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Maritime Plain


Salt marshes rimmed by placid lagoons and endless ribbons of sun-swept sand beaches blend into dark forests and tidy farmlands. Canada's warmest ocean waters and longest beaches make this region a magnet for vacationers.

Prince Edward Island National Park
Prince Edward Island National Park

"The finest land one can see, and full of beautiful trees and meadows...", wrote Jacques Cartier in 1534 upon landing on Prince Edward Island.


This is a gentle land. The surface slopes gently toward the sea, riding on horizontal strata of red sandstone, shale, conglomerates and mudstones. Where land meets sea are dune-edged beaches, salt marshes and warm lagoons. Offshore, a constantly shifting chain of barrier islands and reefs protects the shore from the fury of storms sweeping in from the Gulf of St. Lawrence.


...the trees are wonderfully beautiful and fragrant ... we discovered there were cedars, yew-trees, pines, white elms, ash trees, willows and others......
Jacques Cartier, 1534

Very little of this region's original forest remains. The huge white pines described by Cartier and other explorers were largely gone by the end of the eighteenth century, cut down for masts for sailing ships.

The original mixed wood forest of sugar maple, American beech, American elm, black ash, yellow birch, white pine and eastern hemlock has long been cleared for farms. Repeated logging, fires, insect epidemics and hurricanes have left only remnants of the original forest. Today, white spruce, black spruce, balsam fir and tamarack predominate.

Kouchibouguac National Park
Kouchibouguac National Park

Large areas of muck and peat soils are present. Extensive salt marshes fringe the shore. The barrier islands and dunes are sparsely vegetated. Marram grass is the only plant that can initially colonize the dunes, stabilizing the shifting sands and enabling other species to become established.

National Parks System Plan, 3rd Edition

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