Western Brook Pond, a Landlocked Fjord in Newfoundland

Western Brook Pond, a Landlocked Fjord in Newfoundland

western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, Canada, is well known for its fjords.  Western Brook Pond is one such fjord that was carved by glaciers and is now shouldered by forests and cliffs.  Because it is landlocked, the long, narrow body of water is referred to as a pond or fjord lake.

community of rocky harbour, newfoundland, canada

For a few days, Bob and I were staying in the small community of Rocky Harbour on the western coast of Newfoundland.  On the particular day of our visit to Western Brook Pond, we were roused from our sleep at 5:45 a.m. by members of a bus tour who were getting an early start to the day.

rocky harbour, newfoundland, canada

All was quiet in Rocky Harbour at that hour.  Thankfully, the wind had finally dropped to a light breeze, but it was a chilly 7-degrees Celsius when we stepped outdoors.

trail to western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

A short 20-minute drive north along the coast brought us to the parking lot from which we had to hike into Western Brook Pond.  When originally carved into the Long Range Mountains, the fjord extended across this area right to the sea.

long range mountains at western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

When the glacier melted, the coastline rebounded like a sponge, rising above sea level and cutting the fjord off from the sea.  Now landlocked, it requires a 3-kilometre hike across a wide expanse of bog to the edge of Western Brook Pond.

the trail to western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Under constant foreboding skies, Bob and I set off on a series of boardwalks across the boggy areas and gravel paths laid out in the forested stretches.

landscape near western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Bob and I had lots of time during the 45-minute walk to scan our surroundings for Caribou.  When covered with glacial ice, this region was home to many animals used to a subarctic climate.  Caribou are among those that still roam the area.

jean hiking to western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

The hike to the boat dock was very easy.  Both children and adults covered it quickly.

balsam fir and spruce trees near western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

As we approached Western Brook Pond, its shore was hidden from view by a forest of balsam fir and spruce trees, some misshapen from strong ocean winds that sweep over the flat bog from the Atlantic.  Called tuckamore trees, they are an iconic sight in Newfoundland.

tour boat and dock on western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

We reached the dockside pavilion by 12:20 p.m. and then ate our simple picnic while waiting to set sail at one o’clock.  The season and weather determine the number of tours each day.

passengers boarding a tour boat, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Hazy sunshine glimmered off the water as tour operators divided passengers between two different launches.  Western Brook Pond is 16 kilometres long, and the 2-hour boat ride would provide ample opportunity to appreciate the soaring cliffs.

western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

The captain provided informative commentary, and I was grateful that it took the form of short anecdotes on only a few occasions.  He let the beauty of the setting speak for itself.

jean on tour boat, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

The chill of the air at that altitude was significant and was compounded by a constant breeze and the forward movement of the boat.

waterfalls, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Sunshine gently warmed our backs but it was fleeting.  A small waterfalls off to our left poured into Western Brook Pond.  It glinted in the stray rays of light as we peered up the steep face of that northern cliff.

rocky cliff face, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Thrown into contrast against the bright sky was a rock formation on an opposing cliff face.  Everyone aboard turned to look when the captain drew attention to it.

the tin man, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Known as the Tin Man, the naturally formed pinnacle of this pointed crag appears to be keeping watch over Western Brook Pond as he stares off toward the west.

the tin man formation, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

The Tin Man “wears a substantial coat” that protects him in all weather.  Of course, this formation is named after the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.

threatening clouds over western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Casting an eye behind us had me feeling discouraged.  Dark grey, low-hanging clouds threatened inclement weather.

fog over the fjord, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

The brooding sky lent an air of mystique to the fjord.  We felt as though we had been whisked away to some far-off shores.  The deeper we motored up the fjord, the less light penetrated to the bottom of the chasm.

foggy western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

As the fjord narrowed, a sense of eeriness and intrigue pervaded the atmosphere.  What was lurking in that fog-shrouded valley ahead?

western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Gros Morne National Park is home to several glacially-carved fjords, but Western Brook Pond is the largest of those.  A boat tour is definitely one of the best ways to experience the dramatic landscape.

sheer mountainsides, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

The otherworldly atmosphere created by the sheer mountainsides rising from the water to incredible heights made it difficult to believe we were in Canada.

eerily foggy western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Western Brook Pond is only 16 kilometres long, and from one end to the other, there is such a quick change in elevation of the surrounding topography that atmospheric conditions can shift unexpectedly.

steep cliffs of the fjord, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

We experienced scattered raindrops at one point in our ride, but then the sky brightened to reveal lush green forests marching up the lower reaches of the cliffs.

sheer cliffsides, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

In contrast to the wide, western end of the fjord, that is surrounded by flat, low-lying land, Western Brook Pond is constricted by precipitous cliffs that soar to heights greater than 2,000 feet where the gorge narrows.

waterfalls, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Washing over the billion-year-old rocks are numerous waterfalls, each fed by a pond on top of the highland plateau.

stream from the highland plateau, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Over 20 streams flow down through the valley or cascade into Western Brook Pond.  During Newfoundland’s summer months, snow melt from the highland plateau adds to the source of water.

western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Although Western Brook Pond began as a saltwater fjord, over time, with only fresh water flowing into the pond, it became totally flushed and transitioned into a body of freshwater.

forested cliffs, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

With Western Brook being the only outlet from the fjord, it takes 15 years for the water in Western Brook Pond to totally change over.  The fjord is considered to have some of the world’s purest water.

pissing mare falls, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

At the end of the fjord, we catch sight of Pissing Mare Falls.  At a height of over 1,148 feet, it is one of the highest waterfalls in Eastern North America.

pissing mare falls, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Plunging into Western Brook Pond, the waters of Pissing Mare Falls turn to mist before reaching the bottom of the precipice.

end of the fjord, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Leading from the bay at the end of the fjord is a v-shaped valley that once held the glacier that shaped the fjord.  It is here that hikers are dropped off if they wish to climb to the lookout that provides the world famous view of Western Brook Pond.

forested slopes, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

The hike is not for the feint of heart nor for those without orienteering skills.  The summit is attainable within a few hours, but 4 days of back-country camping and cross-country hiking are then required to make it back to civilization.

misty peaks, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada Motoring back the length of the fjord provided a different perspective on the scenic grandeur of Western Brook Pond.  An ethereal glow emanated from mist-shrouded peaks, and the weather turned in our favour.

tour boat, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

As another tour boat slipped past us, Bob and I took note of an old rock slide that we had overlooked earlier.

western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

As the captain navigated the narrow fjord back to the dock, passengers were treated to traditional Newfoundland folk songs and music that got everyone’s toes tapping.  The cheerful tunes created a magical moment and sense of joviality as we continued to gaze upon the majestic beauty before us.  I even danced a short jig to the sprightly tunes.

bob and jean on a tour boat, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

By now, “friends” with other travelers, Bob and I appealed to one kindly chap who snapped a photo of the two of us.

tour boat at the dock, western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

The 32-kilometre round trip had us on the dock again by 3 p.m.

jean at an observation deck near western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Back on the far side of the bog, a scope is provided for visitors so they can scan the landscape for wild animals.  We took time for a look before heading to the parking lot.

jean at an observation deck near western brook pond, gros morne national park, newfoundland, canada

Bob and I were not successful seeing any of Caribou, but really, it was of no consequence.  The experience of sailing the most famous fjord in Newfoundland was enough to thrill us.  Classified as one of the most beautiful bodies of water in North America and the number one tourist attraction in Gros Morne National Park, Western Brook Pond lived up to its reputation.

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