turnoff. The road will change to gravel. This is the Nepisiguit River Road. Continue on until the sign on the left side of the road indicating Indian Falls. Pull off onto an old road and park. The train head is located at N47 22’ 02.4” / W066 15’ 45.6”, and is rather steep to start but once in the valley it meanders gently towards the river. Near the river there is a junction. The left hand trail leads to the lower higher) falls and the other leads to the upper falls and the beginning of the portage.
Visit Detail: This late in August the sun is unseasonably warm. Sitting alongside the Nepisiguit River near Indian Falls it is understandable why Rod O’Connell is zealous about this beautiful river. Over the past several years he has organized a group known as the friends of the trail to provide maintenance and stewardship of the historical footpath. I stir the revere by moving to my camera to photograph the falls during a brief interlude of cloud cover. Rod and friend Karl Branch chat excitedly yet with tempered tones about the relocation of the trail to this side of the river. It movement will provide a higher level of access, improved trail maintenance and most importantly a greater level of safety.
We are here at just the right time. Flies are minimal, the water levels just right for photography and the weather comfortable. Over a cup a tea Rod explains the importance of this footpath through stories passed onto to him by timber men who walked from the Bathurst area to the lumber camps. Men who worked all summer fishing, in late November leave their families and head to the lumber camps located in the valleys of this beautiful region. As well for millennia, the Mi’kmag used this footpath to journey from the summer encampments along the Bay of Chaleur near Bathurst to camps at the foot of Mount Sagamook where they could hunt and fish. This area is important theirs and New Brunswick’s history.
After our lunch we walked along the trail to the upper falls where we reflected on the beauty of the river and the importance of the trail.