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Dark Harbour Pond

Dark Harbour Road, Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2010/01/11

Image of Dark Harbour Pond taken from the southern cliff looking north along the seawall. This image captures the fishing community of about 200 residents who lived here at around 1900.; Grand Manan Archives
Dark Harbour Pond circa 1900
This image is an old colored postcard showing Dark Harbour Pond from the eastern shore looking west. The steep cliffs and the pond with its seawall are visible. ; Grand Manan Archives
Dark Harbour Pond, circa 1890
Robin Wall sketched this image of the Dark Harbour cliffs surrounding the pond and it shows a dory, a style of boat used by the people who harvest dulse from the back side of Grand Manan Island. ; Robin Wall image, Grand Manan Archives
Sketch of Dark Harbour cliffs with dory

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/02/19

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Dark Harbour Pond is a very dark place as its name reflects; the 120 metre cliffs on its eastern shore keep the sun from reaching the pond until long into the morning. A road cut into these cliffs is the only access to Dark Harbour Pond from the rest of Grand Manan Island by land. A natural seawall of stones protects the pond.

Heritage Value

Dark Harbour Pond is designated a Local Historic Place for its unique natural formation and for its long association with the unique fishing community of Dark Harbour. Dark Harbour Pond is a naturally occurring pond fed with fresh water from the surrounding 120 metre cliffs and with salt water from the ocean which seeps through the seawall that contains the pond. It is the only indentation in the cliffs on the entire western side of Grand Manan Island. A natural seawall of stones keeps the pond in place as the force of the ocean pushes the stones up from the ocean and the fresh water from the brook pushes the stones on the inner side. The first man made opening in the seawall was made in 1846 to allow ships to enter and find safety inside the seawall. It was paid for by John Walter Wilson and James Rait. Through the years, the openings have been closed-in by storms, such as the the Saxby Gale in 1869, which completely filled in the original location on the southern opening. After this storm, a more protected opening on the northern end was opened and has been maintained ever since.

Dark Harbour Pond is also recognized for its association with many folklore and pirate stories that have their origins in this dark locale. From the arrival of Grand Manan’s first settlers in 1783 until 1833, a stable ownership of this area was not clarified. Many stories tell how the Spaniards cursed the pond so as to never allow anyone success in their ventures. Despite this, most industries have been unsuccessful. The pond is now owned by the Village of Grand Manan.

Dark Harbour Pond is also recognized for its association with the development of successful industries in the region. Through the 1800’s and into the early 1900’s, the brook was dammed up and trees were harvested from the surrounding woods. The trees were floated downstream to the Dark Harbour Pond where they were milled and the lumber was sold.

Many early residents who lived in Dark Harbour, such as Isaac Newton & Sons, had developed the pond as a natural fish trap with weirs. They built processing and smoke sheds for harvesting and processing their catch. A unique fish tower that used fire to attract fish to the opening of the pond from the ocean is one of the ways fish were harvested from this tidal area. Also, in the winter, the pond would freeze over on the high tide and then, as the tide receded, the ice would dip down. When the tide came back in, the men would cut holes in the ice and the force of the incoming water would force the fish up through the holes and the men would gather them off the top of the ice.

Due to the towering surrounding cliffs, the pond area is a very dark spot. This creates the perfect conditions for the dulse seaweed to grow on the ocean side of the Dark Harbour Pond seawall. Grand Manan has become famous for this dulse, which is an edible seaweed very high in iron. There is a whole seasonal community of fisher people who move to Dark Harbour Pond and live in camps on the seawall for the summer months to harvest the dulse. They pick the dulse at low tide and on the high tide they spread it on the seawall to dry in the sun.

From the early 1980s to late 1990's salmon aquaculture was present in the pond. The cages remain but they are empty.

Sources: Grand Manan Archives, Historic Places files; Grand Manan Historian XXVII, History of Dark Harbour - Fact and Fiction.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements that describe Dark Harbour Pond include:
- spectacular natural setting;
- 120 metre cliffs separating to encircle the only water access on the back of Grand Manan Island;
- the road leading to Dark Harbour Pond hewn out of the side of the cliffs - not a ride for the faint of heart;
- approximately 1.5 km long naturally-occurring barrier of rock protecting the pond from the ocean;
- brackish pond water fed by fresh water from the Dark Harbour Brook and by ocean water which infiltrates through the rock seawall as the tide rises and falls;
- water depth of 27.5 metres;
- man-made opening allowing tide and boats to come and go;
- visible remnants of various fishing ventures, including herring and salmon cages.



New Brunswick

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (NB)

Recognition Statute

Local Historic Places Program

Recognition Type

Municipal Register of Local Historic Places

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1869/01/01 to 1869/01/01
1783/01/01 to 1833/01/01
1846/01/01 to 1846/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce
Peopling the Land
People and the Environment
Developing Economies
Hunting and Gathering
Peopling the Land

Function - Category and Type



Nature Element
Food Supply
Fisheries Site
Harbour Facility

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Grand Manan Archives, 1141 Route 776, Grand Manan, NB

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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