Great Canadian Parks / Nova Scotia

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The Parks / Nova Scotia / Cape Breton National Park






Near Ingonish Beach at the park's eastern entrance, the Cabot Trail winds north, climbing North Mountain, moving across the interior to Pleasant Bay and along the Gulf of St. Lawrence coast to Cheticamp at the southwestern entrance to the park. In 1923, the construction of the Cabot Trail, a roadway circling along the coastlines, was proposed as part of the government®s focus on tourism in the province. As construction began, it became a source of employment for the local inhabitants who showed more willingness than engineering expertise. In the 1930's the occupation of building the road provided relief for the unemployed. The final link over North Mountain continued through 1932 - a significant achievement that brought access and communication to the northern settlements. Before the Cabot Trail, fishermen, merchants and sailors looked to the sea for their livelihood and conversance with the outside world. Isolation in the small communities north of Pleasure Bay brought extreme hardship, especially in winter. Following its completion in 1932, the circuit brought tourism, an economic lifeline in Cape Breton after the closing of the coalmines, the decline of the steel industry and the seasonal variations in the fisheries. Substantial road improvement was needed, especially in mountainous regions where many motorists froze at the wheel when faced with a 17% gradient on an already dangerously narrow and crooked track. Transportation by automobile in winter was hazardous on most of the trail and considered impossible on much of it. A program of reconstruction was undertaken in 1936 and the torturous climbs over French Mountain and McKenzie Mountain were greatly improved.

 

Today, the scenic Cabot Trail, the best known feature of the park, provides breathtaking views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence headlands and the curving Atlantic shores. Magnificent vistas abound, particularly from French Mountain, which drops toward the aptly named Pleasant Bay. Thirty marked trails in the park generally start from various points on the Trail, leading through a variety of habitats typical of this natural region Ò lush hardwood and boreal forests, bogs, barrens and muskeg.

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