The Mira River abounds with picturesque scenery and stories connected with the early days of the French regime at Louisbourg. These were the thoughts of C.W. Vernon who wrote about Cape Breton at the turn of the 20th century.
For 45 kilometres or more, the Mira River traces an irregular path from near Victoria Bridge to its mouth at Mira Gut where it flows into Mira Bay. For a good portion of its course, it flows northerly and northeasterly sometimes widening and sometimes narrowing. At Grand Mira it is nearly two kilometres wide.
Throughout its course there are small islands, coves, and peninsulas jutting into its path but adding to its scenic beauty. Many small streams add their waters to its main course, Salmon River being the largest to flow in. The name of small lakes, streams, and other geographic features sound like the roll call of the clans; Gillis Mountain, MacDougall’s Brook, MacMullins Lake, MacNeil’s Island, MacIsaac’s Cove, and so on.
A glance at a topographic map of the area shows that the Mira River’s crescent-shaped course very much parallels most of the hills and streams adjacent to it. Were most of the features of the area as well as the trough of the river carved out by glaciation? Probably so! In fact, the river looks very much like a glacial feature called a finger lake.
Maybe the Mira River is more of a lake than a river. For the last three kilometers of its course, the river is truly a river, narrow and winding, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Mira Gut. Today four bridges cross the river, one near its mouth, one at Albert Bridge, one at Marion Bridge, and one at Victoria Bridge.
At the turn of the century, Albert Bridge was known as Mira Ferry and a ferry was the only means of crossing. A small steamer could be seen making its run all the way to the far end of the river at Victoria Bridge. If we boarded that small steamer in those days we might see relics of French settlements, an old French forge, a small French shipyard, and an old brickyard that produced brick for the Fortress of Louisbourg.
Today we could travel on the Brickyard Road. We would pass under a high railroad bridge that was on the main line to Louisbourg. Our little steamer would pass by many places that are seldom found on our maps today; Goul’s Cove, Three Echo Cove, Nichols Point, Money Point, Spencer’s Point, Round Island, Little and Big Oyster Coves, and many more.
The Mira River Provincial Park is located on a strange-shaped peninsula that almost closes the river off. At Marion Bridge, the river narrows for more than six kilometres before it widens into what is called Huntington Bay. Victoria Bridge was the head of navigation for our little steamer.
My first trip to the Mira was quite a few years ago. As teenagers, Rannie Kennedy and I played the bagpipes for a concert and for Father Hugh Allen MacDonald who was the parish priest in Grand Mira at that time. Today, the Mira River is really cottage country. Homes and cottages are strung out close to the river. The nearness to the city of Sydney beckons many vacationers to its shores.
The little steamer is no more. Today power boats and water skiers roar up and down its placid waters. For a few short weeks of summer, the banks of the Mira spring to life as: “the bonfires blaze to the children’s delights…. As over the ashes the stories are told, of witches and were-wolves and Oak Island gold…. Can you imagine a piece of the universe more fit for princes and kings?”