The Tablelands at Gros Morne National Park are still one of my favourite destinations in Newfoundland. Coming across them is a startling experience: you’re cruising down the highway and suddenly you round a corner and you’re face to face with a desert-like landscape practically void of vegetation. Even if you’re not a geology nerd, chances are you’ll find this place fascinating. My experience there has me convinced I’ll move back to Gros Morne someday to live permanently. You’ll be sorry to ask me about the west coast, because chances are I’ll launch into a 30-minute discussion with arms flailing about how great it is.
It’s ultramafic rock (peridotite) that makes this place so barren, which means that the Tablelands is actually one of the few places in the world where you can see exposed earth’s mantle. The rock was forced up to the surface millions of years ago during a plate collision, and peridotite lacks the nutrients which allow plants to grow. Because of this, there’s virtually no wildlife—a weird concept considering the entire park has thousands of moose.
Here are two ways to see the Tablelands.
Take a tour on Trout River Pond with Ocean Quest Adventures
Ocean Quest is an adventure tourism group located within the province. They do all kinds of exceptional tours, including snorkelling with whales (doing that one next year—it’s happening).
I had initially signed up for their kayaking tour on Trout River Pond, but high winds forced me to opt for the Zodiac tour instead. It was basically a blessing in disguise, because I was treated to a full tour of the pond rather than just a small introduction.
My guide, Andrew, explained how the lake is deep enough to sit a 40-storey building, and how it was carved out by glaciers. It’s also one of the world’s most perfect examples of continental drift (see below): on the right, you’ll see the barren red landscape of the Tablelands, and to the left is the green vegetation of the gabbro rock. Since the gabbro actually sits atop the earth’s mantle, the Tablelands on the left would have been MUCH higher before the plates went all willy-nilly.
You’ll also find an extremely rare example of the Mohorovicic Discontinuity here (the boundary between the earth’s crust and the mantle). Use that phrase when you’re talking to a geophysicist. My roommate almost married me on the spot.
Use an Explora Navigation Device
The Explora Navigation Device is actually a new device offered by Parks Canada to allow visitors to navigate the Tablelands Trail (four kilometres in total) with the aid of an audio & video guide. I swung by the Discovery Centre to pick up my device, and headed out to the Tablelands.
How it works: the device’s GPS tracks where you are on the trail, and when you reach a point of interest, a little bell starts ringing to alert you. Pause, and have a listen.
Admittedly, I felt like an idiot at first. The trail was busy, and every time the bells went off, people turned to look. It didn’t help that the guide was hilarious, and I stood alongside the trail bending over to observe a pitcher plant or an unusual rock while giggling like a maniac. The guide was more thrilled by geology than me, his voice occasionally rising to unexpected pitches while he explained vegetation and rocks and rivers and I grinned away with glee.
But I was entertained the whole time, and the accuracy of the GPS was perfect. The bell would go off, the guide would direct me to a giant red boulder about 15 feet to my left, and there it was. Voila. Definitely pick up one of these babies if you want to brush up on your rock knowledge. Those little tidbits are great to use at parties.
Is it just me who thinks this stuff is amazing? The fact that millions of years ago, Newfoundland looked NOTHING like how it does now because it wasn’t even Newfoundland? I find it both terrifying and humbling to realize the forces of the earth move with or without me.
**Thanks to all of you who commented on my last blog post. Wow! What a response. I appreciate all your words and support, and will follow up as soon as I get a chance.