In Tadoussac, we visited the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine park, one of three National Marine Conservation Areas in Canada. As mentioned in a previous post, two great rivers meet and stir up the nutrient rich waters, attracting a variety of marine life, including whales. We purchased a Parks Canada pass - our best investment of the whole trip. In 2017 all Parks Canada sites will be open to the public free of charge to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday - start planning!!
We spent a few days in the area - whale watching, visiting the different sites of the marine park, relaxing at a campsite with impressive views and sunsets and exploring the Louis Gravel covered bridge.
Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park
Cap de Bon-Désir Interpretation and Observation Centre
Louis Gravel Covered Bridge
Saguenay fjords at L'Anse-de-Roche
We had planned to drive a loop around the Saguenay river and Lac Saint-Jean - the fjords were said to be spectacular - but Hurricane Irene had wiped out the road in several places. Luckily, we caught a brief glimpse of the towering giants at L'Anse-de-Roche.
As we got closer to the Mingan archipelago, the distance between villages became greater. The landscape changed - untouched by development. The number of English speakers dropped to zero.
A lobster fisherman from New Brunswick came for a visit when he noticed our Ontario plates. Weathered and darkly tanned, he was a born storyteller. He regaled us with tales of local traditions and about the woman he had fallen in love with and followed to the Mingan area some twenty years previous. Prior to his arrival, he told us, there was no electricity in their small village. Local fisherman, who needed to store their catch in a cold place in the summer months, would navigate their fishing vessels to a nearby small island with hills that were snow covered year round, fill their boats with snow, haul it back to the mainland and shovel it into well insulated storage sheds - their version of a freezer.
The system worked well, he explained, until the year he showed up those many years ago. His first summer in rural Quebec was also the last summer that the snow remained year round. Now, when spring arrives, the snows melt as the birds return north for the summer.
Although there are now roads to this region of the country and electricity in every house along the St. Lawrence, I can't help but wonder about the great adjustment these small villages must have experienced as their way of life changed and how they coped in the years after the weather warmed and before the modern world intruded.
The St. Lawrence river widened as we continued along the north shore until we could no longer see land on the other side. The rise and fall of the tides became more evident. Incredible. In 1858, Charles Mackay, editor of the Illustrated London News wrote, "Familiarity with [the St. Lawrence river] breeds no contempt. On the contrary, the more it is known, the more it is admired. Without exaggeration, it may be called the chief and prince of all the rivers in the world."