Exploring the Abandoned at Big Brook

Big Brook, NL June 2021

A diamond in the rough is how I would qualify Big Brook, once an active fishing village on the Great Northern Peninsula that was resettled in 2004.

Moose en route to Big Brook, NL

I remember taking the road back around 2003 with a friend whose family descended from this place and moved to my hometown in the 1990’s. There were not many dwellings, only 3 active homes with 10 residents in 2004 when resettlement occurred. There was no school, medical clinic or other services and the gravel road to Cook’s Harbour was 16 km and 12 km paved. The gravel road begins off Route 435 and continues through a forested area and views of Lead Pond before you come out to this rocky limestone and barren area. It is really impressive and you continue forth until you reach a hill with a view of the ship wreck and then a short little road through the community of abandoned homes, some of which are maintained as a cabin, while other properties are just giving up to the elements and time as some will be lost forever. The wharf remains in fairly good condition, as it was rebuilt by the Federal Government just one year before everyone decided to vacate the area. Today, it still is a popular meeting place to congregate when ATV riders visit the abandoned community.

Government wharf

I returned in June 2021, nearly two decades later for the very first time to explore the abandoned community. The first stop was the wrecked SS Empire Energy that became grounded nearly 80 years ago, in November 1941.

SS Empire Energy

If you walk along the beach you will find pieces of this ship, mounds of mussels growing and many other sea treasures.

Dead End at Big Brook with Bridge Removed

The road through the community leads to a dead end as the brook is open and the bridge has been removed. Once you could travel by vehicle from Eddies Cove to Big Brook and continue on to Cook’s Harbour and beyond. Today many ATV enthusiasts still make the trek and maybe there is a route via truck, but my recommendation would be to take the road from Cook’s Harbour highway if you are travelling by car or vehicle.

Gravel Road to Big Brook

As you navigate the community you will be impressed by a beautiful sandy beach and the tranquility of the place. As you look around, you know that those who lived here had to work extremely hard to survive the elements and the remoteness. A number of fishing sheds are collapsing or in deplorable condition, a boat has been left to rot, the old school house has two chalk boards and some fishing nets placed on the floor. No student has been taught here for decades.

At the one room school house, no art or geography work remain on the wall, but the former community has a lot of history and importance to those whose families lived there. We can preserve some of this history by sharing art, talking about this place and experiencing an abandoned community like Big Brook for yourself.

It was somewhat remarkable to walk around nearly 20 years later and say, I was visiting at this home and this person lived here. The memories come back and you are immediately drawn in to the peaceful beauty that is and was Big Brook.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore

3 comments

  1. Beautiful pictures Christopher captures a life and culture that is almost extinct. The Rural Newfoundland culture is rapidly changing (some would say evolving) and in many places disappearing altogether.

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