Fjords, Carnivorous Plants and Standing on the Earth’s Mantle in Newfoundland

We are so grateful to Go Western Newfoundland and Parks Canada for making this adventure possible. As always, all opinions are our own.

Bucket List Item: Walk on the Earth’s Mantle

David sits at the mantle of the earth in Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland

Of Newfoundland’s many wonders, Gros Morne National Park is the heavyweight champ.

One reason it’s heavy, as in sixties hippie talk “heavy man,” is because this is one of the only places in the world where humans can set foot upon rocks that have risen from deep within the Earth’s mantle.

The Tablelands at Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, Canada

As a prime example of plate tectonics, sometimes called continental drift, the area known as The Tablelands gave us a look into what’s going on below the Earth’s crust.

Hundreds of millions of years ago, when the continents of Africa and North America were close neighbors, so close that they were smashing into each other, the resulting upheaval brought to the surface these rocks from far beneath the ocean floor.

Using the GPS system at The Tablelands at Gros Morne in Newfoundland

The handy GPS guide we picked up at the Discovery Center near the trailhead explained the amazing geology as we hiked up the valley.

The rock is called peridotite, and is unlike most any others found on the Earth’s surface. It has very little calcium, a high magnesium content, toxic amounts of heavy metals, and a great deal of iron.

Close up of the rocks at the Earth's mantle in Newfoundland

This combination causes two things that contribute to The Tablelands unique landscape. The lack of normal nutrients in the soil prohibits most plant life, making for a barren dessert-like look; and the iron gives the rocks their rusty color, in fact it is actually oxidation, better known as rust. We discovered the true color of peridotite by looking inside one of the brittle rocks, revealing a dark green interior.

Pitcher Plant, the provencial flower of Newfoundland

Despite the look, this is actually a fairly wet area, as we could see across the valley where the soil is composed of more typical minerals. Lush forests grow on the mountains and along Wallace Brook below.

Still a few hearty plants eke out an existence in the harsh ground, some even get carnivorous. The Provincial flower of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Pitcher Plant, finds a way to survive by trapping bugs and extracting their nutrients.

Pitcher Plant, the provencial flower of Newfoundland

The Tablelands trail at Gros Morne in Newfoundland

At the end of the trail the little voice in our head(phones) told us about the water flowing over these rocks in Winterhouse Brook, the land’s odd composition gives the it a pH balance more alkaline than bleach, and it holds very little oxygen.

Not good for sustaining life, but there are theories that this may be what water on Mars would be like. Come to think of it, that’s the description we’d been looking for… the whole area looks Mars-like.

The Tablelands - step on to the Earth's Mantle in Newfoundland!

Fjord Has a Better Idea

Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park by Bon Tours

But barren outer space landscapes are only a small part of Gros Morne’s championship qualities. The last Ice Age left behind formations that are more than just lovely to look at, they are textbook examples of the forces of nature.

Glacial valleys and cirques are the definitive features throughout most of the park.

Some of the most profound specimens are found along the shores of Western Brook Pond. The nearly twenty mile long “pond” (in Newfoundland speak any body of water smaller than the ocean is a pond) is actually a fjord.

Unlike most fjords, Western Brook is fresh water. When the ice melted around 10,000 years ago, it caused the land to rise with the removal of all the weight. That lifted the fjord slightly above sea level and cut it off from the ocean.

The boat that Bon Tours uses on The Western Brook tour in Gros Morne, Newfoundland

The pond is surrounded by incredibly rugged mountains, making it extremely difficult to see other than by water. There’s no radio-guided walking tour here.

Good thing for us Bon Tours offers boat excursions that cover the entire thirty kilometers of scenic awesomeness.

Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park by Bon Tours

As the boat entered the water-filled canyon we could easily see evidence of the glacial carving that left behind sheer cliffs dropping directly into the fjord. Between the rock faces there are numerous hanging valleys, where smaller glaciers carved cirques that were then sheered off by the main ice flow.

Pissing Mare Falls on Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, by Bon Tours

Streams cascade over the canyon walls forming waterfalls that drop hundreds of feet, some over a thousand, before splashing into the fjord.

One of those thousand-footers punctuates the spectacular box canyon end of the pond, Pissing Mare Falls. No word on where the name came from, or who’s responsible, but that must have been one big horse.

Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park by Bon Tours

Waterfall on Western Brook Fjord, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

We have yet to see the famous fjords of Norway, but it is hard to imagine anywhere more visually stunning than Western Brook. It reminded us very much of the Yosemite Valley — the same forces had a hand in creating both — if it was filled with pristine water. Newfoundlanders can call it a pond if they like, we call it fantastic!

Rockin’ “The Rock”

Rocky Harbor, Newfoundland, Canada
Beautiful Rocky Harbor
The view from our room at the Ocean View Hotel, Rocky Harbor, Newfoundland
The view from our hotel room

The term national park can conjure up images of roughing it out in the wilderness, eating charred bits of food after they’ve fallen into the campfire, and scaring off bears.

