All you need to know about the Gros Morne National Park

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Gros Morne
Photo by C1ri from Pixabay

The Gros Morne National Park is a very famous Canadian national park. It is also a World Heritage Site which is located on the west coast of Newfoundland. At 1,805 square kilometer (697 sq mi), it is the second largest national park in Atlantic Canada after Torngat Mountains National Park, which covers 9,700 km2 (3,700 sq mi).

The park is named after Newfoundland’s second highest mountain peak (806 m or 2,644 ft) which is located in the park. Its French meaning is “great mountain standing alone” or “great dark one.”

Gros Morne is a member of the Long Range Mountains, the outlying Appalachian Mountains that run the length of the west coast of the island. It is the eroded remains of a mountain range formed 1.2 billion years ago. In 1987, the park was awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO because “the park provides a rare example of the process of continental drift where deep ocean crust and mantle rocks lie exposed.”

Towering fjords and moody mountains rise above a diverse panorama of beaches and marshes, forests and barren cliffs. The ancient landscape of Gros Morne, which was formed by the collision of continents and crushing glaciers, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wander the coastal paths and comb among the sea stacks. Drive through the dramatic steep-sided Western Brook Pond gorge. Meet moose and caribou. Venture into the alpine highlands, where arctic hare and ptarmigan thrive on the tundra and explore the diverse culture of the surrounding coastal communities.

The Gros Morne National Park shows some of the best examples of the actions of plate tectonics. In a relatively small area, there are classic textbook examples of monumental earth building and modification forces that are unique in their clarity, expression and easy accessibility.

The property presents a complete depiction of the geologic events that took place when the ancient continental margin of North America was altered by plate movement by the emplacement of a large, displaced portion of oceanic crust and ocean floor sediments.

The park also presents an excellent example of glaciation in an island environment. The combination of fjords, waterfalls and geological structures of the park creates a landscape of high scenic value. Apart from this there are many astonishing least visited national parks in the US.

All About Gros Morne National Park 

Geographical Formation of Gros Morne National Park

The Gros Morne park’s rock formations, made famous by Robert Stevens and Harold Williams, involve oceanic crust and mantle rock exposed by the enclosure process of plate tectonics, as well as sedimentary rock formed during the Ordovician, Precambrian granite, and Paleozoic igneous rocks.

The park is located on the Great Northern Peninsula of western Newfoundland. This peninsula is referred to as the Humber Zone, a miogeocline whose Highlands contain the largest external subterranean massif of the Grenville Orogen in the Appalachian Orogen.

This Precambrian bedrock is known as the Long Range Inlier, Long Range Complex or Basement Gneiss Complex, consisting of quartz feldspar gneisses and granites that are up to 1550 Ma old. Gros Morne and Big Level mountains lie in this Inlier.

Gros morne
Photo by Eric Mclean from Unsplash

The western boundary of this hinterland (along Western Brook Pond, St. Pauls Bay and south of Portl Creek Pond) is formed by Devonian and Ordovician thrust faults, where crystalline rocks abut Cambrian Ordovician carbonate rocks and the Lower Paleozoic Humber Arm Allochthon.

The Rocky Harbor mélange is a Lower-Middle Ordovician assemblage of chert, quartzite, dolomite shale, chert, and limestone blocks in a black, green, and red scaly shale matrix that occurs along the coast from West Brook Pond to Humber Arm (Bay of Islands).

The southern part of the park, Table Mountain (Tablelands) and North Arm Mountain, contain Upper Cambrian and Lower Ordovician ophiolites well known as the Bay of Islands Complex, Little Post Complex, and Old Man Cove Formation. Finally, the Pleistocene ice cap flowed radially across the island, developing fjords such as Bonne Bay.

The rocky cliffs support a mixed deciduous and spruce-fir forest, which becomes stunted at the forest edge. On the plateau above this, tundra vegetation has developed and ranges from small areas of coniferous forest and stunted krummholz forest to bare, fragmented rock fields (felsenmeer).

