The Nepisiguit Mi’gmaq Trail, follows the shoreline of the Nepisiguit River for about 150 km from Daly Point nature reserve to the foothills of Mount Carleton. It was used by the Mi’gmaq people for thousands of years for a variety of purposes, including access to tribal hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering sites, spring and fall migration, as well as a thoroughfare over which the Mi’gmaq traveled to interact and trade with other First Nation communities.
This historic artery into the New-Brunswick wilderness is rich in cultural heritage sites, which date back much earlier than historical records would indicate. Fragments of stone tools have been recovered from archeological sites along the river which date back some 5000 years. Rock blinds used for hunting caribou can still be found along the trail.
A Mi’gmaq Trail restoration was first initiated by the Pabineau First Nation in 1985. In addition to promoting a public appreciation and respect for the historical, ecological, and cultural relevance of this thoroughfare to the Mi’gmaq, the restoration of this ancient trail system was undertaken to explore economic development opportunities in the areas of wilderness hiking, eco-tourism, and adventure tourism. The first 2 years were mostly used to gather some information and flag the route. In 1998, the first part of the trail was completed from Pabineau Falls going up towards Mount Carleton. Up to 1999, funds were still available to help restore the trail. However, the footbridge that was supposed to cross the river for access to the trail was never built. The trail was not used and maintenance was abandoned.
M. Rod O’Connell decided in 2004 to gather information about the trail and organize a hike during the fall of 2005. From 2005 to 2011, a lot of efforts were spent by M. O’Connell and his team of volunteers to get an official license of occupation to maintain the Mi’gmaq Trail. Applications were lost or put aside and after years of trying to have all the papers in order, efforts were abandoned.
In 2014 M. O’Connell, still very active in the community, was attending a NB trails meeting and brought up the subject of the Mi’gmaq Trail to a few very attentive ears. By that time, the trail was not used, grown over and practically lost. They convinced M. O’Connell to help them give it another shot and over that winter, gathered volunteers to plan another restoration of the trail. They got a good support from Pabineau First Nation to undertake work in the spring of 2015.
In the summer of 2015, the Friends of the Nepisiguit Mi'gmaq Trail group gathered more than 40 volunteers to flag and cut approximately 30 km of beautiful trail from the Pump House in Rough Waters to the Chains of Rocks. Pabineau First Nation supplied workers during many weeks for this project. Volunteers took time from their busy schedule, payed their own gas and supplied the equipment.
In 2016, huge progress was made again. With as many volunteers, the help of 2 youth program workers, financial support from Pabineau First Nation and a grant received through NB Trails, a section of the trail was secured from Daly Point Reserve in Bathurst all the way to Heath Steele Bridge. Another section of 12 km was added from Bathurst Lake in Mount Carleton Park to McEwen’s Bridge. Ten access roads were marked and cleaned. A major cleanup was organized along the Nepisiguit River at Roughwaters, overfilling an extra-large dumpster and 2 ton trucks. Some camping platforms were also built in that fall.
In October of 2016, the first annual Défi Nepisiguit Challenge was hosted with the help of the city of Bathurst and Pabineau First Nation. The race, by CARA guidelines (Canadian Adventure Race Association), starting from Mt Carleton had participants run, mountain bike and canoe their way to Daly’s Point Reserve in Bathurst. It was a huge success.
In 2017, the existing trail was improved and 25 km of new trail was added; that is from 44 Mile Brook to Indian Falls Depot and from 69 Mile Brook to McEwen’s Bridge. In order to avoid new camp settlements everywhere, some canvas teepees were erected, as well as more camping platforms. Fire rings were also improved in the safest locations possible. The safety of the trail was improved with steps on steep hills, rails and rope bridges and more trail & kilometer markers. The whole trail was also divided with 21 access points at about 7 kilometers, with signs Access “A” to “U”. Signs of trail maps and good hiking and camping practices were posted in the most frequented areas.
In 2018, with the help of countless volunteers and 4 summer students, the sections P-Q-R-S were completed despite of many days of extreme hot weather. The trail was finished on August 23rd and a celebration took place at Governor's Lodge with a big crowd.
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