The ocean route between the communities of St. Paul's and Cow Head in Gros Morne National Park is a great day trip for intermediate paddlers. The route differs between shallow inland waters to the deep choppy swells of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There is lots of wildlife as well including many species of seabirds, seals, and whales.
The best place to put in is at the boat launch located just north of St. Paul's, near the large steel bridge there. The outer portion of St, Paul's Bay is very shallow and during low tide you must follow the narrow deep channel that runs to the ocean. Curious harbour seals can often be seen slowly approaching to get a better look and several thousand arctic terns breed near here during the summer. There is a strong undertow near the bridge and some conditions can cause a small tidal bore on the bay so take caution when paddling here.
After rounding Tickle Point and the few remaining fishing cabins that stand along the shore you turn north, paddling past St. Paul's Point. Large boulders along the shore here can often cause the waves to break on them giving you protected passage but keep your distance from the rocks because the uneven timing of the rebounding waves can catch you off guard. The coastline here is varies between eroded cliffs that give way to green meadows and cobbled beaches littered with driftwood.
Moving north the coast turns more rugged with large rocky cliffs rising up along the shore. There are several safe landing places however but caution should be taken when navigating near shore. Many submerged rocks cannot be seen until you are right on top of them.
As you turn into Cow Cove the high rolling swells often give way to stronger driving waves when the wind is SW (as it mostly is) and your journey to shore will be quite quick. Several small fishing sheds line the shore as you paddle into Cow Cove, or Back Cove as it is known locally. There is a small back road that runs right along the shore and you can take out anywhere you like.
From Cow Cove you can also portage the 20 or 30 meters across the causeway and continue along into Cow Head Harbour and Shallow Bay. You can also explore the back of Cow Head Peninsula and the unique geology found there. If returning to St. Paul's you will most likely face a headwind and a diagonal crossing from the tip of Cow Head Peninsula to the coast near St. Paul's Point is usually the safest bet.
This is a great route for paddlers with open ocean experience. The swells can often get quite large but they are usually just big rollers that are safe to paddle in. The wind can come up quickly though so always be aware of potential landing sites as you go. If you do get wind bound it is just a few hours walk to either community. If possible I would recommend talking to some of the locals to find out more about the dangerous places around the bay before you head out.
Map # 12h/13
Take route 430 (viking trail) north from Deer Lake to St. Paul's. aprox 1 1/2 hours. The boat launch is located just past the steel bridge at the north end of town.
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