Wet meadows between rock outcrops include grasses, sedges, mosses, sedge Saracenia purpurea, sundew Drosera sp. and purple fringed orchid Habenaria psycodes.

Mountain
Photo by Eric Mclean from Unsplash

Serpentine rock plateaus in the south have developed serpentine wastelands with unusual plants, and alpine communities are found in the Bonne Bay Highlands (Moorhead et al., 1971). Nearly 100 vascular plant taxa have been identified as significantly rare (A. Bouchard, pers. comm., 1994).

The distribution of phytogeographical groups and life-form categories of the vascular flora has been studied, establishing relationships between plant distribution, life-forms and vegetation types (Bouchard et al., 1987; 1991).

Witness the Varied Wildlife of Gros Morne National Park

The most notable animal in the park is the moose, part of a thriving population that was introduced to Newfoundland around 1900. Other common wildlife in the park includes red and arctic foxes, caribou ecotype (R.t caribou), black bears, snowshoe hares, red squirrels, lynx, river otters and beavers.

Harbour seals are in the bay of St. Common Pauls and cetaceans (minks, humpbacks, fins, pilot whales, killer whales, white-beaked dolphins, and porpoises) can be found in the area, especially during the humpback season in early summer.

Many species of birds can be found in the park, from shorebirds along the ocean to birds of swamps and inland forests.

Flora of Gros Morne National Park

Gros morne National park
Photo by Matt Hanns Schroeter from Unsplash

The wide variety of bedrock types and resulting soils and the exposure and elevation near the ocean created conditions for about 36 different vegetation types and communities with 711 vascular species and 401 bryophytes representing about 60% of Newfoundland’s island flora.

There are also more than 400 species of lichens. Bouchard and Hay 1976 tell of many of these groups. They are from the coast: intertidal salt flats, active dunes with white spruce Picea glauca and coastal tuckamore (wind-shaped trees), cliffs with overgrown spruce and balsam fir Aries balsamea.

Inland communities include bogs, river alder Alnus sp. thickets, sedge meadows, and mosaics of Carex spp. with American larch Larix laricina scrub. Black spruce P. mariana dominates moist, oligotrophic sites and balsam fir occurs in more sheltered and mesic areas.

The coastal plain of black spruce and American dwarf larch inhabits exposed moraines, which in the more exposed and unstable areas give way to heath wastes with alpine bearberry Arctostaphylos alpina, alpine azalea Loiseleuria procumbens and needlegrass Diapensia lapponica.

The Climate of Gros Morne National Park

The weather in Gros Morne is unpredictable. There are significant differences between weather conditions in the low-lying areas along the Coastal Plain and the higher elevations of the Long Range Mountains. Be prepared for the worst. If you are not properly equipped, hypothermia can easily occur on backcountry trips.

Spring comes late to Newfoundland. Many hiking trails remain partially covered with snow until May. The summit of Gros Morne is closed until July 1 every year.

July and August bring warmer and drier conditions. The average daytime temperature ranges between 16–25 °C (61–77 °F), with a drop of at least 5 °C at night. Depending on the winds, the temperatures here can change instantaneously. It can be 2 to 4° colder at high altitudes and 10° colder with the wind.

Geostrophic winds are from the southwest and the Gulf of St. Lawrence adds moisture to the strong winds on the coast. Rainfall is on average every two days in summer.

The weather in September and October is often pleasant. Expect snowfall at higher altitudes at the end of September. Towards the end of October, the weather becomes more unstable and wetter as winter sets in.

Winter brings temperatures ranging from 10–0 °C (14–32 °F) with a temperature drop of 10 °C at higher elevations. Snowfall is significant in the area: 4 to 4.5 m (13–15 ft) on average with up to 10 m at higher elevations. January to March is a good month for cross-country skiing. In high snowfall years, snow conditions may allow backcountry skiing into late April and early May.

