Manuels River

Manuels River

The natural formation of Manuels River is located in the eastern portion of the Town of Conception Bay South, Newfoundland and Labrador. The river forms on the high lands of the central Avalon Plateau and plunges approximately 10 kilometers to empty into the waters of Conception Bay. The river is accessible via walking trails, which start at the Manuels River Natural Heritage Society chalet located along Route 60 (Conception Bay Highway).


Natural features

The Manuels River has a natural drainage basin of about 75 square kilometers, stretching southward toward the central portion of the Avalon Peninsula. This drainage area contains a high diversity of plant and animal life to interest the amateur botanist or bird watcher. A variety of aquatic plants have been identified including sedges, bull rushes and bladderwort. Many species of trees and shrubs common to the boreal forests of eastern Newfoundland thrive on the shoreline and hillsides of the river valley. White birch, cherry, and larch provide spectacular fall colors while fir, black spruce and juniper support the blanket of winter snowfall.

Over thirty different species of wild flowers grow along the edge of the river or under the forest canopy. These include yarrow, thistle, sheep laurel, wild mint, goldenrod and the showy Blue Flag Iris. A stroll along the river is spring is a true delight as the blooming wildflowers and vivid green sedges provide an array of blooms and aromas.

Small and large mammals call Manuels River their home. Moose, red fox, and barren ground caribou inhabit the upper reaches of the watershed while hare, squirrels, beaver and muskrat prefer the lower river channel or the mouth.

The variety of bird life spotted along the river or at its mouth include sandpiper, crow, pigeons, juncos, gulls, and the belted kingfisher. The kingfisher enjoys the distinction of being the emblem for the Manuels River Natural Heritage Society.

Different species of aquatic invertebrates, insects and fish contribute to the natural diversity of the river system. At the mouth of the river, it may be possible to view humpback whales and fin whales feeding on schools of squid and caplin. During March or April when drift ice appears in the bay, the occasional harbor seal can be spotted lying on the ice in the warmth of the spring sun.

In 1932, the flow of water from Paddy's Pond was entirely diverted into the drainage basin for the Topsail hydroelectric development. Prior to this time, Paddy's Pond had drained into both the Manuels River and Topsail systems (the proportions of flow are unknown). This initial diversion probably did not have a major impact on the Manuels River, since the drainage area of Paddy's Pond is relatively small, at 11.4 square kilometers. However, in 1956, dams were constructed at the point where Thomas Pond flowed into the Manuels River. A ditch was constructed to divert flow into Paddy's Pond, and thereby into the Topsail hydroelectric development. This had a major impact on the Manuels River, since Thomas Pond, with a watershed of approximately 45 square kilometers, formed much of the headwaters of the Manuels River system.

The result unfortunately for Manuel's river is often drought, high-water temperatures and prevention of native salmonid upstream migration. In the years subsequently following the installation of the dam at the headwaters of the river, Manuel's river has witnessed the extirpation of its native Atlantic salmon population. Brook trout and Brown trout (anadromous) still populate the river although they are unable to make the migration up river to spawn at the headwaters because of the lack of water-flow. To date no formal effort has been under taken to correct the low-flow issue in the Manuel's river basin, and no effort has been undertaken to restore native salmon stocks in the river.

NL Hydro is also responsible for the impedance of Atlantic Salmon in the near-by seal cove river; where groups of roughly 50 or so Atlantic salmon return annually but are denied travel due to the generating station below the CBS highway.


The rocks along Manuels River range from 500 to 600 million years in geological time. These rocks are remnants of the ancient African continental plate that collided with North America 400 million years ago. The mountain ranges of eastern North America, particularly the Appalachian Mountains, were formed by the collision of these plates during that period in the Earth's history. Today, Manuels River lies on the eastern edge of these ancient, largely eroded mountains. The Manuels River valley is relatively young in geological terms. The original valley was shaped during the last ice age by a glacier flowing northward over the valley into Conception Bay. After the glacial ice melted more than 10,000 years ago, the rivers formed by the melting ice carved the gorge and riverbed located in the lower portions of the valley. Generally, sedimentary rock types predominate in the lower Manuels River while igneous and volcanic rocks comprise the upper reaches.


Trilobites are the primary fossil remains found in the rocks of the Manuels River. These prehistoric animals lived on the seabed and left trails as they crawled around in search of food. Trilobites resemble sow bugs (commonly known as 'carpenters') or crabs and were first discovered along the river in 1874 by T.C. Weston of the Geological Survey of Canada. Complete specimens are rare, however, some have been found measuring as long as 30 cm. Many of the fossil remains are fragments of their shells discarded in a manner similar to today's lobsters.

Removing fossil specimens and rock samples is prohibited, but the Society encourages observation and provides educational tours of these wonders from our prehistoric past.

Natural Heritage Society

Manuels River Natural Heritage Society is a non-profit volunteer organization established in the mid-1980s to conserve and protect the Manuels River system. From its humble beginnings as a group of citizens concerned about the health of the Manuels River, the Society has developed over the past two decades as the recognized stewards of the River. The Society operates an information and tourist chalet overlooking the River in the Town of Conception Bay South. From the chalet location, visitors can enjoy the splendid walking trails towards the mouth of the River or explore the wilderness landscapes of its headwaters.

The society operates various environmental educational programs for school groups and guided tours for the general public. In addition, it administers projects to expand and maintain the over six kilometers of walking trails, which parallel the River. The Society actively promotes a linear park concept for Manuels River designed to protect its significant natural features while providing a pleasant outdoor experience for both residents and tourists.

See also

  • List of rivers of Newfoundland and Labrador

External links

Coordinates: 47°31′38″N 52°57′06″W / 47.52722°N 52.95167°W / 47.52722; -52.95167

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