Updated: Jun 16
Within the Southwest region of Nova Scotia, there is a small village named Bear River. The village is not a village in legality, but in oral and printed reference only. The heart of the community is clustered around a river that shares its name, Bear River.
Sparse populations dribble into outlying wooded areas, woodland split by dirt roads and river branches.
The riverbed which separates the village into two separate counties, fill twice daily with Bay of Fundy tides, its salt water flushing the river cavity. The bed drains and heaves, nudged by the moon and the expanse of the tides.
The river supports a rich wildlife habitat such as seabirds, plant life, and land-loving creatures. In earlier times, the river stabilized the economy through shipping and shipbuilding.
In summer, the tidal air eases inland humidity.
In winter, much of the fresh water of the Bear River yields to thick brick-like layers of ice, splitting and cracking beneath the momentum of the tides. Ice becomes trapped along the bridge portal and river bank. Chunks mound like layers of marbled, white chocolate, yielding to the frigid temperatures of Nova Scotia winters. The sound of ice cracking often echoes throughout the small village, resonating off the steep hillsides and winding along the riverbed. The cracking and splitting sounds interject night-time silence, offering a magical walk through a winter-swept village.
In its wake, the tide leaves residue of its magnificence; starfish, seaweed and broken shells can be found scattered along the slated riverbank.
The rise and fall of the tides align with the seasons to create a breath-taking slideshow of natural beauty. The landscape is dependent on the reflection of the river; shimmering in sunlight, glowing in moonlight.
Spring and summer, autumn and winter; the slideshow pulsates to the rhythm of the river.
Bear River has a variety of hard and softwood trees. In autumn, the hillsides transform into a sea of renaissance; vivid, inviting, magnetic. Oak trees dominate the forest. Their denotation of strength and protection parallels that of the residents of Bear River; protective of the village and it’s unwavering strengths, and an unspoken allegiance to the preservation of such.
Its location inland puts Bear River into a micro-climate zone, suitable for growing a variety of food. South-facing vineyards yield acres of bountiful harvests; grapes that produce award-winning wines.
Vegetables, fruit trees and berries thrive. Lakeside areas offer ideal growing conditions for cranberry bogs. Bear River is a place of bountiful offerings; rich soil, warm climate, clean water, fresh air, local wine, organic food, enchanted walking trails and secluded lakes.
In echoing the words of a long-time resident, Bear River is indeed “a place like no other,” whispering stories of the past, pleasing the yearnings of the present.
Narrow roads are reminiscent of a horse-and-buggy era, and large porches of Gothic Victorian-styled wooden houses are reflective of afternoon teas.
The woods which surround the village have been referred to as the wilderness of Nova Scotia, an expanse in which many life forms flourish.
The village people are a mixture of old and new, as ever-changing as the seasons. Natives, and non-natives, live together on this glacier carved land. The diversity of its people mirror the diversity of the land; eclectic, dynamic, wild and transformative.
A village of wine and roses, oaks and waterfalls, Bear River is a nature lover’s haven.
The cherry tree, once a dominant feature of Bear River, succumbed to blight, a metaphor of death and rebirth; death of industry and the birth of an artisan community.
Treed hillsides, granite studded lakes and forests, together with a magnetic tidal river, define Bear River as a place like no other.
Directions Take Exit 24 off Highway 101. Travel 6km along the scenic River Road to Bear River.
Reasons to visit the village on stilts:
Visit a winery
Tour a vineyard
Photograph historic buildings on stilts
Watch seabirds from Waterfront Park
Visit an art gallery
Enjoy a cup of locally roasted coffee Enjoy an award-winning burger at the Cafe Attend a festival or event
Watch chimney swifts at dusk
Visit a Loyalist Cemetery
Walk through the village
Launch a small boat at the floating dock
Ask locals about unmarked walking trails
Watch the incoming or outgoing tide
Angela McMullen is a freelance writer who lives and writes in maritime Nova Scotia, where she is inspired by the rhythm of the Bay of Fundy tides, the pulse of long-standing forests, the expansive fields of the Annapolis Valley, the backdrop of North and South mountain ranges, and the distinction of the four seasons.
Angela's most recent work is a slim book of poetry that captures the pure essence of nature and her unwavering resilience. Infused with undertones of Italian influence, this collection speaks for itself.