Cape Breton- Part 3. Mowat and St Peters

It is a big mixed grey blue sky and I am excited to start today’s adventures. I will be tracking down Farley’s Arc. A track of land that was donated to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust by Canada’s famous writer Farley Mowat. Then I’m off to one of North Americas  oldest European settlements; St Peters.

The eagles at the causeway Cape Breton Rediscovered Part 1 have wet my appetite and I hope to see more as I coast up and kerplunk over the “Dip” in Dundee, one of the many fault lines of Cape Breton. I dare say with much research and a few emails enquirers, I have no answer as to the name of the fault. My best guess is, it is part of the McIntosh Brook Fault, but I’m not a geologist so don’t quote me. Here is a link if you wish to know more about the Fault lines in Cape Breton 

I am almost at the Dundee beach, which I featured in the Summer Of The Beach. story but today, I stop further down the road at the Dundee Provincial Park. Four kilometers from The Dundee golf club and resort.  I scan the water and the sky line. A few fish jump forming circles that ripple outward but no eagles, so I keep going.
Dundee Park beach boat launch and beach

I turn the truck onto Black River road. The drive is an exercise in twisting, veering  and avoiding, pot holes, dashing squirrels and sharp turns all the way to River Bourgeois.

sign Welcome to River Bourgeois
sign Welcome to River Bourgeois Home of Mike McPhee of Montreal Canadiens and former summer home of writer Farley Mowat

Hockey fans will be thrilled, we are at the home of hockey legend Mike McPhee,  I have designs on a different sign. My brother-in-law told me it is on the Grand Gully Road.  I pull over into a parking lot of a construction company, and wave to a gentlemen walking from his vehicle.  I introduce myself.  ‘ Hello, I am Kelly, I am hoping you can help me.” He approaches the truck and we speak through my open window, his name is Mr Burke. “I am originally from West Bay, but I write a travel blog and I am interested in Farley Mowat.  I hope to find his property he gifted to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. ” Mr Burke  says, ” it’s about a kilometer up the road over the bridge you’ll see the conservation signs”

“Did you know him Mr Burke?”  He smiles and replies, ” everyone knew him”  He goes on to say he to joined Farley on his walks, “he always had his dog with him”.  He Pauses then continues “His wife Claire, still comes in the summer.” I ask, “can I see the house?”  He gives me the name of Mr Touesnard, as the caretaker. I thank him for his time, and drive off.  Within moments I see the sign I seek.

Nature Trust Conservation Land
Farley Mowat’s land, the Farley Arc, he donated to Nova Scotia Nature Trust. Now Conservation Land on Grand Gully Road in River Bourgeois Cape Breton

Just beyond it is a hidden driveway. I park off to the side and walk up the cottage.  I am intrigued by the Project Jaguar sign.




I chuckle, I can’t say I have ever know Cape Breton as Jaguar habitat, perhaps the Florida Jaguars foot ball team plays golf here in the off-season. I pass the barn

Conservation sign on barn at the homestead of Farley Mowatts summer home in River Bourgeois
Farley Mowat’s Summer home in River Bourgeois see the conservation sign in window

and I walk up to the house.  I see a car parked, so I knock on the door —-No answer, I try again louder this time and peak inside through the window.  There doesn’t appear to be anyone home.

Farley Mowat's summer home on Cape Breton, in River Bourgeois
Farley Mowat’s summer home on Cape Breton, in River Bourgeois, now part of conservation land he donated to Nova Scotia Nature Trust

There is a pond with something that looks like it might be a sculpture, some form of art. Its tall, and twisted made of metal or wood? heck it is probably the clothes line pole. I keep going looking for something interesting, then I see a path. I have to follow it.




I feel like I am trespassing but I will be quick just a few photos of the water front. I am thrilled to be at Mr Farley’s sanctuary and perhaps a place of inspiration.

