Twice a day the combined pull of gravity from the moon and sun raise tides of 1to 2 metres on the world’s oceans. In exceptional circumstances the tidal effect is amplified to produce spectacular ranges. The Bay of Fundy and its eastern end the Minas Basin is of such shape and size that huge tidal ranges exceeding 16 metres are measured. Burntcoat Head 30km east of Walton,is the site of the highest tidal range ever recorded,
The Minas Basin is constricted on the west end by Cape Split. At mid tide the current through this 5km wide passage exceeds 8 knots. The flow of water into the Basin equals the combined flow of all the rivers and streams on earth at about 4 cubic kilometers of water per hour.
Early French settlers recognized the value of the rich tidal sediments and built dykes along the marshy lowlands. At Walton approximately 50 acres was protected by dykes and when the salt washed out of the soil, hay, grain and other crops sustained the small community. Examples of the early dykes are visible along the Walton River. An ingenious system called an aboiteau was developed to allow fresh water to continue to drain to the sea while preventing salt water flooding at high tide.
The fish weir is an early way of harvesting the bounty of the Minas Basin without costly boats and fishing equipment. Each spring at low tide wooden poles were driven into the mud flats and nets made of chicken wire or hemp was attached to the poles forming a fence. The fence ended in an enclosed trap section that contained the fish when the tide went out. Thus at each low tide the fisherman would go to his weir and collect any fish that were in the trap. Bass, smelt, shad, flounder, skate and sturgeon were common catches. The weirs were removed in the fall as they would have been destroyed by ice cakes if left in the water over the winter.
As much as the tides allowed ship access to the Walton Harbour, there was little room for error in docking and sailing ships in the tidal zone. Bad weather, mechanical problems or bad timing led to the loss of at least 3 vessels at Walton. The Anne Louise Lockwood, a three masted schooner was wrecked on the beach near the old barite mill site May 23, 1914. On October 10, 1918 the schooner North Star was wrecked in the harbour off the gypsum wharf. The largest vessel, the M.V. Empire State, ran aground on reef rocks at the entrance to Walton Harbour on June 16, 1953. It was loaded with a cargo of gypsum bound for Portsmouth, NH.