Strawberry Marsh Trail
|1 hr 30 mins
From the roundabout on Route 8 head north towards Miramichi. Travel down over a hill for a little more than 2 km and take exit 170 to the King George Highway just past the mall and before you go onto the bridge. Turn right at the lights and follow the King George Highway past the mall keeping right to get back on Route 8 heading towards Fredericton. Keep right around the mall until you see a trail and the water treatment plant on your left. Turn into the parking lot for the treatment plant and turn right on the dirt road towards the river. From here you will see the tunnel under route 8. Go through the tunnel. The main trail is on your right just past the tunnel. Keep left to go up the hill to the parking lot. Keeping straight will take you to the river. The lookouts and shelter are near the parking lot. A small access trail will take you back along the road to access the main trail.
From the roundabout in Chatham Head, at the junction of Water Street and Route 8, head west across Miramichi Bridge. Take the first exit (exit 170) after the bridge. Shortly after you exit take the first right into the parking lot of the water treatment plant. Turn right on the dirt road towards the river. From here you will see the tunnel under route 8. Go through the tunnel. The main trail is on your right just past the tunnel. Keep left to go up the hill to the parking lot. Keeping straight will take you to the river. The lookouts and shelter are near the parking lot. A small access trail will take you back along the road to access the main trail.
Alternate access to the trail can be found behind the Mazda dealership on the King George Highway. Instead of entering the access road by the water treatment plant as described above continue south-east on the King George Highway past the mall and past Dairy Queen. The Mazda Dealer is on the left across from the Ramada hotel. The trail can be accessed behind the dealership to the left.
Each time I go through the tunnel with the kids I am required to slow down and open the windows so they can make noises and hear the echo.
The Strawberry Marsh Trail crosses a marsh that was developed by the City of Miramichi in conjunction with Ducks Unlimited. The trail goes through the marsh and follows closely along the shore of the Miramichi river, with several small trails accessing the shore. The trail is close to downtown Miramichi West (formerly called the town of Newcastle). The trail provides open views of the river, the marsh, the adjacent bridge, the community of Nelson across the river, and of Beaubears Island. On a nice day in the summer you will see many boats as they travel up and down the river.
There are several benches along the trail that allow you to sit and enjoy the view. There are also several interpretive signs along the trail that explain some of the history of the area, while others explain the environment around the trail. At the east side of the trail there is a parking lot adjacent to several lookouts and an interpretive shelter.
From the Sign
A Living Marsh
This beautiful riverfront marsh teems with waterfowl and plant life, and hints at an important industrial past.
Strawberry Marsh is a resilient natural space that has undergone incredible transformations. Once a shipyard, racetrack, and even a garbage dump, the marsh has withstood years of heavy use. Today, this healthy marsh ecosystem thrives through community efforts, and is a popular place for both residents and anglers alike.
The natural integrity of Strawberry Marsh has survived despite its many transformations over time.
It is hard to believe that this quiet landscape was once alive with the sounds of hooves pounding against muddy marshland. In those days, people came to Strawberry Marsh to enjoy an afternoon at the track: racing their best horses and placing bets on the winner. After the track closed, the marsh hosted baseball games and even served as a dumping ground for garbage. Today, almost no trace remains of the years of heavy use the marsh endured. But with a sharp eye and an alert ear you can spot a healthy marsh replete with native plants and animals - a testament to the resiliency of this unique ecosystem.
From the Sign
Miramichi - Beaubears Island was named after a French Canadian officer, Charles Des Champs de Boiséhebert et de Raffetot born in Quebec on February 7, 1727 and he died on January 9, 1797 most likely in Raffetot, France.
The island is a national historic park located within the city limits of the City of Miramichi and sits in the Miramichi river at a point where the Northwest and Southwest Miramichi rivers meet.
The late J. Leonard O'Brien, Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick (1955-1965) willed Beaubears Island as a gift to the people of Canada hoping it would provide them with a, "... tranquil setting of peace and solitude". The island became a national historic park operated by Parks Canada in 1975.
Originally the Micmac referred to this island as Quo-o-men-ee-gook meaning pine island. Apparently the Micmac used the island as a camping site for many years near a spring on the north shore of Beaubears Island.
Beaubears Island was included in a series of land grants made by the Company of the West Indies and the King of France. Richard Denys de Fronsac, son of Nicholas Denys was granted a seignory in 1672 which included all of Beaubears Island and what today is referred to as Wilson's Point.
The island does not become historically significant again until after the expulsion of the Acadians. It is during the summer of 1756 that a French-Canadian officer, Charles des Champ de Boiséhebert began leading groups of Acadian refugees to the Miramichi.
