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The People of the Salt and Fir

This story was initially published in 2007

On April 10, 1948, the establishment of Fundy National Park, New Brunswick’s first national park, was proclaimed in the Canada Gazette. The park was created in the hopes of revitalizing the region after many years of economic hardship following the serious decline of the forestry and fishing industries.

Official Opening of Fundy National Park
Official opening of Fundy National Park
© PANB Travel Bureau Photographs - PANB P93-A1-150
Though First Nations have been a presence in the bay region for thousands of years, exploration of the Bay of Fundy area dates back to Samuel Champlain and Pierre de Mons in the early 1600s. Settlement didn’t begin until the late 1700s by British, Scottish, Irish and American immigrants. The first permanent settler in the park area was Otis Cannon. Surrounded by the rich Acadian forest and a wealth of fish in the bay, settlers began to build sawmills and fisheries to earn a living. They also attempted to farm the land, which was difficult because the soil was terribly rocky. Many settlers abandoned their farms, but some, like the Matthews and the McKinley families, were quite successful.

Several small settlements were established, including the thriving lumbering village of Point Wolfe. The first sawmill was constructed in 1828 and by the 1870s a shipyard had also been built. There were also boarding houses and a company general store.

Point Wolfe today
Point Wolfe today
© Parks Canada / J. Shearon
However, new technologies, like steam-powered mills, began to replace the traditional ones found in the settlements. Moreover, years of logging had depleted the forests in the region. The mills also generated mill rubbish, which found its way into the streams and rivers, creating problems for local fisheries. The fish stocks in what are now the Point Wolfe and Upper Salmon rivers were exhausted, forcing many fisheries to close their doors. By the late 1890s, populations in all of the villages began to decline steadily and at the turn of the century, many mills had been closed and dismantled.

When the park was established in 1948, steps were immediately taken to restore the park to its pre-settlement era. Forests and vegetation were replenished, and mills and buildings were removed, erasing the traces of many of the villages and communities. In the case of Point Wolfe, it is now a popular campground and day-use area for visitors to the park.

Today, the park offers breathtaking views of the Caledonia Highlands and the Bay of Fundy, as well as the rich colours of the Acadian forest. Though quite small, Fundy National Park plays an important role in preserving a rich part of Canada’s special ecological and cultural history.

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