We learned about the unique geography of the Bay of Fundy when we visited the Nova Scotia side and rode the giant tidal wave that is generated as the 62 mile wide mouth of the bay funnels enough water to fill all the rivers in the world into the five mile narrows. Depending on the alignment of the moon and sun, tides can be fifty feet high. The story began over 600 million years ago when two continents collided and the Caledonia Highlands Mountain range was formed. Over time, these mountains eroded; rocks and pebbles washed down from the mountain into the level ground of a wide rift valley. With the retreat of the Ice Age 13,000 years ago, this dry valley bed filled with the glacial meltwater and the sea level rose. This was the birth of the Bay of Fundy.
On the New Brunswick side of the bay the tides have created other interesting phenomena. Over millions of years, layers of rock and pebble compressed and cemented together into a large shelf of conglomerate rock interspersed with layers of fine sandstone. Millions of years later, during a period of tectonic activity, these layers of conglomerate, sandstone and shale were uplifted and tilted to a 30-45º angle. Vertical cracks or fissures divided the rock into large blocks. Ice and rain caused these fissures in the rocks to widen and erode forming the beginnings of the flowerpot formations. The flowerpots were so named because early tourists thought that's what they looked like, especially at low tide. As the water comes in, it erodes the bottoms of the formations, but does not affect the tops, which sport gardens of plants and trees.
We had to leave the campground at 7am to get to Hopewell Cape where the flowerpots are to see them at low tide. After driving for two hours through alternating fingers of thick fog and bright sunshine, we drove to a special parking lot large enough to accommodate us all and joined a tour guide on the ocean floor. Some areas were thick with the mud we slid down in Nova Scotia, but for the most part there was a solid rock formation that made it easy to wander around and look up at the stunning rock formations. There were bands of different kinds of seaweed on the rocks that required more or less hours of water submersion to survive. One kind had bubbly protrusions and he warned us not to take them home. In 24 hours they would turn red and emit a smelly feet odor. We also saw tiny plovers that stop off here for a few weeks to feast on tiny shrimp that live in the mud; they are no bigger than a grain of sand. Then if the peregrine falcons that also live here haven't eaten them, the plovers fly to Brazil for the winter, making the entire journey in about 72 hours. Amazing!
Because the formations are fragile, rock climbers come here every spring to examine the rock faces and rope off areas that could fall on tourists. Even with their work, we strolled by a huge boulder that had recently come loose. The guide estimated that the shoreline has moved back forty feet since we were here twenty years ago. The rock formations were stunning, but it was hard to photograph them without a kazillion people in front of them. A steady parade of tour buses dropped off tourists, many international. It appeared that Hopewell Cape must be a must-see for folks from Asian countries.
After the tour we drove our rigs a mile to the campground. Arriving all at once was not a good strategy. For a while we blocked the highway with our convoy and it took at 45 minutes for everyone to get in and parked. By 4pm the tide was at its highest and we returned to the park to see the tops of those flowerpots that were still exposed above the seawater. I tried to stand in the same places and take the same photographs at the overlooks, but it looked so different it was hard to match up. When we leave here tomorrow, we will move down the bay to visit one more unique Fundy phenomenon.