Cape Breton Highlands National Park (French: parc national des Hautes-Terres-du-Cap-Breton) is located on northern Cape Breton Island in the province of Nova Scotia. One-third of the Cabot Trail passes through the park featuring spectacular ocean and mountain views. The park is well known for its "steep cliffs and deep river canyons that carve into a forested plateau bordering the Atlantic Ocean". The park was the first National Park in the Atlantic provinces of Canada and covers an area of 948 km2. It is one of 42 in Canada's system of national parks.
At the western entrance of the park is the Acadian village of Chéticamp on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and a park information centre. On the eastern side of the park are the beaches at Ingonish on the Atlantic Ocean. In between are mountains, valleys, forests, waterfalls, rocky coastlines and a tundra-like plateau known as the Cape Breton Highlands.
Also on the east side of the park located in Ingonish at the Keltic Lodge resort is Highlands Links, an 18-hole golf course designed by Stanley Thompson. Golf Magazine ranked it as one of the top 100 courses in the world and the best public course in Canada. George Knudson suggested leaving your clubs behind and just walking the course. The course has been certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, a program aimed at conserving wildlife habitat in spaces used for other purposes.
The park's forested areas include:
Acadian forest of mixed deciduous trees and conifers, mainly found at lower elevations
Boreal forest found on the plateau and uplands
Park wildlife includes moose, black bears, snowshoe hares, bobcats, red foxes, owls, raccoons, bald eagles, martens, lynxes, hawks, and coyotes. Whales (humpback, fin, minke, sei and pilot), white-sided dolphins, seals (harbour, harp, and grey) and northern gannets can often be seen from the park's coastal hiking trails, e.g. the Skyline Trail. The park's forests provide habitat for the uncommon Bicknell's thrush. The Gaspé shrew, the local name for a smallish variety of the long-tailed shrew, Sorex dispar, can be found on rocky slopes in the park. The first nest records of boreal owl for Nova Scotia were found in the south west corner of this park. On October 27, 2009 in this park, country folk singer Taylor Mitchell became the only recorded North American adult to be a victim of a fatal coyote attack.
North Atlantic right whales, one of the rarest whales, were once considered to be sporadic visitors into St. Lawrence regions until 1994, but after the annual concentrations were discovered off Percé in 1995, gradual increases have been recorded elsewhere since in 1998, and whales suddenly increased in numbers around Cape Breton in 2014 (35 to 40 whales were found around Cape Breton to Prince Edward Island in 2015).
There are many activities to do when visiting the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Some of these activities include camping, hiking, sightseeing, swimming, fishing, geocaching, cycling, golfing, picnicking, weddings, kayaking and surfing. There are endless swimming options available for all ages in the park. There are five main salt water ocean beaches in the park and two freshwater lakes. The ocean beaches include Ingonish Beach, North Bay Beach, Broad Cove Beach, Black Brook Beach and La Block Beach. The two freshwater beaches include Freshwater Lake and Warren Lake. Freshwater Lake and Ingonish Beach are both supervised with a lifeguard during the summer months. There are very strong currents at Black Brook and Ingonish Beach which must be considered when bringing small children to these two beaches.
Rivers in the park include the Chéticamp River and the North Aspy River.
The park was the subject of a short film in 2011's National Parks Project, directed by Keith Behrman and scored by Tony Dekker, Old Man Luedecke and Daniela Gesundheit.
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