A Nova Scotia woman has been reunited with some precious memories after a camera she lost three years ago washed up on a New Brunswick beach.

Cindy Willigar booked a river rafting excursion on the Shubenacadie River in May 2015 to celebrate her friend’s 50th birthday.

“I went and purchased a waterproof disposable camera because I wanted to get memories of the trip for her because it was her 50th,” says Willigar.

After snapping several photos, she tucked the camera away in the pocket of her raincoat.

“He pulled up and we got out and I started walking up and I patted my side and I just felt sick because the camera wasn’t there,” recalls the Brookfield, N.S. resident.

Carried by the Bay of Fundy tides, the camera travelled more than 100 kilometres from South Maitland, N.S. over the next three years, eventually washing up on a beach in Dorchester Cape, N.B.

Chris McMahon was picking up garbage along the beach when he made the discovery.

“My foot bumped into it and I thought it was maybe a case for cigars or a waterproof-type case and I turned it over, it obviously was a camera,” says McMahon.

He had the photos developed and thought they looked like they had been taken in a part of Nova Scotia he had visited.

McMahon posted the photos on his Facebook page in an effort to track down the owner. Three hours later, Willigar was shocked when saw the post.

“I looked at the picture and … I couldn’t believe it, so I went up and I read his writeup with what happened, Chris’ writeup, and here Chris had picked it up on the beach,” says Willigar. “I never thought I’d get these back. Not in a million years did I think I’d get these back.”

McMahon says he’s thrilled he was able to reunite the photos with their rightful owner, despite having little information to go on.

“It’s almost like a message in a bottle, but in a picture format with no name, no address, and, you know, I kinda like finding stuff,” he says.

The unique experience has left Willigar filled with both gratitude and amazement at the power of social media, and the durability of waterproof disposable cameras.

“I guess it’s like Christmas. It’s surreal,” she says. “I mean, you expect them to be waterproof, but for how long? Three years? Three years in the elements?”

The owner of the rafting company is offering to give McMahon a free trip down the river. Willigar hopes that will also give her the chance to thank him in person.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Dan MacIntosh