Codroy Valley International Wetlands

Distance - 40km

Migratory Waterfowl Stopover

A 10-minute drive from Port aux Basques north on Route 1 takes you to J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park where the shoreline offers a stretch of sheltered beach with soft powdery sand. The park is a good place to see the Piping Plover, an endangered bird species with only 500 or so in Atlantic Canada and fewer than 5,000 in total worldwide. Cheeseman Park, Grand Bay West, Searston and Sandy Point (further north near St. George's) all have sandy beaches the plovers favour and are recommended viewing areas. But please don't disturb these birds.

Look here also for the Common Loon, Murre, Canada Goose and Pine Grosbeak. You'll also find the White Admiral and Atlantis Fritillary butterflies. There's a 2-km trail called Smokey Cape, named for the windblown surf found at the beach parking lot which creates a "smokey" effect. Take a walk along the beach to search for surf clams and dogwinkles. The beach is really a barachois, or sand dune.

The gravel road through the park meets paved Route 408, which takes you to the community of Cape Ray three km from Route 1, one of three capes forming the triangular points of the Island of Newfoundland. Situated between the Cape Ray lighthouse and the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a site that was used as a summer hunting camp by the Dorset people from 420 B.C. to 385 A.D.

Cape Ray was also the site of the first submarine telegraph cable in Newfoundland. Laid in 1856, this project was the last link in the communication chain that joined St. John's to New York and connected Newfoundland with the rest of North America.

After a visit to the cape, you can sunbathe or windsurf at nearby Cape Ray Sands, or you can drive up a gravel road to Red Rocks, a former farming and fishing community with a handful of residents. There's a spectacular view from the 1,000-foot high Sugar Loaf behind Red Rocks.

Take Route 408 back to Route 1. The highway now climbs steadily north along the province's West Coast. The terrain changes dramatically and the low-lying barrens give way to the southwest section of the Long Range Mountains, a part of the ancient Appalachian escarpment. Throughout this region you will see spectacular mountain scenery and encounter ridges to challenge the imagination and the skill of amateur rock scramblers.

These ancient mountains are full of surprises such as Table Mountain, a 518 m geological oddity that has been known to literally take your breath away. You can see it from Cheeseman Park. Hurling gale force winds down from its summit to the stunted weather-beaten forest below, the moody Table Mountain sometimes raises gusts exceeding 160 km/h which disrupt highway traffic and were known to derail the now discontinued trains. Little wonder this area is called Wreck House! Table Mountain is accessible by a trail. During World War II, the United States built a radar station, an air strip and assorted buildings on top of the mountain.

In the valley below Table Mountain was the home of Lauchie MacDougall, the famous human wind gauge. Lauchie was under contract to the Newfoundland Railway to determine whether the area was passable for trains on any given day and to notify them if the gusts were too high. After his death in 1965, his wife continued the work until 1972. Today, truckers rely on CB radios and word-of-mouth for news about the wind.

Continue on Route 1 to its intersection with Route 407, about 35 km from Port aux Basques. You are now entering the Codroy Valley, one of the best farming areas in the province. The Codroy Valley was one of the earliest settled sections of the West Coast. French colonists arrived in the 1700s and were later joined by Scots and Channel Islanders from across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Scots settled in the fertile valley south of the Anguille Mountains and their descendants still farm some of the best agricultural land on the island.

Route 407 takes you on a pleasant ride south along the Little Codroy River to St. Andrews, where the agricultural landscape contrasts with the Long Range Mountains in the background. The mountains also provide a magnificent backdrop for a 9-hole golf course. In St. Andrews, take the road toward Upper Ferry and cross the Grand Codroy River. At the intersection of Routes 406 and 407, is the Old Codroy Carding Mill that operated between 1893 and 1965, and is now restored as a working museum. Continue on through Codroy to the end of Route 407 and Cape Anguille, the most westerly point of the island of Newfoundland. Shaded by the Anguille Mountains to the east, the cape boasts a spectacular view from its lighthouse, which was built in 1905 following a marine disaster. Before leaving Codroy be sure to drop by the Holy Trinity Anglican Church which held its first service back in 1914.

On the return trip, take Route 406 to the Grand Codroy Wildlife Museum and Art Gallery. Here, you can see Newfoundland's largest mounted moose along with more than 300 different species of animals, birds and fish beautifully set in their natural surroundings. A little further on Route 406, you will find the Grand Codroy RV Camping Park. This park, with some fully-serviced sites, is situated on the banks of the Grand Codroy River and offers large, level fully serviced sites, grassy tenting sites and a unique walking trail ideal for bird watchers.

The Grand Codroy Ramsar Site is recognized by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. The 925 hectare area at the mouth of the Grand Codroy River consists of a large coastal estuary containing flats, sand bars exposed at low tide and sand spits covered by dune grass. Portions of the wetlands are covered by thick eel grass. There are also four small islands in the wetlands. The estuary provides habitat for large flocks of Canada Goose and Black Duck, and smaller numbers of Pintail, Green-Winged Teal, American Wigeon and Greater Scaup. Newfoundland's west coast is a north-south flyway for many migrating birds, and the wetlands provide food and a resting stop in spring for northbound birds that have just crossed the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in fall a stopover for the return flight south. It's also a good place to see rarities blown off course during migration.

There is an interpretation centre directly on the estuary and an interpretation trail running along the banks of the Grand Codroy River, an easy restful walk from the interpretation centre to Grand Codroy Park. Interpretation panels enhance the understanding of estuaries, ecosystems, species adaptation and models for environmental stewardship. The centre also provides ongoing educational programs and interactive exhibits that provide visitors, especially young children, with an opportunity to learn in a hands-on way.

Anglers should bring their flies and tackle when visiting this area because the Grand Codroy and Little Codroy are scheduled salmon rivers.


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