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Parc national de la Jacques‑Cartier

Portrait of the park

History of Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier

In the late 19th century, the nature conservation movement initiated in the United States reached Québec. Parc des Laurentides was created in 1895 and it included most of the Laurentian Mountains north of Québec City. It was primarily considered a forest reserve in the sense of an area protected from colonization, and also as a place for fishing and hunting, a public park, and a recreation area for citizens.

In 1972, Hydro-Québec announced the Champigny project. It consisted of harnessing Rivière Jacques-Cartier by building a pumped storage hydroelectric plant. This project would have flooded a large part of the Jacques-Cartier Valley. Environmentalists immediately foresaw the destruction of one of the most beautiful Rivers in Québec.

Local people rose up to form a committee strongly opposing the Champigny project. Within a few weeks, a petition with over 20,000 names was filed.

This battle led to the abandonment of this project in 1977. The government officially put the Parks Act into force in 1981, granting the status of conservation park to this part of the Laurentians, calling it Parc de la Jacques-Cartier.

The Park’s Natural Heritage

Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier was created to protect a representative sample of the natural region of the Laurentian Massif. The park allows visitors to journey into this vast mountain plateau with deep gorges, through which rivers with both calm and wild waters flow. Contrary to popular belief, the valleys were already in place during the last glaciation and the passage of the glaciers softened the terrain.

There are three types of forests in the park. On the plateaus where the climate is harsher, the boreal forest is queen! Spruce and balsam fir are everywhere. In the valleys where the climate is milder, the deciduous forest dominates. Yellow birch, sugar maple and herbaceous plants colonize this environment. Between the two is a mixed forest featuring balsam fir, black spruce and yellow and white birch.

The park is home to rich and varied wildlife, including 3 of Québec’s large cervidae - caribou, moose and white-tailed deer. Mammals typical of the boreal forest are also found in the park, such as grey wolf, red fox, Canadian lynx, black bear, river otter, porcupine and American beaver. Over 169 bird species can also be found, including the Barred Owl and the Osprey.

The park has over 216 lakes and several rivers, including the Jacques-Cartier, the Sautauriski and the Cachée. Almost all of the lakes contain only speckled trout, however Arctic char has been found in 2 of the lakes. This species is likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable in Québec. Atlantic Salmon enjoys the cool and well-oxygenated water of Rivière Jacques-Cartier.

The Cultural Heritage of the Park

For several centuries, the Montagnais and the Huron used the territory of Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier as a travel and commerce route for fishing and trapping. They also worked as guides for the Jesuits in the 17th century, to help them cross the Laurentian Massif between Québec City and Lac St-Jean without taking the St. Lawrence River.

Starting in the mid-19th century, wood became one of the most coveted types of merchandise. Softwood stands in the highlands were systematically harvested between the 1920s and 1981. Timber was transported between the plateaus and the St. Lawrence via Rivière Jacques-Cartier, on which logs were driven to the Donnacona mill until 1975.

Did you know?

The Park in Numbers

Year established: 1981
Area: 670 km2
Perimeter: 134 km
Annual attendance: 325,000 visit-days

Lists of Species

(in French only)

Amphibians and reptiles

Species at risk



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