According to Judith Tulloch at the historical research section of Parks Canada, "The Miramichi settlements appear to have been used during 1757 and 1758 as a gathering point for expeditions both against the English in Acadia and in support of the French at Louisbourg. They probably also served as a transhipment point for supplies for Louisbourg".
Boiséhebert left Miramichi in October 1758 for Quebec where he fought in the battle on the Plains of Abraham. Between 1759-1760 he returned to Acadia trying to encourage Acadians to remain loyal to the King of France. He also aided Acadians wishing to be evacuated to Quebec.
Tulloch points out that, "This expedition may have been motivated at least partially by the fact that in November 1759, deputies for 700 Acadians at Miramichi, Richibucto and Buctouche had gone to Fort Cumberland to tender their submission to the British Government. Boiséhebert returned to Canada in March 1760 with some Acadian reinforcements. After the French defeat at St. Foy he returned to France".
It was traditionally held that the Acadian settlement on Beaubears Island or Beaubears Point was destroyed in June or July of 1760 by the British naval vessel HMS Fame under the command of Captain John Byron. Very little detail is known about the actual size of the settlement at Beaubears Island.
Robert Cooney (1800-1807) in his 1832 work, A Compendious History of the Northern Part of the Province of New Brunswick and the District of Gaspé in Lower Canada wrote of the settlement, "...a Town comprising upwards of two hundred houses including a Chapel and prevision stores, at Beaubear Point".
Apparently Benjamin Marston, a surveyor wrote in his diary in 1785, "There was formerly on this very Point Beaubears, a considerable French Village the ruins of which are yet remaining. It was destroyed about the end of the last French War".
A number of legends exist involving the French on Beaubears Island and Point. The Saint John newspaper "The Daily Telegraph" on July 20, 1880 reported that a ship named L'Indens de Morlaix" a French vessel carrying used clothing from Turkey sank at Bay du Vin. The clothing had been unknowingly infected with leprosy and given out to the locals by the ship's captain.
The Daily Telegraph reported, "The town of Beaubear was dreadfully stricken, 800 persons, or over two-thirds of the population died and were put underground for the living were unable to give them Christian burial. Beaubear ?? signed himself, was buried on a small island which the Acadians called l'Ile du Gentilhomme Lepreaux - the island of the leprous gentlemen. It is also said that the leper colony for both Acadians and Micmac people stricken with leprosy was established at one end of the island.
The year 7164 brought a new historical period for Beaubears Island for just for years after the destruction of the French settlement here, William Davidson and John Cort from Scotland obtained a large plot of land which included Beaubears Island. These two gentlemen began a salmon fishery and traded with the MicMac.
James Fraser and James Thom established the first shipyard of the island in 1790. James Fraser also built a stone house on the island in 1805. Joseph Russell bought the island shipyard from the Fraser family in 1838. It was Russell who became a Mormon and apparently established a Mormon school on Beaubears Island.
John Harley and George Burchill bought the island shipyard from Joseph Russell in 18??. Apparently Joseph Russell built a tomb on the island where he buried seven of his nine children. Burchill withdrew from the partnership at Beaubears Island in 1856.
Ships built on Beaubears Island included the SGS-ACER (1839), the HARPER (1839) and the WALLACE (????) was the largest ship built on the island, 139 ft long, 850 tons).
The Archaeology Branch of New Brunswick's Historical Resources Administration conducted a one week archaeological survey on Beaubears Island for Parks Canada in the summer of 1977.
Archaeologist Patricia Allen reported, "The shipbuilding sites on Beaubears Island are intact" The sites, "contain ship slips, bulge ways, cradles, blacksmith shops, saw pits, workmen houses, stores, wells and other buildings. Below the surface of the present woods floor the sites are, for the most part, exactly as they were left over a hundred years ago...They are the sites of some of the finest and earliest shipbuilding efforts in New Brunswick".
The 1825 sketch of Beaubears Island that appears here is held by the st. John Museum and alludes to the importance of the island to the history of shipbuilding.
From the Sign
For thousands of years, Strawberry Marsh has been home to sweetgrass: a sacred plant prized by the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet often burned to attract positive energy in a ritual known as a smudge. Smoke from braided, burning sweetgrass is fanned toward the body and washed over the head and heart, all the way down to the feet.
From the Sign
Strawberry Marsh is home to a water treatment system created from more than 100,000 tonnes of garbage. Guided by the principles of geoscience, trash from an abandoned dump was converted into fill that was molded into an award winning earthen structure - the first of its kind - used for the treatment of the city's wastewater.
Trail Last Hiked: August 19, 2022.
Page Last Updated: November 13, 2022.