Sea Kayaking Through the Fjord
Western Brook Pond
Gros Morne National Park

By Craig Burden

This report originally appeared in the Spring 2003 issue of Ebb&Flow.

1:50,000 scale NTS maps - 12H/12 (Gros Morne) and 12H/13 (St. Paul's Inlet).

stpaulsinlet.jpg (31206 bytes)
12H/12 (Gros Morne)

grosmorne.jpg (48410 bytes)

12H/13 (St. Paul's Inlet).

Many people have taken the leisurely stroll across the coastal lowlands of the Long Range Mountains in Gros Morne National Park and have looked up in awe at the vertical granite walls of Western Brook Pond. The paddler in all of us has wondered what it would be like to explore the majestic chasm without the sound and stench of the diesel powered tour boat. Not many of us have had a chance to do this.

It is not true that you are not permitted to paddle in Western Brook Pond, but Parks Canada strongly discourages it due to the dangers the fjord carries with it. Strong, unpredictable winds and a lack of emergency take-outs make the pond a destination for only the most experienced of paddlers. The 30+ kilometre (round trip) journey can be done as either a long day trip or as an overnight. If you choose to make it a day trip, you still have to be prepared to stay overnight due to the unpredictable winds that drop over 700 metres from the plateau above. It is also a great idea to let tour boat operators know that you are in the area in case emergencies do arise.

craigburden1.jpg (22568 bytes)

Click on thumbnail image to enlarge.

To paddle and enjoy Western Brook Pond you need a perfect forecast. Winds tend to funnel and accelerate through the fjord creating some larger/steeper than normal waves. Clapotis tends to be a big problem due to the vertical walls entering the water almost entirely around the whole inner pond. You can get a wind forecast for the Western Brook area by going online at the Environment Canada website and checking the marine forecast for the Northeast Gulf. Ideally, you are looking for light to moderate winds.

Chad Howse and I last did the trip in late June of 2002. Our wind forecast was not ideal but we had sunny blue skies all around. Upon reaching the parking lot of the gorge, we loaded our boats and gear on our home made trolley to make the 3 kilometre portage to the pond. Without a trolley of some sort, this trek would be quite tedious.

Upon reaching the pond, we found a good put-in just 50 metres to the right of the boat dock. We parked our trolley in the trees and headed out. Conditions were great. Light winds, warm temperatures, flat water, and blue skies. We had approximately one hours' paddle before entering the inner fjord. We headed toward a small beach on the southern shore. This would be our final pit stop before paddling completely to the end of the fjord. Our first glimpse of the inner fjord was a picture of magnificent cliffs still topped with cornices.

We now headed across to the north face of the fjord and toward Blue Denim Falls. From here we pushed all the way around the shore to the end of the pond. As we proceeded toward the end of the pond, there were a few places where we could get ashore if needed. For the most part, there were just vertical walled cliffs and rocky talus slope. Roughly three quarters of the way in, we decided to take advantage of the tail wind that had started to blow, by nearing the center of the fjord and by using our rudders. Within no time, we were eating lunch at the end of Western Brook fjord.

After a quick lunch, we were paddling again. The skies were still sunny but the wind now seemed to have increased quite a bit. It was going to take quite a bit more effort getting home than it did getting here! We chose to paddle the south shore of the fjord and cross as we neared Blue Denim Falls. We found that if we stayed close to shore, we could avoid the wind swirling down from above, but we had to contend with the waves rebounding off of the side of the chasm. As we started out, we were greeted by the Westbrook II as it cruised the fjord.

Almost to the hanging valley, we decided we would quarter the roughly two kilometre crossing. It was a little tricky, but within half an hour, we were on the other side and temporarily sheltered from the unpredictable swirling gusts that seemed to hit us from all sides. There was one problem. I seemed to have drunk a little too much juice for lunch! We were now forced to find a take-out!

A huge bolder sticks out of the water just along the shore from Blue Denim Falls (toward the inner end of the fjord). It provided an ideal platform to climb upon! We took this opportunity to grab a quick snack and head toward yet another crossing.

Southwest winds were now kicking the waves even larger on the outer pond. By the time we reached the little beach, we were a little fatigued. We kept pushing, “only a few kilometres left to go,” I told myself. The waves were now hitting us broadside and washing completely over our decks. Occasionally, Chad went out of sight below the waves. Within an hour we reached our take-out. No mishaps!

We quickly loaded our boats on the trolley and headed back to the parking lot. Another great paddling day under our belts.

Contact the author for more info at 709 783-2083.

Contributor Craig Burden has Level II CRCA Sea Kayak certification and teaches Outdoor Pursuits/Environmental Studies and Geographic Information Systems at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook.

Return to Sea Kayak TRIP REPORTS