A couple of summers ago on a trip to Baddeck, I decided to re-visit the Uisge Ban waterfall.
By following the road on the west side of the Baddeck River, it didn’t take long to get to the Department of Natural Resources picnic site and the trail to the falls. It was probably 20 years before that I made my first trip in there. It was nice to see some improvements in the parking lot, some interpretative signs, and a good trail up the river to the falls.
The trail winds its way along the brook over several well placed bridges, and through the gorge that was carved out by the brook thousands of years ago. The stream (Falls Brook) is one of many that make its journey off Cape Breton’s tableland to join larger streams that are part of the Baddeck River system. The trail is approximately 1.5 kilometres in length and takes you along its course through a mature hardwood stand. Large maples reach skyward from the bottom of the gorge making an impressive leafy canopy.
Throughout the hike one has to be impressed by the variety of wild flowers and plants that make up the trailside. As streams such as this one overflow their banks from time to time, they deposit rich alluvial soils along their banks. Although the patches of soil are not extensive, flowers that like the speckled sunlight and rich soils abound throughout the forest floor. Nodding Trilliums, Indian Cucumber, False Solomon’s Seal, Clintonia, Starflower, Bunchberry, and False Lily-of-the-Valley are a few of the wild flowers that are indigenous to the floor of the hardwood forest. Small bunches of poisonous red baneberry add to the colour and rich variety of plants.
As the trail lengthens, the climb gets a bit steeper, and the gorge narrows. A fresh coolness and dampness hangs over this last part of the stream’s valley. Giant boulders now make up the bed of the stream. How did they get there? A high steep, almost overhanging cliff, is possibly the birthplace of many of the boulders that are 10-15 feet in diameter. Others belie the power of the stream during high run-off times and torrential downpours.
The trail now picks its way around the boulders, and with the last turn in the path, the waterfall comes into view. A smaller falls near the bottom, cascading water in the middle, and the main upper falls probably bring the total drop to near 100 feet.
A few pictures were taken and the trip from this special place was started. The sky turned black and opened up with a heavy downpour. Needless to say, I got wet, very wet. Still it was great to re-visit one of my favourite special places.
Geologists pick areas of unique geological formations, while ecologists like to think of places with rare plants and special ecosystems. My favourite places are the brooks that have rapids, pools, waterfalls, and clear water that you find in no other parts of Nova Scotia.
I hope that one of your treks this summer or autumn will be to one of Cape Breton’s wonderful brooks with a waterfall. Uisge Ban just might be one of your trips. If you get a chance, you may sit on one of the great boulders at the base of the waterfall and contemplate the beauty, the place and the early hikers who gave it its wonderful name, Uisge Ban.