The Bras d’Or Lakes Scenic Drive¹ is a long, circuitous provincially-defined scenic drive that circles the Bras d’Or Lakes System. Parts of that route are in very poor repair,² while others are in good to excellent shape. But the beauty of the lakes as seen from this drive cannot be gainsaid: incredibly beautiful scenes abound all along the route. The section of the drive from Orangedale to West Bay is no exception: part of the route is gravel and part is paved, some good and much in fair condition at best, but the scenery is stunningly beautiful on the entire section. The photos on this and the next six pages come from this portion of the Bras d’Or Lakes Scenic Drive, taken on a gorgeous mid-summer day. I hope you will agree that the beauty of the scenery is worth putting up with some less than ideal roads.
¹ The web page the province once devoted to this scenic drive seems to have now disappeared from the web. However, you can still locate that page’s content in the province’s Nova Scotia 2015 Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide, a PDF copy of which you can download here by clicking on the download arrow at the left edge of the page. You will find the section on the Bras d’Or Lakes Scenic Drive on pages 280-290.↩
Photo #1 shows the scene as one descends to the causeway across the River Denys at Valley Mills. One of the old and picturesque green truss bridges that, sadly, are fast disappearing from the scene in Cape Breton, still survives here and is paired with a smaller bridge further across the causeway. The River Denys is fairly wide here, not far from its mouth, which empties into the Denys Basin, an arm of the Bras d’Or Lake, a short distance later. North Mountain looms over the scene, which, with the blue skies reflected in the waters, looks much like a mountain tarn.
Photo #2 looks back at the two green bridges from the causeway. I do not know their age, but it must be considerable, as new bridges put up by the province are of a very different (and, with some exceptions, usually much less picturesque) design. Long may these bridges survive!
Photo #3 is a wide-angled view looking downstream to the northeast from the causeway across the River Denys. The boat at the far left is moored on the near side of the river, which curves around the point behind the boat, making a big S curve as it flows past Eagle Point, the much larger point of land across the river that sticks out to the northwest, seen spanning the width of this photo. The mouth of the River Denys and the start of the Denys Basin is at the end of that S curve where Eagle Point ends. The low rounded hills with the rock cliffs showing left of centre make a lovely backdrop to this beautiful scene.
Photo #4, taken from the green truss bridge, continues the view to the east, where the rounded hills continue towards the slopes of North Mountain at the far right. A few homes and cottages are sited in this area, one of which can be seen with its green lawns at the right of the photo. What a beautiful day in a beautiful place!
Photo #5, also taken from the green truss bridge, looks across the River Denys at the slopes of North Mountain, a curved oblong highland which runs southwest to northeast along West Bay, another arm of the Bras d’Or Lake, from West Bay Marshes in the south to Malagawatch in the north and continuing inland for some 7 km (4⅓ mi) (a portion of its southern end is also known as Macintoshs Mountain). No roads cross it³, making it an effective barrier.
Photo #6, taken from near the green truss bridge, looks to the southwest (upriver) along the edge of North Mountain at southwestern shores of the River Denys as it proceeds upriver. The main course of the river is at the far right of the photo, where it flows beneath the green truss bridge.
³ Although the The Nova Scotia Atlas shows a road from Marble Mountain crossing over to Valley Mills along Allens Brook, the topographical map shows it only as a trail and I can attest that neither end is car-drivable. It was likely once a cart track at most.↩
Photo #7, taken from south of the smaller bridge, continues the view in photo #6 to the right, where the river can be seen narrowing considerably at the centre of the photo. Beyond that point, it tapers to a small river, crossed by another green truss bridge in the community of River Denys; above that bridge, it narrows still more, being little wider than a brook as it approaches Melford. But here, it is certainly a broad and beautiful expanse of water in an exquisite setting.
Photo #8 is a close-up of a Queen Anne’s Lace wildflower; they are everywhere in Cape Breton and were particularly noticeable along the causeway, where they can be seen on both sides of the road in photo #2. This is one of my favourite wildflowers, a joy to see each summer, but also a warning sign that fall is not that far off.
Photo #9 looks at a clump of golden ragwort that has established itself amongst the causeway’s huge facing stones, similar to those seen in breakwaters at harbour entrances, between the two bridges. These are apparently late, as my wildflower guides say they bloom between April and July; some of them do look a bit past their prime, with the yellow centres having turned brown and some even having lost their petals, but most are still sporting yellow centres and intact petals. In any case, they were beaming brightly in this day’s sun.
Photo #10, taken in the grasses at the edge of the road before the causeway at the curve by the green truss bridge, shows a different yellow hue that my sources identify as Birdsfoot Trefoil, a member of the pea family that colonizes “waste places, roadsides”. It is a pretty, delicate little flower that also caught my eye this lovely day.