One of the last wilderness rivers in Nova Scotia, the Shelburne River begins in the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, the largest remaining wilderness in the Maritimes. It flows generally eastwards for 53 km through many shallow, rocky lakes, tumbles over rapids and slips quietly through tranquil stillwaters as it traverses boulder-strewn wetlands, eskers and undisturbed forests on its way to Lake Rossignol and the Mersey River. Along its banks are some of the last old-growth stands of white pine, red spruce and hemlock in Nova Scotia. The river takes its name from the town of SHELBURNE, which was named in honour of Lord Shelburne.
By the 19th century, loggers were "driving" logs downstream on the Shelburne. Temporary dams were later built on some of the lakes to "save" water for the "spring drive." Canoeing the Shelburne River was first popularized in the 1908 book, The Tent Dwellers, by Albert Bigelow Paine. In this humorous account, Paine describes a month-long fishing trip with a friend and 2 Mi'kmaq guides. Canoeists still come to the area to travel this route.
For today's paddler, the Shelburne is a wilderness river appearing much as it did when the Mi'kmaq used it as a travel route centuries ago. In 1997 the river was designated as part of the CANADIAN HERITAGE RIVERS SYSTEM.