Fisheries and Land Resources

Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve

A vast landscape of ponds, rivers, barrens, bogs and fens, forests, and thickets, the Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve is one of the last major unspoiled areas remaining on the island of Newfoundland.

Smokey Falls

Its 2,895 km2 of wilderness environment encompass:

  • the largest protected river system in the province
  • the Canadian Heritage River-nominated Bay du Nord River
  • spectacular topographic features that include Mount Sylvester in the east, the Tolt in the west, and Smokey Falls on the Bay du Nord river
  • much of the range of the 15,000-animal Middle Ridge caribou herd, which extends into the adjacent Middle Ridge Wildlife Reserve
  • the largest Canada goose habitat in Newfoundland

The area is an excellent venue for canoeing or kayaking, wilderness camping, angling and hunting, bird and wildlife watching, and outdoor photography (entry permits required). It is also a popular snowmobiling destination though snowmobiling is not permitted in the caribou winter range from December 15 to March 15. See Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve User's Guide for a map of the winter range of the caribou herd.

The reserve is a wilderness-there are no facilities, amenities, trail markers, or public buildings within its borders. The climate has a strong maritime influence (particularly the southern section of the reserve), with relatively mild winters, cool summers, as well as fairly high rainfall and frequent fog. Farther north and more in the interior of the Island, winters are colder, snowfall is greater, and the summers are warmer.

Use the following guidelines when preparing for your visit:

  • obtain an entry permit
  • let someone know your route and expected time of return
  • travel light and leave no trace of your passage
  • carefully plan your clothing, footwear, and equipment
  • take a compass and appropriate 1:50,000 topographic maps
  • read and abide by the rules and regulations

Note that if you take a cell-phone, coverage will be spotty-though it is possible to make calls from some hilltops.


The main conservation objective for establishing the reserve was to protect enough habitat (primarily winter) to maintain the Middle Ridge woodland caribou herd, which is the largest herd on Island.

The reserve also protects a representative portion of the Maritime Barrens-Central Barrens subregion PDF (986 KB).

The cultural history of the area includes Mi'kmaq presence in the 18th and 19th centuries. Geologist and archaeologist James Howley was the first European to travel the entire Bay du Nord River system (1887). The cairn he erected to assist in triangulating his position while surveying the area still stands on the summit of Mount Sylvester. Trans-Newfoundland explorer William Epp Cormack crossed southern part of reserve on his cross-island trek of 1822.

Created as a provisional reserve in 1986, the area has been officially designated as the Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve since 1990.

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