Along with the Tablelands in the previous post, the highlight of our visit to Gros Morne was the tour through the Western Brook Pond. With walls up to 600 metres (2000 feet) high, this fjord system was carved by glaciers millions of years ago. The majority of Canadian fjords are in British Columbia and Nunavut, and this is one of the rare “fjord lakes.” Sometime after the glaciers receded the pond became cut off from the sea and the sea water was eventually replaced by fresh water.
The boat tour is run through Bon Tours (the only operator in Western Brook Pond) and takes about 2 hours from start to finish. Before we got on the boat, however, we had to do a 3 kilometer (2 mile) walk from the parking lot to the edge of the lake. It took about 45 minutes and was a very pleasant walk through grassland and bog. For much of the walk we could see the fjord looming in the distance.
We eventually reached the edge of the pond where the tour company was set up. The tour site has washrooms, a simple fast food restaurant and gift shop. We picked up our reserved tickets at the booth and then headed over to the dock to get on the boat. The tour boats have a capacity between 70 and 90 passengers.
The boat went at a leisurely pace through the channel. Except for the other tour boat, we didn’t see any other boats in the channel that day as private launches are not allowed there to minimize the impact on the environment.
For an hour the boat meandered its way from the dock to the end of the pond. It was a continuous show of steep drop-offs and falling water into the calm waters of the pond below.
We eventually reached the eastern end of Western Brook Pond before the boat turned around. Originally the water would have continued into the Atlantic but now it’s a freshwater channel. For those willing to hike, a separate tour makes it possible to continue deeper into the wilderness on foot. The tour took another hour to make its way back to the dock.
After returning from the tour, we briefly stopped at Green Point Geological Site, an important geological and fossil site located within the park and near the Western Pond. It’s an easy site to get to although it’s better to go at low tide when you can walk further out and see more of the geological formations up close.
For the geologists out there, Green Point is where fossils were discovered that define the boundary between the Cambrian and Ordovician periods in Earth’s history.
For anyone heading to Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park is a must. Once you’re on the island, it’s an easy place to visit by car and you can spend days hiking the various trails in the area. Furthermore, for those willing to drive about four hours further north, it’s possible to visit L’Anse aux Meadows, the site of the first European visitors to North America about 1000 years ago. I’ll include that one in a future post.