Bizarre Natural Phenomena Vol. 59 - The River That Flows Backwards (Reversing Rapids Of Saint John River, Canada)

in #steemstem3 years ago

Let's take a boat ride on down a river in Canada, shall we? We were told that on Saint John river there is a bridge before the river mouth and under this bridge a ledge makes the waters take various shapes. We can see whitewater rapids, waves and even whirlpools forming. [1, 3] A pretty cool experience, right? So, let's hop on that boat of ours and sail away...

While on the boat, we are chilling and admiring at the view, anxious to flow under the bridge. We are not too far from it, we can see it in the distance, but something strange seems to happen. All of a sudden the boat immobilizes, as if someone closed the tap and there is no more water running in the river. We stay there looking at each other in wonder and after about 20 minutes more or less the boat slightly starts to move again only it does not flow to the sea anymore but... backwards!

Image from: - Courtesy of: Hinto - License: CC BY-SA 3.0


No! That's pretty normal... for this river! You see Saint John river, which flows through the city of Saint John (New Brunswick, Canada) is a very special place where the waters of the river meet with the tides of the Bay of Fundy in a confrontation where the strong man wins!

Enough with the metaphors, please.

Pfff, ok! In plain english: the tides in the Bay of Fundy push the river flow backwards.


The tides of the bay are among the highest in the world (they can raise waters up to 11 meters high). They are also semidiurnal, which means that they follow an almost 12-hour cycle of rise and falls. During low tides, the river flows undisturbed towards the sea. It is the high tides that mess things up. Upon entering the bay, the high tides start flowing upwards. Being squeezed by the narrowing sides of the bay, the high tides meet with the outflowing low tides and form a higher incoming wave. This wave starts travelling opposite the course of the river, pushing it back in huge waves and causing waters to rise up to 11 meters. [1, 2, 3]

Screenshot through:

For a 20-minute period the two forces seem to be neutralized and the waters stand still. But the high tides keep flowing inside the bay, gushing into the river and flowing as far as 130 kilometers inland. Twelve hours later, the high tides begin to lower down until they fall below the river water levels, there is another moment of total balance and tranquility before the low tides retract, allowing the river to flow normally towards the seas again. 

Those periods of immobility, when the waters balance and there is no movement, are called slack tides. During a slack tide is the only time when vessels can safely sail across the Reversing Rapids. [5]

There has also been a tourist attraction on the river that offered tours of the turbulent waters (but not too close to the violent epicenter). Having operated for almost 2 decades, the service was ended in 2013. [1, 2]

The geology of the area

The Reversing Rapids are part of the Stonehammer Geopark. Around the bridge of the Saint John river you can see two ancient geologic terranes joining. A terrane is "a fragment of the earth’s crust formed on, or broken off from, one piece of the earth’s crust (or tectonic plate) and attached or welded to the crust on another plate" (source). South of the bridge you can find Cambrian age rocks of the Caledonia Terrane (542 to 490 million years old). Whereas, at the north there are Precambrian age rocks from the Brookville Terrane. Each terrane gets to keep its distinct geological history, no matter the geological history of the terrane it has been adjusted on. [4]

The two terranes of the area have both come from the southern hemisphere, but display an age difference of 500 years. Probably, these terranes were "chopped off" a continental mass of the South pole and travelled to the North to become part of the ancient North America. [4]

The last glacial period (20,000 years ago) changed the shape of the area once more. The river did not follow the same route it does today and there was even a waterfall near the point where the Reversing Rapids phenomenon (which is relatively young, only 3,000 years old) occurs. Riverbed erosion and sea level rising made that waterfall to disappear. [4] 

And in case you are too afraid to go on a boat ride on this river, you can always... fly!



Thank you so much for your time!

Until my next post,
Steem on and keep smiling, people!


Ruthie??....11 meters high??....this is something,isn't it... the way today i saw on tv ,they were saying about the red sprite phenomenon.... and i was saying...old news guys.... @ruth-girl introduced us this game of nature!!!... οχι για να ευλογαμε τα γενια μας αλλα να λεμε τα συκα συκα και τη σκαφη σκαφη

Ω ναι! 11 meters high, αγριεύουν τα νερά, δεν λέει να πας για ρομαντική βαρκάδα. Σκέψου πόση δύναμη έχει η παλίρροια όταν σου λέει ότι μπορεί να φτάσουν τα νερά μέχρι και 130 χιλιόμετρα προς τα πίσω... Bras de fer κάνουν τα δυο ρεύματα :P

Ωωω! Το δείξαν και στην τηλεόραση; Τέλεια! Έκανες κι επανάληψη σαν να λέμε. Θα πρέπει να σας βάλω κανένα τεστ κάποια στιγμή μου φαίνεται :Ρ

βγαινει η δασκαλα απο μεσα σου ε???...ειπαμε πηραμε καλοκαιρινες διακοπες....απο Σεπτεμβριο βλεπουμε!!!
...το εδειξαν στο ΣΚΑΙ σημερα...στην Μπουσδουκου....και εγω ελεγα....'' αααασεεε ρε Μπουσδουκου να πουμε τωρα!!!! ''

Βγαίνει και παραβγαίνει, δεν μπορώ να συγκρατηθώ :Ρ

Nice one. I always look forward to what I'll discover in every entry for this series :)

Thanks! I think I am running out of material though :(

I'm probably retreading stuff you've already done and I've forgotten about, but you can try looking at stuff in space or deep under the ocean. Or you can just switch to mundane natural phenomena (RAIN!, WIND!, or the SUN!).

