Saint John’s Reversing Rapids

Reversing Falls
Reversing Rapids (aka Reversing Falls)

The Reversing Rapids, formerly referred to as the Reversing Falls, are a series of whirlpools, waves and white water rapids that are created as the high tides of the Bay of Fundy – the highest in the world – collide with the Saint John River in a rocky gorge in Saint John, New Brunswick. This is an incredible phenomenon that, to be truly appreciated, must be viewed three times – at low tide, high tide and slack tide.

At low tide, Fundy’s tides are below the level of the Saint John River. The river flows through the gorge and empties into Saint John’s harbour and the Bay of Fundy. As the water travels the gorge, the submarine terrain forces the water to become turbulent with lots of white water rapids and whirlpools that turn in both clock- and counterclockwise directions.

At high tide, however, the Bay of Fundy rises above the Saint John River and the power of the tides actually reverses the flow of the river, creating huge waves.

Reversing Falls Jet Boat Ride
Reversing Rapids Jet Boat Ride

There are two low tides and two high tides each day – it takes approximately 12 hours and 13 minutes to move from one end of the tide cycle to the other. In between low and high tide, however, is a period called “slack” tide. At slack tide the Bay of Fundy and the Saint John River water levels are equal, thus creating calm waters in the gorge. Lasting for roughly 20 minutes, slack is the only time during the tide cycle that boats can safely navigate the Reversing Rapids. To calculate low slack, add 3 hours and 50 minutes to low tide. Similarly, to determine high slack, add 2 hours and 25 minutes to high tide.

To reach the Reversing Rapids, set your GPS to take you to 200 Bridge Road (NOT Bridge Street) or to 50 Fallsview Avenue. Visiting the Bridge Road location allows you to look down on the Rapids from an observation deck above the Falls Restaurant, gift shop and municipal visitor information center, while the Fallsview Avenue location sits at water level.

Kayak in the Reversing Falls
Kayak in the Reversing Rapids

Alternately, on a sunny day, you may opt to leave the City Centre and travel 4km by foot along the Harbour Passage walkway to reach the Reversing Rapids. Interpretive panels along the cranberry-painted path provide interesting historical information about Saint John and its harbour as well as the significance of the region’s geology. Seals can often also be seen in the Harbour.

To get an up-close view of the Rapids, take part in one of two harbour boat tours or a jet boat thrill ride. The well-experienced kayaker might even test their skills by paddling the rapids. For a bird’s eye view, zing over the Rapids on a zip line adventure.

This article is part of our “52 Reasons” series. So check out the next reason: Mi’kmaq Heritage, or last week’s reason: Slow Pace of Life. We also encourage you take a look at the overview of all the articles in this series and to use our RSS feed so you won’t miss any further articles!

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