Things to do in Gros Morne National Park

1. Go for Gros Morne Mountain Trail

Gros Morne is the second highest peak on the island of Newfoundland, surpassed only by Lewis Hill (Cabox). The mystery of the mountain, which is often covered in clouds or cloaked in mist or snow, is reflected in its name: Gros Morne the great lonely mountain. In September 1976, the trail was named after former British Prime Minister James Callaghan in recognition of his conservation efforts.

This 806m high, flat-topped mountain is a patch of arctic tundra far south of its usual range. This habitat used to be the peaceful domain of rock ptarmigan, arctic hare and wood caribou, but now a trail leads to the top of this monument.

Around the top are views of a spectacular glacially carved landscape: the deep fjord arms of Bonne Bay and the U-shaped bed of Ten Mile Pond. The trailhead is 7 km south of Rocky Harbor on Route 430.

2. Embrace Baker’s Brook Falls

Baker’s brook falls
Photo by C1ri from Pixabay

This 10 km trail takes you through balsam fir forest to Baker’s Brook Falls, a series of waterfalls that tumble over limestone ridges. The forest is in several stages of regeneration, recovering from the natural effects of wind, insects and excessive moose browsing.

Visit the “moose ex-enclosure” along the way to see the difference in the regrowth of vegetation inside and outside the ex-enclosure. At the river’s edge, follow the trail downstream to a lookout over a wide staircase-like waterfall.

3. Visit Rocky Harbour

The Rocky Harbour is located on the west coast of Newfoundland in the central part of Gros Morne National Park. Rocky Harbor is the largest community in Gros Morne National Park and is centrally located to explore our World Heritage Site. The town’s history has been closely tied to fishing and the lumber industry, yet the town of Rocky Harbor has grown into a tourist community.

With our strategic location in Gros Morne National Park, you can use Rocky Harbour as your home base while exploring the many cultural and scenic attractions available in the area. Gateway to Gros Morne, Rocky Harbour is located 90 minutes north of Corner Brook on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and is the perfect base for exploring the unspoiled wonder of this breathtaking national park.

As the largest community in Gros Morne, you will find unparalleled scenery, excellent dining options, and no shortage of things to see and do.

4. Explore Lobster Cove Head

Lobster Cove Head is much more than a lighthouse it is a living history, Lobster Cove Head offers trails that take you into Tuckamore’s coastal environments and woodlands. These are among the best places in the park to fly a kite, watch whales and enjoy the brilliant colours of the sunset.

Lobster cove head
Photo by Eric Mclean from Unsplash

Enter the century-old lighthouse that once served as a beacon to guide fishermen and sailboats safely to Bonne Bay. Today, it is the gateway to discover the rich cultural heritage of Gros Morne National Park.

The newly renovated exhibition highlights the people and heritage of the area, featuring historic photographs, audio recordings of folk songs and diaries of light keepers. Hike around the headland and explore the winding trails of the Tuckamore Woods. These short trails take you to hidden outcrops with breathtaking views of the wide open ocean and rocky beaches.

Enter the century-old lighthouse that once served as a beacon to guide fishermen and sailboats safely to Bonne Bay. Today, it is the gateway to discover the rich cultural heritage of Gros Morne National Park.

The newly renovated exhibition highlights the people and heritage of the area, featuring historic photographs, audio recordings of folk songs and diaries of light keepers. Hike around the headland and explore the winding trails of the Tuckamore Woods. These short trails take you to hidden outcrops with breathtaking views of the wide open ocean and rocky beaches.

5. Stroll around Trout River Pond

The Trout River is a tiny countryside fishing town located on the southern coastal edge of Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, near the Tablelands. Trout River was settled in 1815 by George Crocker and his family, who were its only residents until 1880.

The community is served by Route 431. The Trout River is less than 10 minutes’ distance from the Tableland Mountains, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Gros Morne National Park. This city is known for its sunsets over the water and its boardwalk.

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