UPPER DYKE WAS ONCE AT “HEAD OF THE TIDE” (January 16/07)

Highway 341 runs roughly north from Kentville for several kilometers before turning east at Upper Dyke. At some point in Upper Dyke the highway becomes Canard Street, an unofficial local name for the approximately seven-mile stretch that ends at Porters Point.

The western end of Canard Street is known as Upper Canard and the eastern section as Lower Canard. Where Upper Canard ends and Upper Dyke begins is a mystery to me but I’ve always assumed the division line is just beyond the rise north of the Canard River around where Lakewood Road forms a T-junctions with Highway 341.

C. Bruce Fergusson, in Place-Names and Places of Nova Scotia, recognizes Upper Dyke as a community. Fergusson tells us the correct name of the community is Upper Dyke Village and says it received the name because it was the Acadian dyke that was the “furtherest upstream on the Canard River.”

Actually, this dyke was on a tributary of the Canard River and if you know where and what to look for, traces of it can be seen today. This dyke, and undoubtedly an aboiteau, was located just east of the John Newcombe property. The stream that was dyked now runs through a culvert under Canard Street (or Highway 341 if you wish) and Newcombe Branch. If you stand where Newcombe Branch forks away from Canard Street and face north, you’re looking at the location where the Acadians built one of the first dykes in this area. Some local historians claim this was the first Acadian dyke but it wasn’t. Brent Fox in his book on the Wellington Dyke correctly places the first local Acadian dyke in Steam Mill, approximately where a railway bridge once spanned the Canard River.

At one time the dyke by the John Newcombe property was literally at the head of the tide. It appears that the Minas Basin tides backed the Canard River waters up the tributary. In other words, Upper Dyke, especially the area beside just below Newcombes, was at the head of the tide. In the history of Canard Street, compiled by Elizabeth Rand and published in 1997, the author mentions the tides backing the Canard River up to the Jan Struik (now Ian Newcombe) property. This property, which is immediately east of John Newcombe, wouldn’t have been part of the original Planter grants, Rand says, since it “would have been flooded by the tides… before the aboiteau was begun by the Acadians.”

The next time you drive through Upper Dyke and cross the brook by Newcombe Branch, stop for a moment and consider how the mighty Minas Basin tides once peaked there. In your mind, picture what it would have been like there at high tide when the Acadians arrived. Look carefully and you’ll see that the tributary in Upper Dyke was a natural place for the Acadians to begin dykeing and laying an aboiteau. The tributary between Newcombes and Struiks runs through a hollow and the apparent ease in dykeing it must have been obvious to the Acadians.

I’m not surprised that the Acadians started dykeing first on the upper part of the Canard River at Steam Mill. As mentioned, the site of the Steam Mill dyke has been placed at the railway bridge, long since removed, just above Highway 359. This area would have at the head of the tide as well and the lay of the land must have made it easy to dyke.

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