Portrait of the park - Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie - National Parks - Sépaq

Parc national des Hautes‑Gorges-
de-la-Rivière‑Malbaie

Portrait of the park

History of Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie

Outdoor activities were initiated in Hautes-Gorges during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1985, Association de développement des Hautes-Gorges, whose objective was to organize a variety of recreational tourism activities in the gorges, was born. Parc régional des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie was officially created on September 13, 1988. The riverboat cruises started then and several new trails and campsites were added.

In 1989, UNESCO designated the site as a central area of the Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve, which was officially created at this time.

In 1993, Réserve écologique des Grands-Ormes was established on Érables mountain.

In 2000, the government formally established Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie, which became the 20th park in the Parcs Québec network. It now covers an area of 224.7 km2. Its annual attendance is close to 100,000 visit-days.


The Cultural Heritage of the Park

Amerindian Occupation

One might think that many Amerindians used to come here to fish, hunt, gather berries, and enjoy the scenery.

However, due to the absence of known archaeological sites, we can’t be sure they were here before the arrival of the Europeans.

First Europeans

In the first half of the 19th century, several explorers surveyed the area to identify possible routes for colonisation roads. In their travels, surveyors noted some remains of ancient Aboriginal voyages. We owe the expression of “gorge” to surveyor, W.H. Davies, who used the word to describe this branch of Rivière Malbaie.

Land Use

In the early 20th century, rich tourists became interested in the backcountry of Charlevoix. Among them was Ontarian writer and financier, William Hume Blake. In several books, he described his love for Hautes-Gorges. Later, the development of the forestry industry turned the rivers over to log driving. This period was the inspiration for Félix-Antoine Savard’s novel, Menaud, maître draveur (Master of the River).


The Park’s Natural Heritage

Geology and Geomorphology

A unique site in terms of geomorphology and ecology, Hautes-Gorges attests to the titanic forces of nature that shaped its surprising and majestic scenery. Two important geological phenomena shaped the landscape: movements of the Earth’s crust associated with the formation of the Canadian Shield, and the great glaciations. The park contains a procession of forms typically found in an alpine environment that has been affected by glaciers: glacial troughs, hanging valleys, glacial cirques, rock basins, and riegels.

Hydrology

The Hautes-Gorges territory also includes a number of waterfalls and cascades that flow down the sides of the main valleys at heights often exceeding 100 m. They are fed by a network of about 100 lakes, most of which are located at altitudes of between 600 and 900 m.

Flora and Climate

The high amplitudes of the rugged terrain allowed the establishment of diverse plant life, characterized by a remarkable layering of vegetation. Since the climate is much more rigorous at high altitude, it’s not surprising to see stunted vegetation (spruce krummholz) typical of the tundra (arctic-alpine flora).

Conversely, the valley floor is characterized by milder climatic conditions more suitable for deciduous trees. Although the park is located in a fir-birch stand, some areas are under the effect of a microclimate conducive to the growth of sugar maple, ash, and American elm.

Surprisingly, the park is one of the only places where visitors may cross several domains of Québec’s vegetation over a short distance. Hardwood forest typical of the St. Lawrence plain, mixed and boreal forest and alpine tundra.

Fauna

The high altitudinal amplitude is one of the main characteristics of Hautes-Gorges. A great diversity of wildlife is associated with this important difference in elevation.

The towering cliffs are frequented by the Golden Eagle and the Peregrine Falcon, two fairly rare birds of prey in Québec. In the heart of Rivière Malbaie’s main valley, the Osprey is often seen. With a little luck, you might even see this bird’s impressive dive for fish. A unique and unforgettable sight.

Did you know?

The Park in Numbers

Year established: 2000
Area: 225 km2
Perimeter: 86 km
Annual attendance: 75 000 visit-days


Lists of Species

(in French only)

Amphibians and reptiles

Species at risk

Mammals

Birds


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