Fundy National Park of Canada
A Nice Walk in a Rough Neighbourhood
For many people, a day at the beach means lots of sun, sand and swimming, after which they usually go home with a damp beach towel and a sunburn. If you take in one of the guided beach walks at Fundy National Park, though, you'll go home with a new appreciation of our natural world.
The beach walk is one of the park's most popular interpretive events, says Karen Hine, Fundy's Heritage Presentation Coordinator. “Some visitors expect to find only sand and sea,” she explains, “but they also find rocks, shells and an abundance of life.”
Beach walks at Fundy National Park allow participants to explore the intertidal zone, the area of the ocean floor exposed when the tide goes out. With the Bay of Fundy's high tides — the highest on Earth — these intertidal zones can be large areas. But they aren't the most hospitable of places. “ It's a rough neighbourhood,” says Hine. “With the changing tides, anything that lives there has to endure alternating wet and dry, hot and cold. If that weren't enough, they also have to survive the occasional ice-cakeinvasion at the end of winter. For intertidal creatures, daily life is no day at the beach.” As visitors soon learn, this neighbourhood is home to a wide array of hardy plants and animals.
Park interpreters take groups of sneaker- or boot-clad visitors across the rocky Fundy shores, answering questions, pointing out fascinating natural sights and demonstrating the important role that Parks Canada plays in protecting Canada's natural heritage.
“Under the seaweed that lies limp at low tide, we find dog whelks, crabs and limpets hiding from the hot sun,” Hine says , with the contagious enthusiasm of someone who is living her childhood dream of becoming a naturalist in a national park. “We carefully turn over rocks that sit partially submerged in the sand and mud, and find other small creatures that have adapted to this harsh environment. We also take a close look at marine organisms such as barnacles and periwinkles, creatures that wait for the return of the tide to resume their dramatic roles in a play where nature changes the set every six hours.”
The guided beach walk at Fundy National Park is one of several interpretive events designed to give visitors a better perspective of our natural environment, Hine says. “It's much more effective to talk to people about an environment when they're standing in it. It's even better when they can touch some of it with their hands.
“The diversity of the park's environment is reflected in the diversity of our interpretive events,” she adds. “Weekly programs include fossil walks, nature exhibits and evening visits to a beaver pond.” Returning visitors will find new interpretive events each year and updated versions of the ones they enjoyed in past years. Schedules are posted at the Visitor's Centre and at the campgrounds, and there is no need to make reservations. Your park entry fee entitles you to take part in all interpretive events.
For naturalist Karen Hine, part of the joy of working at her dream job comes from sharing the joy with others. “We love giving people a new appreciation of the wonderful complexity and delicate balance. It's an experience that enriches people's lives.”