Carleton – Shelburne

“The Highway to Nowhere”

bikerating2 Route 203 is a highway in limbo. The road passing through Nova Scotia’s interior was at one time a ribbon of prosperity. Tin deposits were discovered at Kemptville and the largest tin mine in North America was set up. A decision was made for the ore to be shipped not to nearby Yarmouth, but all the way to Shelburne on the Atlantic side. It is said that politics had a fair amount to say about this. The highway 203 was built for this purpose. Not many years after being completed, tin prices then dropped. The mine closed, leaving a huge hole, still being filled and studied for environmental impact. However, the highway remains.

So what happens next? Should the road be maintained and re-paved? Should it be “de-classified”, its asphalt ripped up, becoming a gravel road? For now, it rests in limbo. Not exactly on the Nova Scotia Department of Highways urgent list, this long road decays away. Route 203 is considered the loneliest road in the province because it has the longest uninhabited stretch of any paved highway in Nova Scotia.  Here this road goes deep into the woods. Totally devoid of people, the only inhabitants here are deer, moose, and a few black bears. Stray roads go off into the woods, remains of old pioneer trails and newer logging roads. It is the loneliest road in Nova Scotia with the longest uninhabited stretch of any paved highway in Nova Scotia. With its atmosphere of abandonment, the highway gives a post-apocalyptic Canadian “Max Max” feeling. The road is very rarely patrolled by the police. Remnants lie about signaling fires left behind by hunters and party goers. The road itself is scarred with the black skid marks of countless racing duels and car stunts. “With little traffic, no cellphone service and no houses along the way, it’s a dangerous and desolate place to have a mechanical breakdown.”

This “highway to nowhere” is given a two solely for its “collector’s item” status.

Traffic: High to Very High

Road Conditions: some divided 4 lane limited access sections ”

Terrain: Rolling

Communities On This Route: Carleton, Kemptville, East Kemptville, Upper Ohio, Middle Ohio, Lower Ohio, Shelburne

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Here is the text of the Chronicle Herald coverage:  (It will all be history once it gets paved of course)

KEMPTVILLE — If a pothole or rut as deep as your kitchen sink qualifies a paved highway for inclusion on a roster of rotten roads, then Highway 203 is a shoo-in.

The southwestern Nova Scotia highway has made it onto a top-10 list of the most terrible roads in Atlantic Canada.

The Canadian Automobile Association launched its third annual Worst Roads campaign this month for Atlantic Canada.

Voting is easy and can be done online around the clock until May 31.

“Anyone, motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists … can go to our website,” said Gary Howard of the CAA. “We use a Google map tool.

“They pinpoint the road and they vote for it. One email address can vote for one road.

“You can only vote for the same road once.”

The final results will be tabulated, but the CAA posts online a daily top-10 list of the worst roads.

Two roads in southwestern Nova Scotia are on that list.

Highway 203 runs for about 100 kilometres from Carleton, Yarmouth County, through to Shelburne.

Drivers use the road at their own risk.

Justin Gray lives in Kemptville, Yarmouth County, but travels the highway each day to Shelburne where he works for Emergency Health Services.

“It’s 78 kilometres … one way,” he said of his daily commute.

Gray said Highway 203 is not even plowed in its entirety in the winter because it is in such deplorable condition.

With little traffic, no cellphone service and no houses along the way, it’s a dangerous and desolate place to have a mechanical breakdown.

“I’d like to see the road fixed enough at least to (allow trucks) to plow it,” Gray said.

Visitors to Nova Scotia’s celebrated Trout Point Lodge must also use the highway. Often landing in Halifax, they’ll rent a vehicle and drive to the lodge.

If anyone happens to ask, management will recommend renting an SUV. Compact cars have been known to bottom out on Highway 203, where ruts can run 25 centimetres deep.

“We depend upon that highway for the lifeblood of our business,” said Vaughan Perret, a co-owner of Trout Point Lodge.

“When it rains … there’s barely a lane and you have cars coming at each other. In the darkness, you can’t really see the contours of the highway. It’s a very scary ride.”

Perret also said there is no white line along the edge of the highway for much of its distance.

“We’re afraid that someone is going to get hurt,” he said.

It’s significant for a road to make the CAA’s Atlantic top-10 list.

“We’ve gotten very good feedback from all interested parties,” the CAA’s Howard said.

“The provincial governments have been very responsive.”

Governments will often tell the CAA about their plans for roads that may be on voters’ minds.

After all, 75,000 people voted in each of the first two annual campaigns and some 2,132 Atlantic Canadians have already voted this month, a CAA news release said Wednesday.

“This is a forum for the public to have their voice heard, and it’s important for us to share the information with the public and with government so that they can respond,” Howard said.

He said the intent of the campaign is not to beat up on any one road but to bring the issue of road safety to the forefront.

Most roads that made it onto one of the two previous top-10 lists have since been repaired, Howard said.

“Now in some cases it was already planned, because if a road’s really bad, the government knows about it,” he said.

“If this helps move it along quicker, then that’s a good thing.”

Howard said the four Atlantic provinces are very good at taking money collected from tolls and licensing fees and using it to improve roads.

“The big deficit we see is the federal government,” he said. “They collect over $4 billion a year in gas taxes and they spend less than 10 per cent of that back on the roads.

“They always use the excuse, ‘That’s a provincial road, so that’s a provincial responsibility.’”

The other rotten road in southwestern Nova Scotia found on the list is Ridge Road near Digby.

Go to for more information on the campaign.

Traffic: High to Very High

Road Conditions: Divided 4 lane; Limited access sections

Terrain: Rolling

Communities On This Route:

Saint George; Saint John

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