Big Northwest Arm Trip Report
New Bay, Notre Dame Bay

By Paul Delaney and Steve Kerr

Date: June 10, 2006
Paddlers and kayaks:  Steve in Nimbus "Sea Farer," Paul in the Sea Knife Tricolour.
Weather conditions: Calm, occasional SE or SW breeze, mostly cloudy through morning, more sunny as afternoon progressed. Temperatures in the low 20's.
NTS Sheets: 2E/06 Point Leamington
Trip Length: 27.5 km

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Map 1: Big NW Arm Route Plan (thumbnail - click on image to enlarge)

It pays to advertise your presence sometimes, intentionally or not. Driving around or parking my truck with two kayaks aboard was noticed by Steve and he finally dropped into the hotel to see what was going on. From that we made a plan to do something locally. One night at the office I went through the maps on the computer and printed off five possible paddles in the area, two in New Bay and three in the southern portion of the Bay of Exploits. It wasn't hard to find some nice paddles in this vicinity of decent length and intrigue with islands and channels and hard coast. I get the impression that New Bay is not on the list of most people. Everyone talks about and hears about the Bay of Exploits, and for good reason, but New Bay has some excellent trips, headlands, arms, islands and coves. And many are great for people looking for calm waters.

On this day the winds were predicted to be SE 20 kph, so we opted for the Big NW Arm trip. On topo maps this arm is named Osmonton Arm, but I have it on good authority from a livyer of Cotrell's Cove whom I've worked with that it is called Big NW Arm locally. While 20 kph winds aren't too much it's hard to know what the winds are really going to be, so staying in the lun seemed a good plan, just in case. 

The approximately one hour drive from Grand Falls passes through Pt. Leamington and towards Leading Tickles. After crossing the bridge for Western Arm River you eventually see Mill Pond on your right, mostly just through the trees. Just before the road starts to climb another hill there is a dirt track to the right. Follow this and keep left all the way climbing a small hill as you go until you come to a cabin and a sharp downhill to the right. The cove is directly below. We parked in the laneway to the beach near some other cabins. Of note is that this road is not in great shape. You want something with decent clearance and 4x4 wouldn't hurt.

The water in Mill Cove was perfectly flat as we prepared. The small beach is fine for a launch. While waiting for Steve to launch, I peered through the crystal clear waters at the kelp and eel grass and an imprisoned lobster. With a brook flowing in at this point and the water so still, the layer of fresh water on the surface wasn't noticeable. But if you stirred the water with your paddle the waters would become very cloudy or distorted, a cool effect, and take a moment to clear again.

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Photo 1: Mill Cove

Leaving the cove we kept to the east side all the way out. In Babies Cove we did get a quick blast of wind, but it was pretty insignificant overall. Not far past that we dodged behind a squarish island. Beautiful views were to be had out of here as we cruised amongst the screeching gulls. I could only assume you'd have to call this spot Gull Channel or something similar. A nice cabin is located in the next cove.

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Photo 2: Steve outside Mill Cove

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Photo 3: Steve inside Gull Channel

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Photo 4: Cabin

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Photo 5: Paul looking north to islands

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Photo 6: Steve amongst small islands south of West Hare Island

 Passing east of West Hare Island, there is a possible camp site where a small brook flows in. Abundant mussels were noted by this time. Inside a cove just north of the island there is another cabin tucked into a droke of large apse trees (we'll call it Apse Cove). There is no beach but you could land if needed. You should be able to camp somewhere up above a bit. Of special note is the obvious outhouse which might please some. At this point we decided that we should get a feed of mussels. Reaching down into the frigid waters to get the larger ones the idea of not tipping over in this water came to mind often.

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Photo 7: Channel inside West Hare Island

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Photo 8: Paul near West Hare Island

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Photo 9: Steve at north end West Hare Island

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Photo 10: Apse Cove Cabin & Outhouse

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Photo 11: Apse Cove Cabin

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Photo 12: Paul in Apse Cove

Carrying on we were constantly set with a beautiful view with lumpy hills in the background and several prominent humpy islands in the foreground making for great 3D effect.

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Photos 13-19: Towards Burnt Island (thumbnails - click on images to enlarge)

On either side of the small island near the mouth of Shoal Cove there are good beaches for a lunch landing. But spying the nice beach on the appropriately named Beach Island we figured that was the spot. And it was. A great view down the bay from the south point beach and a nice breeze to keep the flies down, made this the obvious stopping spot in the area. It would be easy to camp here as well with enough driftwood for fires. As we explored a bit there is another curved beach on the west side with a nearby cave that would be useful in a rain storm. Also we noted a wonderful lookout if you were to climb above the beaches. On this island mussels were plentiful, but tiny, except in slightly deeper water out in front of where we ate. So maybe grab some from elsewhere before you settle in for a night. After lunch and fresh Screech tea and cappuccino we circled the island and tried to pass inside another island closer to the main shore. The tide was too low and it was impassable. A few other places are likely to present the same problem at low tide.

