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Kejimkujik National Park

About 45km (28 miles) southeast of Annapolis Royal is a popular national park that's a world apart from coastal Nova Scotia. Kejimkujik National Park, founded in 1968, is located in the heart of south-central Nova Scotia, and it is to lakes and bogs what the South Coast is to fishing villages and fog. Bear and moose are the full-time residents here; park visitors are the transients. The park, which was largely scooped and shaped during the last glacial epoch, is about 20% water, which makes it especially popular with canoeists. A few trails also weave through the park, but hiking is limited; the longest hike in the park can be done in 2 hours. Bird-watchers are also drawn to the park in search of the 205 species that have been seen both here and at the Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct, a 22-sq.-km (8 1/2-sq.-mile) coastal holding west of Liverpool. Among the more commonly seen species are pileated woodpeckers and loons, and at night you can listen for the raspy call of the barred owl.

Essentials

Getting There -- Kejimkujik National Park is approximately midway on Kejimkujik Scenic Drive (Rte. 8), which extends 115km (71 miles) between Annapolis Royal and Liverpool. The village of Maitland Bridge (pop. 130) is near the park's entrance. Plan on about a 2-hour drive from Halifax.

Visitor Information -- The park's visitor center (tel. 902/682-2772) is open daily and features slide programs and exhibits about the park's natural history. It sometimes closes on late-fall weekends.

Fees -- The park opens daily at 8:30am year-round, closing at 8pm in peak season (mid-June through Labour Day) and at 4:30pm the rest of the year. Entrance fees are C$5.80 for adults, C$4.90 for seniors, C$2.90 for children ages 6 to 16, and C$15 for families. Seasonal passes can cut the cost of a longer stay; they cost C$29 for adults, C$25 for seniors, C$15 for children ages 6 to 16, and C$74 for families. The campground kiosk stays open an hour later in peak season, until 9pm, to receive campers.

Exploring The Park

The park's nearly 150 square miles of forest, lakes, and bogs are peaceful and quiet. Part of what makes the park so appealing is its lack of access by car: one short park road off of Route 8 gets you partway into the park -- but from there, you're forced to continue either on foot or by canoe.

A stop at the visitor center is worthwhile both for its exhibits on the region's natural history and a stroll on one of three short trails, including the Beech Grove loop (2km/1.2 miles), which takes you around a glacial hill called a drumlin. The park has an audio-taped walking tour available for borrowing, too; ask for it at the information center.

Canoeing is your best means of traversing the park, if you're into that. Bring your own craft or rent one at Jakes Landing, 3km (2 miles) along the park access road. (You can also rent paddleboats, kayaks, rowboats, and cycles at the facility.) Route maps are provided at the visitor center, and rangers also lead short guided canoe trips for novices. Multi-day trips from backcountry campsite to campsite are a good way to get to know the park intimately, or cobble together an excursion from one lake to another (which might involve portaging your canoe over dry land between bodies of water; bring a friend).

The park also has 15 walking trails, ranging from short and easy strolls to, well, longer easy strolls. In other words, there's no elevation gain here to speak of. The 6km (3 1/2-mile) Hemlocks and Hardwoods Trail loops through stately groves of 300-year-old hemlocks; the 3km (2-mile) Merrymakedge Beach Trail skirts a lakeshore to end at a beach. A free map that describes the trails is available at the visitor center.

Mountain bikers can explore the old Fire Tower Road, a round-trip of about 19km (12 miles); the road becomes increasingly rugged until it ends at a fire tower near an old-growth forest of birch and maple. There are four other trails in the park where bikes are allowed, as well, including the 16km (10-mile) New Grafton Distance loop. The other three trails are somewhat shorter, and are shared with hikers.

Camping

Backcountry camping is this park's chief draw for locals. The more than 40 backcountry sites here are in such demand that they actually cost as much as the drive-in campsites. Overnighting on a distant lakeshore is the best way to get to know the park, so even if you're planning to car-camp, it's worth the extra time and expense of renting a canoe and paddling off for a night to one of these campsites just for the experience.

The canoe-in and hike-in sites are assigned individually, which means you needn't worry about noisy neighbors playing loud music on their car stereo. Backcountry rangers keep the sites in top shape, and each is stocked with firewood for the night (the wood is included in the campsite fee). Most sites can handle a maximum of six campers. Naturally, the best sites are snapped up on weekends by urbanites from Halifax; midweek, you've got a much better shot. You can also reserve backcountry sites (C$25 per site) up to 60 days in advance; call the visitor center (tel. 902/682-2772) to do so, though your deposit it nonrefundable even if you have to cancel.

The park's drive-in campground at Jeremy's Bay offers about 360 sites, a few quite close to the water's edge, and this campground is amazingly open year-round. Campground rates are C$18 to C$26 per night. Note that during the off season, November to April, there are no toilets or showers -- just pits. Starting early each April reservations at the drive-in campground may be made for an additional fee by calling tel. 877/RESERVE [737-3783] or online at www.pccamping.ca.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.