Salty Bras d'Or Lake

by Phil Rowe

I probably should not have been surprised, but I really was to find that beautiful Nova Scotia lake was salt water and not fresh. Bras d'Or (Arm of Gold) Lake on Nova Scotia's delightful Cape Breton is not to be missed. It's magnificent.

We arrived with our camper late one afternoon. The campground on the southern shore of the lake was ideal, sitting out there on a peninsula so invitingly. We got a spot with full hookups just a few yards from a pebbly beach. I was anxious to launch my touring sea kayak, but domestic tranquillity and family relations dictated that I at least get the trailer hooked up first. The weather was terrific, though it was windy and there were white caps out there. The sun was bright and nary a cloud seen in the sky. Within the hour I was afloat and cruising along the shore toward the east. Now that's living. It's such a delight to be out on the water enjoying the scenery.

I didn't venture too far from shore because the freshening winds began to increase the height of the waves. And besides, it's hard work paddling right into the wind on the return to my launching point. Going east was not bad, but I knew I'd pay the price on the return. Discovering that this was a salty body of water, and not fresh, made quite an impression. From the maps I really expected fresh water. And after all, it is called a "lake". The water is crystal clear and there was no evidence of seaweed or typical ocean bottom growth. I saw no barnacles, starfish or crabs. It looked like a lake. Perhaps the seagulls should have given me a clue, but in maritime eastern Canada seagulls are everywhere. That first Bras d'Or paddling expedition was not long, because of the winds and those awaiting domestic chores back at the trailer. I'd try it again later, perhaps after supper. The winds should subside nearer sunset.

Luck was with me, for indeed the winds did die down before sunset. I once again headed out. Paddling was much easier that time. The lake may have been a salty surprise, but it was also a pure delight for this kayaker. Probably the only time that one has to be extra cautious is when the winds come direct out of the east or west. There are broad expanses of open water and the waves can get pretty rough. It's a big lake and a real jewel.

If you get the chance to go to Cape Breton in eastern Nova Scotia, don't miss the opportunity to take to the waters of Bras d'Or Lake. You won't be disappointed. And now you won't be surprised to discover it ain't fresh. It's salty, really salty.

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