The Terra Nova park land was sculpted by glaciers, leaving rocky outcroppings reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean. The thin soil left by the retreating glaciers shaped the types of plants trees that can be found throughout the park. The boreal forest, limited by cooler temperatures and a short summer, is dominated by black spruce and balsam fir. Sheltered valleys are home to stands of poplar, alder and red maple. The low lands are home to peat bogs spotted with bog laurel, pitcher plants and leather leaf. In the rocky lands with almost no soil the vegetation runs to caribou lichen and berry shrubs.
The wild life in the park is somewhat limited due to the physical isolation of Newfoundland from the mainland. Historically, this has limited the migration of land animals to this area. Still you can find the occasional Newfoundland Caribou and the much more numerous Moose that were re-introduced into the area in 1904. Fox, beaver and mink thrive in the lowlands as do the black bear that cause the occasional problem for inexperienced back country camper. Lynx and pine martin exist in limited numbers, but there is hope for their continued population growth. Trout and salmon can be found in sufficient numbers for fishing to be allowed, though check with the park staff about the availability of salmon on the current run.
Camping in the park ranges from the modern to the primitive. Newman Sound campground provides all of the modern amenities including electricity, a grocery store and Laundromat. Numerous back country sites along water ways or trails provide camp sites that are not as modern, but are closer to nature. For those of a more civilized idea of visiting nature there is the Lodge in Port Blanford just outside of the park where one can play 18 holes of golf on their world class course.
Hiking is one of the best ways to see the Terra Nova Park. There are over 100 km of hiking trails with a wide variety of lengths and difficulty, so that every level of hiker will find something to suit their tastes. For the experienced back packer there is the Outport trail (35 km) to two back country camp sites and trail access to the top of Mount Stamford with its unequaled view. For the intermediate hiker there is the Southwest Brook trail that takes you past a beaver dam on the brook and then across a suspension bridge to a picnic areas. The shorter, 2 km, Malady Head trail takes you to a platform overlooking Bonavista Bay where you may see whales or icebergs out to the east.
Three of the hiking trails, Blue Hill West, Dunphy’s Pond, and Green Head Cove trails, are available for mountain biking. In addition there are numerous roads, paved and gravel, that allow for biking. All of these trails and roads are more suited to sight seeing and getting places than the more extreme forms of mountain biking.
With over 200 km of Atlantic shore line, one of the best ways to see Terra Nova Park is by taking a guided sea kayak tour or taking an interpretive boat tour of the Newman Sound. In any case, any one interested in the ocean side of the park should take a trip to the Marine Interpretation Center for a closer look at some of the underwater inhabitants.
Winter in Terra Nova Park sees hiking boots giving way to snowshoes and cross country skies. Dog sledding is also available upon request. Winter camping is offered with some of the roads in the Newman Sound area cleared by snow plows to provide easier access. The back country sites are accessible by snow shoe or cross country skiing. Ice fishing is available at Dunphy’s Pond from late February through the middle of March.
In short, there are lots of ways to get close to nature at this coastal park. Trails take you through the woods to view points where you can watch the ocean. Sea kayaks allow access to remote beaches and primitive camp grounds. For year round experiences with nature at its maritime best, visit Terra Nova National Park.