Whale House Guest House is sandwiched between two ecological reserves, the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve (that’s the marine protected area directly off-shore from Whale House) and the Avalon Wilderness Reserve, a massive inland wilderness reserve over 1000 square kilometers in size (we weren’t kidding when we said Whale House is in the middle of everything).
Among many things, in the reserve you can find the Avalon Woodland Caribou Heard which is the southern most caribou heard in North America and, at last count, was over 2000 caribou in size. The animals can be easily seen along the glacial erratics of the reserve’s sub arctic tundra, alpine plateaus, and wooded areas. The topography throughout the reserve is varied and therefore suited to a multitude of activities. The rivers, ponds, and lakes are ideal for fishing and paddling while the wooded areas offer prime backcountry camping and wildlife viewing opportunities. The area is popular with anglers, hunters, cross country skiers, hikers, and just about every kind of outdoor adventurer. The area is teeming with ptarmigan / partridge, moose, trout, and of course salmon. Multiple scheduled salmon rivers drain directly into the reserve including Northwest Brook, Biscay Bay River, Peter’s River, and the Salmonier River. If you’re looking for an ultra-remote experience, the Avalon Wilderness Reserve is exactly that. There are no marked trails, facilities, campsites, and often times you won’t see another human being. It’s just pure unspoiled wilderness.
- Because the Avalon Wilderness Reserve is an environmentally protected area, there are a few rules to follow before entering:
- You need to get an entry permit which is a simple process that takes one business day
- let someone know when you’re going, where you’re going, and when you expect to return. You can register your adventure with Whale House. If you’re not back by your expected return time we’ll send help
- travel light: carefully plan your clothing, footwear, and equipment
- take a compass and appropriate 1:50,000 topographic maps
- read and abide by the rules and regulations
Other things to keep in mind is choosing the right clothing, equipment, navigational aids, and means of communication. Taking a charged-up cell phone is always a good idea (save your battery for emergency use only). You can usually find reception from hilltops throughout the reserve.
How to get to the Avalon Wilderness Reserve
Accessing the Avalon Wilderness Reserve from Whale House Guest House is easy. Two multi-use ATV, snowmobile, and mountain bike dirt roads that predate the reserve can be used to gain access. Although the roads are rough, in the summer and fall it’s possible to drive a car right to the edge of the reserve.
The two access roads are:
Cape Pond Road
The best and closest option is to take Cape Pond Road, which is 3 min from Whale House Guest House. This road can be easily accessed all summer and fall, with spring access limited by flooding and winter access limited by snow. If you’re driving slowly and carefully (which you always should on any backcountry dirt road) reaching the edge of the Avalon Wilderness Reserve will take approximately one hour.
Horse Chops Road
The only other access route, which is longer and more challenging, is Horse Chops Road that departs further south from the community of Cape Broyle. This road penetrates over 25 km into the reserve, and is popular with paddlers since it gives direct access to several popular wilderness kayak and canoe routes. This route is also best accessed in the summer and fall, with flooding common in the spring and heavy snowfalls in the winter.
Also, if you’re travelling by kayak, canoe, or paddleboard you can directly access the reserve from waterways on Peak Pond Road via Salmonier Line (consult google maps for details or ask us to point it out to you on a topographic map of the area).
Here’s an overview of the three most popular hiking routes in the Avalon Wilderness Reserve. Remember, none of the trails are well marked or maintained, so you need to be able to navigate on your own or travel with a guide that’s familiar with the area.
- Riverhead Trail
- This trail between Riverhead and St. Joseph’s and is approximately 5 km in length, crossing caribou grazing and calving areas, this trail offers a perfect cross section of boreal forest, sub-arctic tundra, waterway tributaries.
- D’Iberville Trail
- Departing from the northwest bank of the Salmonier River, this 55 km will take several days to complete and has historical significance, first being completed by a French Navy Captain named Pierre Lemoyne d’Iberville way back in the 1600’s. Following the same route as the French Captain did, this route crosses several waterways which means you will have to wade through several rivers with variable water levels. Taking you through the most remote areas of the Avalon Wilderness Reserve, this multi-day adventure takes you all the way to the historic community of Ferryland.
- Biscay Bay Trail
- Leaving from the Biscay Bay Salmon River, this trail is 13 km in length and is particularly popular with anglers looking to snag an Atlantic Salmon. The trail follows the Biscay Bay River upstream to Cooks Pond. If you’re looking for Atlantic Salmon fishing in a pristine ultra-remote setting, this is the hike to choose.
Maps, Questions, and more…
Like any adventure seeker worth their salt, you probably know that planning your adventure is half the battle. Here’s a link to topographic maps of the area: http://www.flr.gov.nl.ca/natural_areas/maps.html
Still have questions? Just ask one of the Whale House Guest House staff. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll find out for you.