Full set of photos for the East Branch Tusket River are here.
The East branch of the Tusket River begins in the bogs and peat stained water in the far northern and remote sections of Yarmouth County. The area where the East branch begins is now part of the Tobeatic wilderness area, an area made famous by the book “The Tent Dwellers” by Alfred Bigelow Paine in the early 1900s. The tale Payne told was of 2 sports and 2 guides who paddled the remote areas of Yarmouth and Queens County in search of brook trout and adventure. Although the brook trout are fewer these days, there are still some to be found and it is still quite an adventure to canoe this area. The Tusket begins in granite rock, and as this rather impermeable material makes for very shallow soil, the area is full of bog holes and peat moss, which makes the water, some say, the colour of tea – which isn’t far off as the tannins in the water are the same as that beverage.
The East branch of the Tusket River is now first accessible to most people along Route 203 beyond what locals refer to as the Tin Mine, a nod to what used to be the Rio Algom production area in East Kempt. Today, the tin mine is only in operation to reclaim the area that was mined in what is now basically a man-made series of lagoons which is being managed by improving the water before it is released into the top end of the East Branch River via Little Duck Pond Brook, which flows into the main Big Meadow Brook flowage. Above the tin mine, the river is a series of small streams which drain the peat bogs such as this one between 1st and 2nd Bear Lake. The rhodora blooms along the edge in late May and creates a brilliant show in contrast to the dark stained water.
The first bridge to cross the East branch of the Tusket River is just above where Trout Point Lodge is now located, at what locals call the Billy Run. The large erratic boulders, dumped there many, many years ago by glaciers, create a deflected , shallow series of runs as the foamy water flows into the larger pools. Big Meadow Brook enters the Tusket just below this point – the Brook being the subject of a Trout Unlimited Canada project being undertaken to improve trout population and habitat in this area. The slow moving Big Meadow Brook area is deeper than most of the rest of the Tusket River, with its cold spring-fed holes making perfect lies for summer trout.
Below the Kempt fire tower, and just above the next bridge to cross the river, is another wonderful deep spring-hole on the main river itself in an area referred to locally as the Hedges. Below this, the Tusket flows through a series of runs and across a ledge which creates more wonderful trout habitat. The runs and riffles provide much oxegenated water for the trout, and the insects they feed on, but global warming makes this water become too warm for the trout to hold in much later than mid-June, as the water warms past the trout’s preferred temperature range. It is at this time of year that the trout move into the deeper spring-fed holes to remain cool.
The river then begins to alternate between these rapids and deeper pools before it finally flows out and gets much deeper just before the river goes through an area alongside fields dotted with lupins in early June where the East Branch then meets the main Tusket River at Pearl Lake near the village of Kemprtville.