Welcome to West Bay Road and Area


This profile of the West Bay Road area includes the communities of West Bay Road, West Bay Centre, West Bay, the Marshes, Cleveland, and Riverside. The orientation of the West Bay district is to the body of water known as West Bay, which is the south western corner of the Bras d’Or Lakes. West Bay is well fed by streams along its shores which have a variety of points and coves. A number of small uninhabited islands, some attached by sand bars, are found in the Bay. The shore area tends to have low elevations of 50 metres or less, with many peat bogs and marshy areas. Some of the areas near the River Inhabitants also have peat bogs. Near the community called the Marshes, at the southern end of the North Mountain, the land has been submerged into the bay, the tree stumps still visible, indicating the general rising sea water levels in Cape Breton. The inland areas of the district rise, but not dramatically, to elevations of 75 metres near Riverside to 100 metres around West Bay Centre to 200 metres just north of West Bay Road, where the North Mountain begins its rise. Almost the entire West Bay district has land which is predominantly stony, gently rolling dark reddish brown gravelly clay loam till with imperfect drainage (Millbrook) from the Marshes to the banks of the River Inhabitants. There are a few pockets of peat in the areas of lower elevation. Directly around West Bay Road is an exception with excessively drained greyish brown sandy loan clay stratified materials (Hebert); West Bay Centre has poorly drained greyish and brown clay loam tills (Diligence, Kingsville).


George ‘Rock a Bye’ Ross Hardrock Fighter from West Bay



(Any time someone mentions West Bay the first thing to come to my mind is ‘Rock a Bye’ Ross – I saw him fight once at the Glace Bay Forum and always remembered him. He could fight – CAPER)


The River Inhabitants alluvial area, including Cleveland and Riverside, has the expected variety of soils: low lying Kingsville; Queens and Woodbourne clay loams on gently rolling lands, the latter being conducive to agriculture; and river bank sandy loam alluvial deposits over gravel (Bridgeville). West Bay has some good agricultural Queens’s soil, but also some Millbrook, less appropriate for agriculture. Except for a few cleared areas for present or past farms, this district is generally tree covered with mixed stands of fir and yellow birch on generally rolling land, punctuated by marshy areas. Historically, hay was grown on the marshes.


The district is predominantly of Highland Scottish descent and of the Presbyterian  religious tradition, with names such as Ross, MacCuspic, Campbell, and MacLeod. According to Rannie Gillis (Cape Breton Post, Nov. 30), the Scottish came as early as 1813 by way of Pictou and Mabou, and he reports that there may be buried treasure in the islands that dot the Bay, and that some of those islands may be haunted. Other recorded settlements took place in 1817 and 1827. It is possible that the War of 1812 may have been a factor in the history of the West Bay district: the British (including Nova Scotians) and American privateers and pirates were very active in the waters of Nova Scotia (including Cape Breton) ; and it is possible that some of the settlers were discharged Scottish and other soldiers from that war. In 1904, the population of the Marshes was 85; West Bay had a population of 110 in that year.


Kayaking Paradise – West Bay, Bras d’Or Lake

Until the Inter-colonial Railway went through Cape Breton in the late 19th century, the village of West Bay was the centre of agricultural trade and the active lake commerce. From the mid to late 19th century, West Bay had two tanneries, two carriage shops, one hotel, and several stores. Today, the junction community of West Bay has a small general store (recently closed) and some other buildings which are remnants of a prosperous business past. West Bay Road appears to have been settled a bit later with a land grant given to the Lacey brothers in 1880. West Bay Road, benefiting from the Inter-colonial Railway, had a telegraph and express office. The present population of the West Bay West Bay Road Area is about 200. Please note that population figures are difficult to ascertain based on available census data.


Civic and Social/Cultural Amenities

The district can be better understood by the complex of roads which run through it. Following the railway line, and weaving back and forth across it, the road goes through River Denys and Big Brook, about 10 km, to West Bay Road. Turning east at West Bay Road and travelling about 5 km brings one to West Bay Centre and onward for another 7 km to West Bay at the head of West Bay@ on the Bras d’Or Lakes. At West Bay, there are three choices: continue east to Dundee in Richmond County; north and east to the Marshes; or south and west along the county boundary to Cleveland. From Cleveland the road goes either into Richmond County or turns back west and north some 10 km to Riverside. The main local roads tend to be paved and most of the branch roads are dirt or gravel.