That’s all available in Gros Morne, but the park is fairly new to protected status, being named a reserve in 1973 and a national park in 2005, so there are also many non-primitive accommodations to be found within the boundaries.

We stayed at the locally famous Ocean View Hotel in the picturesque fishing village of Rocky Harbor.

Anchors Aweigh at the Anchor Pub in Rocky Harbor Newfoundland

The reason for their fame is not so much the lodging, even though it was above and beyond wonderful in every way, but in the twice-weekly performances of Anchors Aweigh in the Anchor Pub.

The band is practically an institution, for twenty years they have been entertaining in typical Newfoundland fashion, a blend of traditional music, comedy, and spinning some yarns about life on “The Rock.” We left feeling like we could start to understand Newfoundland.

Getting Jiggy

Fish and Brewis in Newfoundland
See all the exciting food (and drink) we found in Newfoundland!

Whatever understanding might have been missing, we found next door at Fisherman’s Landing when we ordered two of the most traditional Newfoundland meals possible, Jiggs Dinner, and Fish & Brewis. Both date back way before refrigeration, so they are based on salted meat.

Fish & Brewis is made with salt cod and hardtack, boiled, broken up, and mixed together. It tastes way better than it sounds… or looks.

Restaurants also serve an upscale style of Fish & Brewis, to see that, click here

Jiggs Dinner in Newfoundland
See all the exciting food (and drink) we found in Newfoundland!

Jiggs Dinner features salt beef, and is a variation of good ole Irish corned beef and cabbage. What sets it apart are the carrots, turnips, and especially pease pudding. Pudding being the British use of the term, almost like a dumpling made from split yellow peas.

Moose sign in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, Canada
The “moose” supposedly outnumber humans in the park, so why didn’t we see one?

Bill Cosby, pudding aficionado, might not approve — and it’s not something we had ever tried before — but after one bite we got properly jiggy with it.

The menu also proudly listed moose burgers and moose stew, but since there is no such thing as moose, we didn’t see any way that we could possibly eat one.

It’s a Bug’s Life

The Newfoundland Insectarium

Leaving the park, going south, we came across an interesting diversion, The Newfoundland Insectarium.

What we thought might be a quick stop turned into hours as we took in one fascinating exhibit after another.

We lost ourselves watching leafcutter ants working, bees busily building their hive, and most mesmerizing of all, walking through The Butterfly House surrounded by hundreds of beautiful blue butterflies.

Blue butterflies in the Butterfly Garden of the Newfoundland Insectarium

The colorful winged insects flew all around us, sometimes even landing on us. In fact, several of the displays are hands on. We got to hold creatures that looked exactly like leaves, or sticks, or alien beings.

We even got to touch the skin of a devil – a Thorny Devil to be precise. All of this was overseen by the museum’s director, Lloyd Hollett, who captivated us with not only his knowledge, but his exuberance. We’ve heard that his schtick about the beehive is becoming legendary.

WATCH: Veronica frolics with butterflies, handles some pretty intimidating bugs!

For more photos and info about The Newfoundland Insectarium, click here

What the Heck is a Pudding Sock?

Traditional pudding sock and brewis bag in Newfoundland
We did find a pudding sock later on our journey.

Within a few days of leaving Gros Morne we were missing it, so we decided to try our hand at making a Jiggs Dinner to reminisce.

We looked it up and had no problems with the recipe at all, until it said to put a split pea mixture in a pudding sock and throw it in the pot to boil with the rest of the stuff.

Shocking as it may seem, we did not have a pudding sock handy on the motorhome, and we weren’t really willing to try a sweat sock substitution.

At the risk of seriously offending some Newfoundlanders… Jiggs Dinner without the pudding is still delicious.

David & Veronica,

See all of our Newfoundland adventures!

We are so grateful to Go Western Newfoundland and Parks Canada for making this adventure possible. As always, all opinions are our own.

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12 thoughts on “Fjords, Carnivorous Plants and Standing on the Earth’s Mantle in Newfoundland”

  1. The early peoples of Newfoundland soon developed into a new breed of people. This new breed was made up of a mix of English, Irish, Scottish, French, Innu, Innuit, Mi’Kmaq, Basque, Jerserymen and many more nationalities yet to follow, These multinational peoples will crossbreed and become known as NEWFOUNDLANDER’s (the only species of its kind) and become one of the most respected people of the world, we were prejudice to no one.

  2. Great post! This was such a pleasure to read! It’s an incredibly informative article and your images of Gros Morne are stunning! I wish that I could transport myself there right now! As to Newfoundlanders, they are famous for many things and music is certainly one of them so I greatly appreciated your inclusion of that information as well!

  3. Greetings from the Ocean View Hotel. We loved hosting you and we are so glad you enjoyed your stay in Gros Morne. Thanks for the great article which is awesome for others as a trip planning piece. Cheers,


  4. Enjoyed this episode.
    I’m having difficulty viewing the videos on my IPad. It does not accept adobe reader.
    Any suggestions.

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