The main activities that occur at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve UNESCO World Heritage Site are scientific research, interpretive tours, wild life watching, nature photography, berry-picking and (from Nov. – Feb.) sea duck hunting. Viewing of the fossils is by guided tour only.
Guided tour reservations are strongly advised , as tours are often fully booked in advance. Visitors to the Reserve are to meet at 1 pm at the Edge of Avalon Interpretive Centre in Portugal Cove South. An official Parks and Natural Areas Interpretive Guide will take you on a 30 minute 3 km (one-way) walk through history to Mistaken Point. The gently rolling path winds along barrens and coastline and is rated as a moderate difficulty hiking trail. This route is a well defined track that once led to a seasonal fishing community at Watern Cove. Remnant rock-pile foundations can still be found in the area. Reserve users are cautioned that the Watern Cove River can pose an obstacle, however it is passable depending on the water levels. Beyond the river it is only a short distance to view the Watern Cove – fossil assemblage.
The Fossil Protection Zone is an area of coastline within the Reserve where fossils are most vulnerable to the effects of erosion and human activities. In certain cases, such as for scientific research, entry permits can be issued for access to the Fossil Protection Zone. However, public access to the zone is generally restricted to ensure protection of these world-class fossils.
Part of the coastline of Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve (from The Drook to Cape Race) lies within the official Mistaken Point Canadian Important Bird Area (IBA). This IBA is considered globally significant because of its wintering populations of purple sandpipers and common eiders.
As of June 2009, a total of 180 bird species had been recorded within the Reserve and its offshore waters (up to 500 metres from the coast). The Reserve hosts a substantial breeding population of black-legged kittiwakes (over 4,100 active nests were counted on June 29, 2009, primarily at the Rookery and Freshwater Cove), together with much smaller numbers of nesting Atlantic puffins, razorbills, common murres, black guillemots, double-crested cormorants, herring and great black-backed gulls.
Visitors making the trip to the Reserve are advised:
- Plan ahead for the interpretive tour schedule. Entry to coastal areas where fossils are present is by permit or interpretive tour only
- Space on interpretive tours is limited. Please book beforehand to ensure your group can be accommodated.
- Read and abide by the Rules & Regulations before visiting.
- To confirm a reservation, all tour participants must arrive at the Edge of Avalon Interpretive Centre prior to 1pm on the day of the tour.
- All guided tours are offered through Natural Areas Program by trained Park Interpretation Technicians.
- The Edge of Avalon Interpretive Centre is owned and operated by a not-for-profit community organization, Mistaken Point Cape Race Heritage Inc. We encourage visitors to arrive 1/2 hour early to take the tour of the exhibits with an orientation to the Edge of Avalon Heritage Coast.
- Dress for open-country walking. There is a high probability you will encounter a combination of cool, windy, wet and/or and foggy conditions
- Carry a compass
- Time involved is 3½ – 4 hours.
- From the Centre it is a 30 minute drive along a paved/gravel road to reach the trail where the hike begins.
- The tour involves a 6 km round-trip hike (3 km one-way) and it takes approximately 45 minutes (one-way) to reach the Watern Cove fossil viewing site.
- Return time is approximately 4:30pm at the Edge of Avalon Interpretive Centre, Portugal Cove South.
- Trail is rated as a moderate hiking trail. There are a few small hills and inclines. The overall distance (4 km) may pose the greatest challenge for some.
- Sections of the trail are muddy, wet and often slippery. Hikers are advised to use caution in these areas.
- Proper hiking footwear and rainwear are recommended.
- Sandals are not permitted.
- There is a small river crossing with stepping stones to walk on.
- It is a good idea to bring water, a snack, and binoculars.
- Please note there are no facilities in the Reserve once the tour commences.
- Keep a safe distance from coastal rocks – they can be slippery and erosion from foot traffic can damage the internationally important fossils below
- The Reserve is at times home to free roaming livestock
- Dogs are not permitted on guided tours
Guided tours to view the fossils are available from official Natural Areas Program Interpreters. For more information about guided tours (late May – early October) call the Edge of Avalon Interpretive Centre in Portugal Cove South (709-438-1011) and ask to speak to one of the Reserve’s Interpreters.