08 Apr Tidal Bore Rafting in Nova Scotia
When we were road tripping around Nova Scotia, Canada, there was one adventure that I knew we had to have on our itinerary: tidal bore rafting. I randomly came across this adventure while researching the province of Nova Scotia, and it just seemed too crazy to pass up.
What is tidal bore rafting you might be wondering? Basically, you hop in a small zodiac boat and head upriver on calm waters–then once the tides start coming in from the Bay of Fundy, waves ranging from one to more than 10 feet develop and you ride straight into them head on.
The reason these massive waves, or tidal bores as they are technically called, are created is because of the tides in the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy is located between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and the tides here are the largest in the world. This means that the difference of the water level from high tide to low tide can reach up to 53 feet—that’s the height of a several story building! And since there are two high tides and two low tides each day, it’s easy to imagine that all of this water rushing in and out of the bay can create some extreme conditions. One such condition is tidal bores on the Shubenacadie River. Every day during low tide, the Shubenacadie River runs almost completely dry, and just a few hours later, the water level rises by almost 45 feet.
Tidal bores occur in only a few locations around the world and they are formed when an incoming tide travels upstream against the current of a river or bay—this creates a standing wave that can travel at speeds around 10 miles per hour. Rapids are generated in the wake of this wave, and those rapids can rise over 10 feet high. Our tidal bore rafting tour sent us straight into those waves for some extremely crazy fun!
There are several tidal bore rafting tours offered along the river, but when we visited in May only a couple companies had officially opened for the season. We booked a tour with Shubenacadie River Runners and really had no idea what to expect, but we prepared ourselves for what was sure to be an interesting adventure.
I’ll be honest, the morning of our tour, I was not entirely feeling it. We were exhausted and cold after several days of camping, hiking and road tripping in gloomy weather. The last thing I wanted to do was submerge myself in freezing cold waters. We contemplated ditching the tour and taking a nap instead—we did have a 16 hour day of driving ahead of us after all—but we pushed through for both fear of missing out and because we had already paid for the tour. And you know what? I’m so glad we went. This experience was one of the strangest things we’ve ever done (next to the Robot Restaurant in Japan), and it was absolutely fantastic. We could not stop laughing the entire time.
When we arrived at River Runners on the shores of the Shubenacadie River, we met our fellow rafters and suited up in hilariously puffy, bright orange suits. Thankfully, the suits were super warm and provided us with some much needed insulation for the chilly day.
We were split into groups and made our way down to the river. On our way out to the boats, we had to walk over the bed of the river—the tide was starting to come back in but much of the river was still dry.
We hopped into our boats…or I guess I should say Micah threw me into the boat! He was trying to help me get over the edge, and gave me a bit too big of a push, and I literally flew into the boat. Our laughs for the day got off to an early start.
Once we were all comfy in our motorized raft, we zoomed upriver towards the sandbar. When we reached the sandbar, all of the rafts stopped and we got out for a look around and to wait for the tide to start coming in.
When the tides started to make their way to the sandbar, it was time to head back into the raft. It was amazing to see how fast the tide came rushing up the river. Before we knew it, we started to see the first tidal bores forming ahead of us. There are around 8-10 sets of rapids that form, and each set lasts around 15 minutes. This meant that we circled into the rapids and power head on into the waves over, and over, and over.
The waves would pummel our tiny boat and threatened to knock us overboard. The only thing we could do was to hold onto the ropes for dear life and hope we didn’t get thrown into the river; although, if we did get thrown overboard, it really wouldn’t be a big deal as there are no rocks in the water to fall on and injure yourself. When I think about the tour, it sounds like it would be absolutely horrible—I mean, how could sitting in a boat and getting soaked by rushing waves be any fun, right? But somehow, it was a blast, and we just couldn’t get enough. Each time we flew through the waves, we wanted more. It was definitely a wild ride filled with nonstop giggles!
Once the tidal bores subsided, we had a calm ride back to the docks and the change of landscape was dramatic. The spot where we hopped into the boat was now completely submerged in water. We made our way back to the shop to change into dry clothes and sip on some hot chocolate—a very welcome treat after being pounded with cold water for the better part of two hours. If you want to see more of the action, check out our video of the adventure!
Tours can start anywhere between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. depending on when the tides come in for the day, and you have the option of a two or three hour tour. We did the two hour tour, but I almost wish we opted for the full three hours!
Just as the time of the tide changes every day, the strength and height of the waves vary, too. Certain days of the month will see a stronger tide, so depending on the date of your visit you will find one of three different tours offered: Super Wild Ride, Fast and Fun, and Action for All. I would have loved to book the Super Wild Ride, but we just missed it by a couple of days and arrived on a Fast and Fun river day. I can only imagine how crazy an even higher tide would be to ride! So, depending on your arrival date and your bravery, you can have your pick between a few different tour options. This adventure really requires no skills—you just need to hold on tight and bring a sense of adventure with you. And, a warm change of clothes is certainly a great idea, too!
Have you ever tried tidal bore rafting? Would you?!