Parc national du Bic

Portrait of the park

History of Parc national du Bic

Parc national du Bic was created to protect and enhance a representative sample of the natural region of the south shore of the St. Lawrence Estuary.

In the early 1960s, there was a question about creating a park to make this extraordinary place accessible to all Quebeckers. However, it was not until 1977 that the government would adopt the Parks Act, which allowed the park to be established in 1984. With an area of 33 km2, of which almost half  (14.4 km2) is marine, this park meets both the criteria of representativeness of one of Québec’s natural regions and that of the uniqueness of its flora and geomorphology

In 1988, five activities were part of the basic program on the theme, “A Landscape Inherited from the Sea”. In 1992, the park opened a Discovery and Visitors Centre featuring a permanent exhibition on the park and a projection room.

Today, several thousand people come every year to visit this territory of rare beauty and enjoy a varied program of discovery activities. Since 2014, the Discovery and Visitors Centre is relocated in Ferme Rioux in the centre of the park to reach a greater number of visitors. The Centre brings together the basic restaurant, and Boutique Nature, plus reception and booking services.

The Park’s Natural Heritage

At the time of creation, God, having made the mountains, instructed an angel to go and distribute them over the entire surface of the Earth. When he arrived in Bic, the end of his long journey, his coat was still heavy, and so this angel did what anyone would have done in the same situation; he turned his coat inside out and shook it vigorously. And that is why, they say, there are so many mountains in Bic.” (Legend from the book written by Abbé Michaud, Les étapes d'une paroisse, 1925).

Parc national du Bic is representative of the natural region of Québec called “The South Shore of the St. Lawrence Estuary”. It is described as thin strip of land stretching from Montmagny to Sainte-Anne-des-Monts. It is characterized by a terraced terrain crossed by small weak-flowing rivers and lined with a few rock bands parallel to the St. Lawrence River, whose northern slope is steeper than the south shore.

Along with its representativeness, Parc national du Bic is exceptional because its coast is more rugged than the rest of the shoreline, its mountainous massifs being higher than those of its natural region and because of the scarcity and fragility of its distinctive flora.

Its terrain is characterized by overhangs varying between 20 to 120 metres and a peak of 346 metres in altitude at Pic Champlain. The combined action of agents of erosion, glaciers and seas has left its mark on the Bic shoreline. This alignment of ridges composed of conglomerates, sandstone and mudstone resulted in the formation of shoreline accumulations in the form of beaches, tombolos, spits, trailing spits, and marshes, as well as forms of ablation, such as cliffs, bays and coves, islands and rocky points.

Since the Bic region is in the centre of a transition area between the deciduous and boreal forest, there is great plant diversity. Certain rare plants grow mainly on the edge of rocky headlands. Along with these species that have arctic-alpine or subarctic characteristics, more common plants also enrich the park’s flora. The wildlife is also rich and diversified.

Harbour seals, annual residents of the estuary, and grey seals, which come to visit for the summer, appreciate the waters of the park and its periphery. Reefs and the many boulders scattered in the sheltered coves and bays are ideal protected spots for the seals to rest, feed their young, and stretch out in the sun to promote moulting.

Rivière du Sud-Ouest, like other rivers in the natural region, is a small river with a weak flow. It is home to, among others, a small population of Atlantic salmon that come here to spawn, and the American eels that travel through the river to reach lakes located upstream, where they spend several years before returning to their breeding area, the Sargasso Sea.

As far as avian wildlife, every spring, thousands of birds of prey fly along the park’s high cliffs to get to their nesting site in northern Québec. They then fly south-west along the St. Lawrence until it narrows enough for crossing. The strategic location of the Raoul-Roy lookout makes it an ideal place for observation. The park’s many coves and bays also explain the presence of several aquatic bird species, such as the Common Eider, which nest in large numbers (12,000 couples) on Île Bicquette and take advantage of the park’s coastline to feed and raise their young.

The Cultural Heritage of the Park

“In late August, 1535, three small vessels bearing the arms of King Francis I, sailed up the St. Lawrence River at the mercy of the late summer breezes. On Sunday, August 29, seeing a site of great beauty, the captain ordered the anchor to be dropped in a natural harbour surrounded by islands and headlands, a true refuge from the river’s winds and currents. A keen observer, the Malouin captain and navigator thoroughly described the place in his journal, and on Wednesday, September 1, the small fleet raised anchor and hoisted the mainsail. Jacques Cartier and his crew left Bic.” (M.L.C.P., Lemieux, Paul. C'est arrivé par chez nous, 1986, p. 249).

But well before the arrival of European explorers, Amerindians frequented the area. There is no longer any doubt of their presence in Bic. Archeological research has uncovered many relics that attest to Aboriginal camps, some of which go back some 8,000 years.

The Seigneurie Era

In 1675, the Seigneurie du Bic was granted to Charles Denys de Vitré, mainly for fishing herring and other species, and for the fur trade. It then passed into the hands of many seigneurs, who saw different advantages in the area (speculation, fishing, fur trading), rather than the establishment of settlements and land clearing.

In 1822, Archiball Cambell, notary, acquired the Seigneurie du Bic and became the first resident Seigneur.

Fishing and the fur trade motivated the first colonists to settle in Bic (around 1680) and later in Cap à l’Orignal (around 1769). It was only after the extension of Chemin Royal to Sainte-Luce, in 1792, and especially after the logging industry was launched in the area, around 1820, that the first colonists settled in the Seigneurie of Baie du Ha ! Ha !

A Strategic Landmark

Starting in the 17th century, Bic was the location of several episodes in the river’s history. Thus, the high mountain of over 1,000 feet that Champlain had described in 1603 became the landmark for all navigators. When they saw Pic Champlain, they veered towards Tadoussac and continued their journey in the north channel.

The site also played a determining role in the military defence plan of New France. It later became the pilot station of the St. Lawrence, since, from Bic onwards, navigating the river required in-depth knowledge of the route due to the many obstacles. In 1768, the first pilots took up residence in Cap à l'Orignal or on the Vieux-Bic point, but the piloting station was located on Île du Bic.

Agriculture and Vacationing

On this site, there was a first period (1883-1905) where many people came to purchase land and to live here. At this time, the residents made a living mainly from hunting, fishing and logging. Agriculture then evolved, passing from subsistence farming to extensive farming as the main activity.

It was at this time that the Dumas, Michaud, Rioux and Doucet families, among others, marked the history of the park by working the land, breeding farm animals, logging, seal hunting and fishing with nets or fish corrals.

Although there were some port activities in Bic until 1930, it was more its enchanting nature that characterized its entry into the 20th century; it became a popular vacation destination, welcoming wealthy Americans and English Canadians.

For decades, the area has been popular among outdoor enthusiasts, birdwatchers, botanists, geologists, boaters, painters and photographers who sang the praises of its beauties. The creation of a park to protect its treasures was inevitable.

Did you know?

The Park in Numbers

Year established: 1984
Area: 33.2  km2, including 18.8 km2 of land area and 14.4 km2 of marine area
Perimeter: 35.5 km
Annual attendance: approximately 213,000 visit-days

Lists of Species

(in French only)

Amphibians and reptiles

Species at risk



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