Picture of the shore line
Picture of the water front of Farley Mowat’s summer home In River Bourgeois, Cape Breton , Nova Scotia

It is a mean looking day with the pewter grey sky and rough water, powerful and totally magnificent. I find a big rock and sit for a bit. I have to be honest I have never read any of Mr Farley Mowat’s books but I do the work he was so fiercely committed to; speaking out for conservation of the environment. He was a great advocate and that is where my admiration lies. He was also the great-grand nephew of Oliver Mowat, one of our Fathers of Confederation. To find out more Please read by story; In Honour of Canada’s 150th

I leave the nature trust land and continue back to highway 104. I stop briefly on Mountain road to walk the foot bridge across river.




then stop on the shoulder for a picture of the toy soldiers, A Road Side Attraction on highway 4, just before the village of St Peters.

road side atttractions St Peters CB
Road side attractions St Peters Toy Soldiers

Next a mural. Upon the entrance to the historic town of St Peters.

Mural St Peters CB
Mural St Peters for Pirate days

I slowly maneuver through the narrow street lined with shops and restaurants, locals conducting business. I make it to Toulouse Street, access to the historic St Peters Canal. First stop is the Lock Masters House built-in 1876 and the canals National Historic Site Monument and Plaques




I walk along the canal, it links the Atlantic Ocean to the Bras d’Or Lake, It offers a lovely  view the light house in Battery Provincial Park.

Battery Park Light house
Battery Park  Light house, completed in 1869 serves ships coming into the Canal

The interpretive boards recounts the history of St Peters; one of the oldest European Settlements in North America. It started as a Portuguese fishing village named San Pedro. When the french arrived they renamed it St Pierre and built a small fortress. A merchant from La Rochelle France, named Nicholas Deny, built a trading post.  Working with the local Mi’kmaq people, a very successful fur trade was created. It was the English that eventually named it St Peters. It is a long and brilliant history. Here is a link if you want to know more. History of St Peters

I see a gentlemen fishing.  “Hi, are you catching anything?” He says he is Richard, and he is pulling in the Mackerel with ease.  I ask If I can to take his picture? he agrees.

Richard Fishing for Mackerel in the St Peters Canal
Richard Fishing for Mackerel in the St Peters Canal. He said he got his allotment within minutes and went home

I keep walking the length of the canal then across the locks into Battery Provincial Park.




I read some of the historical plaques describing the Mi’kmaq people and their part in the fur trade and interactions with the first settlers of the area. The gate into the upper park is locked so I can’t drive in, but I know from past camping trips, there are great hiking trails up to Mount Granville with a view of the ocean. The remnant of the of two forts, from where the french and English fought for control of North America. There was also a lime-kiln  located in the park used in making construction materials some were used in the building of the Fortress of Louisbourg.




I return across the canal, Richard has finished fishing, he carries his bucket and pole back to his vehicle.  I wave good bye.

Now a little hike on part of the St Peters Coastal Trail.







I leave this side of the canal and drive a short ways to the Bras d’Or Lake side.

St Peters Canal Bras'd Or Lake side
St Peters Canal Bras’d Or Lake side

It has been a long day, with lots of hiking. It is time to return home to West Bay. (Please see Cape Breton, Part 2-A Tourist at Home  to know more on West Bay)  My trip to Cape Breton has been wonderful and it can’t get any better than to finish it off with a pristine dark sky and a perfect full moon.




Tomorrow I head back to New Brunswick, cheers from Maritime Mac

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Me on rock at the shore in at the now conservation land donated by Farley Mowat in River Bourgeois, Cape Breton

14 thoughts on “Cape Breton- Part 3. Mowat and St Peters

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  1. Thank you so much for your photo essay about Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. It is of particular interest as my stepmother grew up on Cape Breton. She talked about her youth on the island quite frequently. Through your photos and essay, I have been able to “visit” her early years. I’m not sure if any of the family is still there or not. Once again, thank you so much.


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