West Bay Resort – Come and Stay Awhile


The Acadian Lines Bus or shuttle (originating in Sydney) to Halifax can be boarded from

Port Hawkesbury. Historically there was a wharf at West Bay, but now there is only a skid way or landing for small craft.

Private wells provide water for the area’s residents, and private septic systems constitute the sewage systems. There is weekly garbage pickup for the landfill at Big Brook, and weekly blue bag pickup for the recyclables which are taken to the depot in Port Hawkesbury. Fire protection is provided by the West Bay Road Volunteer Fire Department which has 25 volunteers and one truck and one utility vehicle; another tanker truck will come on stream in May June, 2003. The department travels a maximum distance of about 15 km, usually as far as Lime Hill. The fire insurance rating is based on the distance from the fire station: under 8 km is rated protected.

The Municipal area tax rate is 1.09/$100 for residential and resource (land not used for commercial purposes) properties and 1.85 for commercial properties. The fire protection rate for each property in this area is 0.10/$10.


Beautiful Evening – Up Spirits


Nova Scotia Power supplies electrical energy to the West Bay Road area, and MTT Aliant provides land line phone service. There is cell phone coverage in the area. There is no cable television, but satellite dishes are common. There is internet dialup service. The closest CAP Site is at Glendale. Up to 30% of the residents have computers. There is a Post Office at West Bay Road. Students from all grades attend school in Port Hawkesbury, except for students from Cleveland, who attend school at Evanston in Richmond County. Health services are available at Port Hawkesbury and the Strait Richmond Hospital. Specialists are at the hospital periodically. Lab services are at the Strait Richmond Hospital. Dentists are available in Port Hawkesbury, Antigonish, or Sydney. Social assistance, housing and home care is available though the offices in Port Hawkesbury and Port Hood. Library facilities are offered through the Eastern Counties Mobile Library unit. The museum at Port Hastings may have some material on the history of the West Bay Road area. The recreational activities of the area reflect its geography. There is sailing and motor boating off West Bay; and there is a multitude of swimming spots known to the local people. There is excellent unofficial snow mobile and ATV trails which go as far River Denys Mountain. Recreational fishing is popular.

The churches serving the West Bat Road area are the United Church at Princeville and St. Margaret’s and another at Cleveland.

The main community hall is the West Bay Road Fire Hall which is available forweddings, variety concerts, fall fairs, suppers, etc., and voting. Church Halls are found at Princeville and West Bay. The West Bay Road Community Association, which was organized about 5 years ago, endeavours to motivate community activities which contribute to economic and social development.

Industries and Commercial Services

Carrier Loading Gypsum at Georgia Pacific

The urban centres to which West Bay Road and area are oriented are Port Hawkesburywhich is a distance of 2025 km, and also Antigonish and New Glasgow? Banking services are available at Port Hawkesbury which has a Royal Bank, a Scotia Bank, a Bank of Montreal and an East Coast Credit Union.

The major employers in the area are Stora Enso Forest Industries at Port Hawkesbury and Georgia Pacific Gypsum at Sugar Camp and Melford. Private lot forestry is also important for pulp cutting and lumber logging. There are three major farms in the area as well as some small mixed farm noncommercial operations. Four trucking firms in the area respond to other activities in the primary and secondary sectors. A couple of gravel pits provide materials for road construction. There are carpenters, plumbers and electricians and other building trade’s people as required. Cleveland has a skidoo/ATV sales and service business. There are 34 teachers, several nurses and home care workers.

Although most visitor accommodation is found at Port Hawkesbury, there is a B&B atCleveland, which is located not far from the Dundee resort.


(Courtesy of Natural Resources Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Museum Natural History,  

Rannie Gillis, West Bay, Cape Breton Post Nov. 30, 2002;,

Beaton Institute A.D. MacLean)

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bette (Ryan) Turnbull on November 23, 2010 at 17:27

    Hey George;
    Are you being paid by N.S. Tourism?
    You should be. Great article!


    • I expect a very large tax free cheque any day now. But I am not holding my breath nor am I ordering a round on the hope of it happening! lol


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