Heritage

Our cultural legacy 

A Brief History of Cape Jourimain

American groundnut, a staple food of local Indigenous peoples, has been found growing at Cape Jourimain. 

Early Years

Ever since glaciers retreated from the region 9000 years ago, Indigenous peoples have inhabited the Jourimain area. Archaeological evidence suggests that Cape Jourimain was frequented by Mi'kmaq hunters, who used it as a crossing point to Epekwitk (Prince Edward Island). The earliest known name for Cape Jourimain is Wuk'ta'mook, a Mi'kmaq term which roughly translates to "a crossing place". 

Up to 5000 years ago, a land bridge connected Prince Edward Island to mainland Canada. Overtime, changes in the Earth's crust resulted in the land sinking. This fractured the landscape, creating the Northumbland Strait and dividing Cape Jourimain into two islands. No longer able to walk, the Mi'kmaq used birch bark and dugout canoes to travel across the Strait. 

European Expansion

By the early 1600s, French colonists, known as Acadians, settled throughout the region, including on the Jourimain Islands. They engineered special one-way gates called aboiteaus which they built into their dykes. These gates allowed their fields to drain, while preventing saltwater from flooding back in. This helped them to cultivate vast areas of nutrient rich marshland.

In 1754, conflict broke out between France and England, who both claimed sovereignty over Eastern Canada. In the years following, many Acadians were forcibly removed from their lands in an event known as the Great Expulsion. Following the war, settlers from Great Britain and New England began emigrating to the area.

In the 1800s, Cape Jourimain was home to a thriving hay-based economy.
Some of the iceboats used sails for crossing through sections of open water.
The final ferry to serve the Capes route was the MV Abegweit, which ceased operation in 1997.

Crossing Service

In 1827, the first winter crossing took place between Cape Jourimain and Cape Traverse, Prince Edward Island. This became known as the "Capes" route.  The iceboats traversed dangerous ice floes to transport mail and passengers across the Northumberland Strait. Between trips, the crew would often stay on Jourimain Island at the home of the Allen family, which became known as the Allen Hotel. The iceboats continued to operate until 1917, after which the they were replaced by a more reliable winter ferry. 

In 1869, a lighthouse was built on Jourimain Island's eastern point. It served as a beacon for ships traveling through the Northumberland Strait. The lighthouse was serviced by 7 keepers and operated for 127 years. It officially closed in 1997 upon the closure of the Cape Tormentine ferry service and the opening of the Confederation Bridge. 

Cape Jourimain Today

In the early 1900s , a series of storms destroyed the roadway linking the Jourimain Islands to Bayfield. After this, most of the remaining landowners relocated to the mainland. In the decades following, wildlife rebounded. In 1980, Cape Jourimain was designated a federal National Wildlife Area due to its biodiversity and importance for migratory birds.

In 1993, after an unsuccessful attempt in the 1960s, work began on the construction of a fixed link crossing to Prince Edward Island. The span between Cape Jourimain and Borden-Carlton was selected for being the shortest distance across the Northumberland Strait. In 1997, the Confederation Bridge opened to the public. 

During construction of the bridge, a committee was formed to investigate opportunities for visitors traveling through Cape Jourimain. An educational facility was envisioned to provide interpretive programs about the area's natural and cultural heritage. In 2001, Cape Jourimain Nature Centre opened to the public.

Components for the Confederation Bridge were built in Borden Carlton, PEI and in Bayfield, NB.
Cape Jourimain Nature Centre opened in June, 2001.

For more information about Cape Jourimain's history, visit the Museum in our Interpretation Centre or check out or virtual tour.