Every once in a while I might post about a space phenomenon, but I think I'll stay on this planet :P
I have some underwater phenomena bookmarked for my list and I'm always on the lookout for anything "weird"

Mundane, huh? Well, with the right promotion you can make even something mundane look extraordinary :P

Hello! By this link, you can see an interesting video. The cars roll themselves uphill, the stream flows uphill. This place is in Armenia and is called the Aragatsotn anomaly.

Of course it’s an optical illusion. The surrounding landscape makes the objects appear to defy the laws of physics however, if you take the exact geographical circumstances into account it’s merely a parlor trick.

Do the cars really defy the laws of gravity/physics? I think the road only appear to be downhill when in fact they aren't. It is rather an optical illusion.

Perhaps this is a marketing move to attract tourists. But still it's funny)

@nsbachurin, that may also be probably correct :)

Money governs the laws of physics :)

Some say there is one such place here, around my area. Of course nothing like that happens, the car does not roll uphill. I think I should put such places on my list ;)
My internet is too slow and I can't load the video :(

Do you have any? Perhaps this is franchising? )))

We have on eon Olympus, I have been there several times but I haven't felt anything weird.

You just ruined my childhood dreams !!! I always thought that Olympus is a special mountain :)

No! No! No! It is! It is! It is just very obedient and doesn't defy the laws of gravity :P

Wonderful post Ruth. The video really showed everything how beautiful the river is and watching closely how it reverse in the opposite direction . So beautiful and amazing. I was thinking of your thoughts during that 20 minutes that the boat was standby. What were you thinking? If it was me I would be thinking of a plan B.

Thanks for being here @wisdomdavid! :D

This video was amazing, the shots were stunning and the music so relaxing. Well, for those 20' all I could think about was: When are we getting off that boat? I'm starting to feel hungry :P

Seems like such incident can make one hungry :) next time go with a packaged food.

That's for sure! Next time I'll know :P

The semidiurnal tides of the bay drive the float of water to reverse towards the present present when the tide is high, even though within the spring freshet, this is most often surpassed through the downstream quantity of water. The rapids, or "falls", are created with the aid of a sequence of underwater ledges which roil the water in both path, inflicting a gigantic navigation hazard, despite the depth

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Science is like the great magicians; they always show us how they made the rabbits appear from the hat :)

Hey my country made it to one your your posts. Cool.

The Maritimes are great place to visit but really only in the summer. The Bay of Fundy is amazing with the tide going really far out and then really far back in.

The largest slosh basin in the world.

Yeah!! I think I have written something else about Canada, but I cannot remember now (too many episodes :P)

I guess camping along the river banks is not advisable, even in the summer :P

Wow, you did an excellent job explaining this. There are many places in Canada that are tidal. Where I live, the tides easily change 12 ft, so when we had logging camps down the coast we had to be aware of slack tide in order for the crew to leave camp. It was my job to fly a Robinson 22 helicopter (2 seater) and make sure the crew in the boat were a)headed the right direction, as it's easy to get turned around (and yes, I've had to hover at sea level in front of the boat and physically wave my arm and point which direction they needed to go :), and b) make sure they safely got home without a breakdown. Great post!

I wow back!! Your job sounds more and more exciting you know! :)

Thanks for dropping by!

Waoo, This is yet another amazing one @ruth-girl 👍
Honestly I love this 😄, it gives me topic of discussion with my colleagues most times, especially when boredom sets in.

Nice one dear 👍

Aaah! This is so nice to hear! I hope they enjoy them :)

Thanks for visiting @cyprinaj!

Wow Ruthie! This post has answered the many questions I had about rivers flowing downwards.
Thanks for sharing Ruthie

Hey Sammy! It's nice to hear that I answered your questions :)
I saw you wrote something about cars defying gravity? I saved it to read tomorrow. It's sleep time now ;)

See you around!

Thanks a lot Ruthie. I'm really honoured

i love it

At this rep score? Quite surprising

Hey @jamhuery! It's good to see you! :D

I'm having trouble even imagining an 11 m tide. When I lived near the coast, it was maybe 30 to 50 cm at most.

For reference (and because I know you like whirlpools and youtube videos), a 1.7m tide going through a constriction causes the Naruto whirlpools.

I believe (without having read anything about it) that it's because the river is a lot more "constrained" unlike the sea, so the big height difference must have to do with the morphology of the place.

Thanks for the cool video! :D

I haven't heard of this before... A flow in the forward direction, then a break, after that, a flow in the backwards direction.. One should not trust this river at all.. Lol.. Imagine trying to elope with your girlfriend, when you think you have covered a distance, the river carries you back to the starting point, were the girl's father is waiting for you with a cutlass in his hand.

You are a great writer @ruth-girl. Thanks for writing this.

Oh! Oh my! This sounds like a lover's nightmare!!

Thanks for being here @whileponderin! :D

Hello @ruth-girl

Knowing that a water body can flow against its normal direction is entirely new to me. The world indeed is so full of natural wonders..


@eurogee of @euronation and @steemstem communities

Weird things happen out there, don't you agree?

Thanks for coming over @eurogee! :)

I love your posts @ruth-girl and I can't wait for the next!! Thank for sharing this beautiful piece

Hey there! Thanks a lot @adimchi! Stay tuned for next week's episode ;)

Hmm. I never knew such place and River exist. Well we've heard alot of more mysterious things. so i am not really surprised. Glad i was exposed to this here.

It's not as weird as bioluminescence, but it is pretty awkward.

Thanks for reading! :)

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