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Photo 20: Steve under cliff

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Photo 21: Beach near Shoal Cove

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Photo 22: Shoal Cove looking in

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Photo 23: Shoal Cove looking out

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Photo 24: Side of Beach Island

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Photo 25: Paul in front of Beach Island

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Photo 26: Tea and Beach Island View

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Photo 27: Cave on Beach Island

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Photo 28: Mussel Fest

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Photo 29: Looking south east of Beach Island

We followed on in the calm waters all the way to the tip of the peninsula, eventually getting some minor swells to give the boats a pleasant motion. Around the tip there are several cracks and channels amongst the rocks where you can manoeuvre around and through. The small swell made this some fun.  A couple of small beaches allow landing. By this time it was getting sunny, and it was noticeably warmer being out of the slight breeze.

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Photo 30: North of Beach Island

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Photo 31: Looking back south

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Photo 32: Paul maneuvering in crack

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Photo 33: Cliff Shore

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Photo 34: Steve in front of good climbing rocks

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Photo 35: Small cove to the north

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Photo 36: Steve with Besom Island in back

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Photo 37: Steve rounding out of channel

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Photo 38: Small beach near tip of peninsula

As it was getting late, we decided it was time to head back, but being such a good day and place, we had to get as much out of the day as possible. So we decided to take a run around Besom Island which we could see was spotted with gulls. This wasn't part of the original plan but it turned out to be a great idea. As we approached several of the very wary shags (cormorants) were spotted on the low rocks and they quickly took flight. Once we got closer we discovered that the gulls were both herring gulls and tickle aces (kittiwakes). The latter had nests on the vertical faces with the opportunistic gulls hanging about. On the north side of the island there is a narrow steep-sided crack you can quietly paddle into with tickle aces hanging just above with gulls perched on the top. Of course everything was screeching and flying about, but we tried to keep silent and still so as to not disturb too much, and most of the nesting birds didn't bother to fly off. On the northwest side is another small cove occupied by herring gulls. Out to sea we could see a crowd of a dozen or so small, dark birds that may have been guillemots or some other salt water ducks. Size differences may indicate a lot of young. At any rate visiting this island is a must just to get close to a lot of different sea birds. Although you disturb a bit, we tried to stay only short periods before moving along. Also our silent kayaks can't be quite the disruption as the lobster fishermen who have pots around the island.

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Photo 39: Steve heading towards Besom Island

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Photo 40: Paul near Besom Island

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Photo 41: Tickle Ace cliff on Besom Island

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Photo 42: Nesting Tickle Aces (need better camera)

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Photo 43: Bird crack on Besom Island

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Photo 44: Paul heading into bird crack

Well it was time to make the move to go home, and we were out of film anyway. With the lovely scenery on all quarters and water absolutely like the oil we started back taking a central route. A slight breeze, variably cool and warm, was in our face but we moved smoothly through the water towards Long Island. We decided we must run between a few islands on the way back, and then crossed to Mussel Bed Island through oily black water. Strangely enough this island had less mussels than anywhere else. Just south of the island an eagle was spotted in a tree, very near a large nest in the branches of a large spruce tree. She didn't move too far and never took her eyes off us. After a casual paddle back to our trucks with Steve putting his feet on his foredeck as he paddled (kind of highlighted the casual paddle theme) we downed a few shots of Screech as a reward for a great day. Back in Pt. Leamington in front of the Western Petroleum beer station, mallards ducks and their ducklings made for a nice cool down. The mussels that night were quite full and very tasty!

As you may be able to tell by the photos and map, this is really quite a lovely  trip. With conditions as we had them, any kayaker who can manage the distance can do it and any sensible kayaker will want to experience it. With camping on Beach Island you can lessen the strain of the distance, and it's certainly a nice spot to camp. Also it looked possible to find something on the barren tops of some spots at the tip of the peninsula, but not optimal. I've been told that there is good camping in Budgell Harbour, a couple of good spots. Arctic Char can be fished here in season and the pond is very nicely set amongst some steep hills.

Wildlife on this trip included several eagles, herring gulls, kittiwakes, cormorants, black ducks, salt water ducks or black guillemots. Under sea views were constantly clear and interesting with lots of mussels, lobsters, sea urchins, starfish, connors (perch to some), sea anemones, kelp, eel grass. Various shoals and rocks rising up as you passed, and nice steep undersea topography such as the shore along the east side of Burnt Island made looking down as good as looking up. 

There are quite a number of beaches most all along the way if you need to get out to stretch or otherwise. Although there are some cabin sites towards the bottom of the bay, this is mostly a wild, uninhabited coast. 

Geology in the area along the route was sandstones and conglomerates of the Late Ordovician (~450 million year) Pt. Leamington Formation and black shales of the 450 million year old Lawrence Harbour Formation. On Long Island and more to the west, cherts and volcanic rocks of the early to middle Ordovician (455-470 Ma) Wild Bight Group underlie the area.


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