NOT a travel guide but 'A Casual Reference'
AQUA: Waterways of Cape Breton is a newly minted publication from Boularderie Island Press. It's the sort of book that makes you want to seek out the nearest armchair and sit down for a good long read. AQUA is a collaboration among authors Pat O'neil, Jim Foulds, and Ken Donovan, with photographs by Barry Morrison. It is not a travel guide. They refer to it instead as A Casual Reference. In a generous sweep around the island, AQUA covers 19 major waterways of Cape Breton. Part of the book's charm comes from the ingenious layout which saves the reader a great deal of toing and froing looking for information. Each section begins with a map of the immediate area of the topic waterway with an inset map of Cape Breton pinpointing the location followed by a fact page giv- ing the origin of the name, river source, length, elevation, and tidal activity. Special features of the area are included in this section, like the meadows of the Baddeck River, where Alexander Graham Bell and his colleagues carried out their aeronautical experiments, and the Baddeck River which is the guardian of the sacred Uisge Ban Falls. Most of the waterways make their beginnings in Highlands, then tumble down either to the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the north, or the Atlantic Ocean to the south. The Cheticamp River, for example, originates in the bogs and small lakes that populate the Cape Breton Plateau at elevations of over 487 metres. The river flows over some 35 k and empties into the Gulf of St. Lawrence at Petit Etang. On the plateau of the Everlasting Barrens where the Cheticamp River begins lies a 4 km wide lake which was enlarged in the 1970s when the river was dammed to divert water to the Wreck Cove Hydroelectric project. Excerpts of history and natural heritage in each section give us a broad understanding of each waterway without drowning us in facts and statistics. The photographs provide gorgeous images from unexpected vantage points. The History sections include folklore and legend as well, and the authors regale the reader with tales of shipwrecks, great beasts that live in the depths of Lake Ainslie, and mermaids purported to have been sighted in Gabarus. The Natural Heritage sections share interesting facts about each area in an engaging manner. We learn, for example, that the highest waterfall in Nova Scotia is found on the North River. The waterfall drops over 32 m and, while the trail is a challenging hike at 18k (return), the sight of the falls is well worth the effort. We’re introduced to the tiny Wood Turtle - one of the many charming creatures to be found along the path of discovery. A semi-aquatic animal barely eight inches long, he hibernates in the winter months submerged in the river bottom among deadwood and rocks. In spring he surfaces to bask in the May sunshine. Author Pat O'neill has been in the writing/publishing industry for more than 30 years. She was managing editor of the Cape Bretoner Magazine, and has been published in many other Canadian magazines and newspapers in addition to being a copywriter and producer for both radio and TV. Jim Foulds is an aquatic ecologist who specializes in fresh water and marine ecosystems. He was professor of biology at Cape Breton University and was instrumental in the establishment of the UNESCO designation of the Bras d'or Lake watershed as a biosphere reserve. Ken Donovan has edited and co-authored seven books on Cape Breton history and published 70 historical publications. Barry Morrison, who provided the glorious pictures for this beautiful book, was for many years a reporter for local broadcast outlets, later joining CBC Sydney where he was producer of Information Morning and Maritime Noon in Halifax.
AQUA: Waterways of Cape Breton
Boularderie Island Press
Authored by Pat O'neil, Jim Foulds and Ken Donovan
Photographs by Barry Morrison