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Maritime Acadian Highlands

Pilot Whales off Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Pilot Whales off
Cape Breton Highlands
National Park


On the coast, a water world where fog often shrouds the shore and the mist hangs cold and damp from the sharp-pointed spruce; inland, a tranquil world of sun-dappled forests, hidden waterfalls, secluded glens and eternal barrens.


A rolling plateau, a remnant of the ancient Caledonia Highlands, distinguishes this region. Averaging more than 300 metres above sea level, the plateau is cut by deep valleys and cascading rivers.

Scoured by the giant tides of the Bay of Fundy and pounded by Atlantic swells, this region meets the sea with drama and conflict.

The Fundy shore alternates between tide-scoured cliffs of sedimentary rock and extensive mud flats and salt marshes. Around Cape Breton Island, the land abruptly ends in a series of bold headlands and steep-sided river valleys pouring into coves and inlets.

Alma Marsh, Fundy National Park
Alma Marsh,
Fundy National Park


A narrow coastal strip 3-30 kilometres wide, backed by steeply rising uplands, supports a forest dominated by red spruce on the New Brunswick side of the Bay and by white spruce on the Nova Scotia shore. Inland, shady forests of white and yellow birch, American beech and sugar maple, carpeted with a lush understory of ferns, provide a restful contrast to the dense, damp evergreen forests. Hemlock, red maple, white birch, red spruce and white pine are found at lower elevations.

In the Cape Breton Island portion of the region, extensive "barrens," waist-high with Labrador tea and broken by pink granite outcroppings and patches of light green lichens, cover the upland plateau . Almost the entire region has been logged, some of it several times.

National Parks System Plan, 3rd Edition

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