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Charlevoix Maritime

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Charlevoix Maritime

Charlevoix County, in the province of Quebec, is a marvellous region of seascapes and mountains. It extends from the Côte-de-Beaupré in the west to the Saguenay River in the east, from the St. Lawrence River in the south to the boreal forest in the north. It is the privileged domain of many renowned painters. There, some members of the Group of Seven found solace and inspiration.

The beauty of this region can be attributed, in good part, to its unique geomorphic structure. Tens of thousands of years ago, an enormous meteor fell to Earth just north of the St. Lawrence River. The rebound of the Earth’s crust at the epicentre created Mont des Éboulements. The rim of the crater, which has a diameter of about 60 kilometers, forms a mountain range from Baie-Saint-Paul to La Malbaie. The southern part of the rim plummeted into the St. Lawrence River.

The Saguenay River, that forms the north-eastern border of the county, flows through the only fjord in this corner of the continent. Its waters, deeper than 270 meters in places, merge with those of the St. Lawrence River. This environment creates a unique biodiversity that is protected by the Saguenay- St. Lawrence Marine Park. Each summer cetaceans of all sizes, from the largest of the mammals, the blue whale, to belugas and porpoises visit to feed on krill and other marine animals.

There is also the back-country, an area of exceptional beauty protected by Parcs Québec. The Parc Grands-Jardins is characterized by nordic vegetation, the taiga, where the caribou live. The area of the Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière- Malbaie constitutes another park, also designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. There the Malbaie River runs between the highest rock faces east of the Canadian Rockies.

I first visited Charlevoix County in 1971 and have returned many times. Through my explorations, I have acquired an intimate knowledge of the territory. I have hiked the Traversée de Charlevoix, a 105 kilometers trail that follows the rim of the meteor crater through the back country, from north of Saint-Urbain to Mont Grand-Fonds near La Malbaie.

But what fascinates me most about Charlevoix is the maritime environment along the St. Lawrence River. In Charlevoix Maritime the water and the mountains create microclimates where a particular flora and fauna thrive. A visit to the Jardins de Quatre-Vents (Cabot Gardens) near Cap-à-l’Aigle or the Port-au-Saumon Ecological Centre will convince anyone. It is also in Charlevoix Maritime that I came to know the history of the goélettes, the large wooden boats used in the coastal trade.

Along the coast, one can be surprised at any moment by changing winds and clouds that come from behind the mountains. These meteorological phenomena modify the light creating distinct and exceptional effects; the rays of the sun filtered by the clouds and reflected by water create striking scenes. This luminosity which infuses the striking geography, the manifestations of human presence and the centenarian architecture scattered over the territory, make this region a truly enchanting place; a paradise for painters and photographers alike.

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