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Welcome To Bear River, Nova Scotia: Canada's 'Best Kept Secret'

06/30/2014 10:47 EDT | Updated 01/05/2017 10:41 EST

There are certain parts of the year where there is no life for Don Rice outside of Bear River, Nova Scotia.

To live in a village in an outlying area with 800 people might seem like a prison sentence for some, but for Rice, one of 50 artisans living in the community, the area is a gift for artists looking to nurture their own gifts.

"I know why I live here because I chose to do so, along with everyone else," says Rice.

Rice describes Bear River as "Canada's best secret", thanks to the town's location deep in one of Southwestern Nova Scotia's valleys. The nearby forests often overshadow most of the buildings with only a few roofs barely jutting out from the canopy.

Underneath that canopy lies Wild Rice Pottery, the studio where Rice has spent the last 25 years working as a professional potter. He made the decision to turn an interest into a profession after he lost his full-time job working at CFB Cornwallis.

But that's not uncommon in Bear River, where the community's resilience has allowed it to weather difficult times. Rice describes his fellow residents as a community of "professional volunteers", though many come to the area to pursue a life of creativity and often end up taking on other jobs in order to make ends meet.

Like the nearby river with the same namesake, Bear River's economy ebbs and flows. Rice says the area isn't in trouble but says the 2008 recession has left its mark.

"I don't know if 'trouble' is the right word but those of us who've been here have dug in pretty well. The downturn is certainly noticeable," says Rice.

Historically, the area's depended on the river for business with its first two industries based around timber and shipping along the water way. Today, locals are turning to the river as a means of jump-starting tourism in the area.

The provincial government has pledged 21 million dollars towards the Nova Star, a cruise ferry from the U.S. that would bring as many as 1,200 passengers from Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, N.S., a town located about a 115 km south of Bear River.

Meanwhile, the community's considering billing itself as a "model eco village", building wood cabins by the river and aims to offers kayaking tours out to shipwrecks located near the river's mouth to attract more travellers.

But until that happens, the area's main attraction continues to be what draws artisans and what keeps artists like Rice in Bear River: peace and quiet.

"One person once said, 'it's a great place to come and be healed'. I'm not sure what they meant by that but there is quietness here and people feel that when they come," says Rice.

"I think artisans like to live among artists and artisans. There aren't a lot of distractions and so you can work and think things through at your pace. That's what it's like being here."

The Huffington Post Canada travelled to Bear River, N.S. to talk with Don about why he may never leave his hometown and what lies in store for one of Canada's "best kept secrets".

This series is part of the Great Canadian Road Trip. Road transportation made possible thanks to Nissan Canada. Accommodations in Bear River N.S., made possible by Bob Benson and Bear River Millyard Cottages.

Brian Trinh is the Huffington Post Canada's travel video editor. He's currently on a cross-Canada road trip with freelance journalist Talia Ricci. You can follow their adventures here or check out their Twitter and Instagram pages below.

Follow Brian @ProjectBLT and @TalRicci on Twitter or on Instagram here and here

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