The 238 square kilometer Kouchibouguac Park was established in 1969. This relatively late comer to the Canadian National Park System had significant areas that had been cleared by farmers and fires before it was established. As a result the Acadian Forest within the park is a mixture of old growth, natural re-growth, and re-forested areas. Making up a little over half of the area of the park, there are over 35 distinct forest types ranging from the predominant coniferous forest, thru the hardwood forests, and finally the mixed areas.
Peat bogs are another dominant feature of the park, consisting of more than 20% of the area. The peat bogs have been dated as being over 5,000 years old and reach thicknesses of 6 meters. These bogs have a marked effect on all of the fresh water bodies in the park. The streams, two lakes and inland ponds all have dark, highly acidic waters.
The next largest type of terrain within the Kouchibouguac Park boundaries consists of the tidal estuaries and lagoons, almost 20% of the park area. The changing water levels within these bodies of waters reflect the tidal range of more than 1.1 meters. These areas are well protected by the sand dunes of the barrier islands, allowing for a habitat for a wide range of birds, mollusks, and plants. The barrier islands also make this an easy area to explore by canoe or kayak. In the protected waters between the barrier islands and the salt marsh, the visitor in a sea kayak can observe sea birds and seals, as well as get a view of the salt marsh that few people ever get to see.
While large areas of the park are accessible by paved road, the best way to see the park is by foot, bike or canoe. With over 40 km of hiking trails, 11 kilometers of which have been designated as nature trails, there are plenty of ways to get out and see nature at its finest. You can take the short (1.8 km) Bog trail and climb a tower to get a bird’s eye view of Kelly’s and then get a closer look from an observation deck just off the boardwalk. The Salt Marsh Loop is even shorter (0.7 km) and takes the explorer out into the marsh, an area that few people get a chance to observer from this close up. For the more adventurous there is the Osprey Trail (5.1 km) along the Black River that gives the quiet observer a chance to see Osprey and other birds fishing. The longest trail in the park, the Kouchibouguac River trail, is 14 km long following the south bank of the river and provides access to the Sipu wilderness camping area.
There are 35 km of bike trails within the park, half of which consists of a crushed gravel trail and the rest wooden boardwalk over the wetter portions of the landscape. With a maximum elevation change of only 30 m, there are no areas for extreme biking, but the trails do give an excellent view of the natural life found within the park. Remember, New Brunswick law requires cyclists to wear a helmet.
The Kouchibouguac National Park is one of the most accessible parks in the Canadian system. With a wide variety of ways to see the various ecosystems in the park, and none of them requiring extreme sport skills or long periods of time, this park gives almost anyone the chance to get out and observe nature at its finest.