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Portrait of the park

History of Parc national de la Yamaska

The creation of a reservoir on former agricultural and forest lands took place in the early 1970s. Designed to regulate the flow of Rivière Yamaska Nord, the project involved the expropriation of 13.4 km2 of land, affecting 80 properties. A dam and a dike were built between 1974 and 1976. With the spring thaw of 1977, in just a few short weeks a new body of water came into being. The water control structures in the main dam regulated the flow of Rivière Yamaska Nord to meet the needs of the municipality of Granby.

In 1977, Réservoir Choinière consisted of a 4.64 km2 stretch of water in the Rivière Yamaska Nord watershed. This large body of water in a region with few lakes offered undeniable recreational potential, which justified some enhancement actions and guaranteed the protection of the natural environment. The reservoir and surrounding lands acquired a variety of protection statuses until 1983, when the Québec government formally created Parc de récréation de la Yamaska. In 2001, changes to the Parks Act granted the territory the status of a “national park”, which confirmed its conservation role.

The park was therefore first created in the context of the regional management of a vital resource, water. The name Yamaska came from the Abenaki language. It meant “abundance of hay, rushes, and yam in the distance”, an allusion to the mouth of Rivière Yamaska as it flows into Lac Saint-Pierre in the St. Lawrence River.

The Park’s Natural Heritage

The Appalachian Influence

The park’s hilly landscape is a reminder of its affiliation with the Appalachians. Rock breaks through the surface in a few places, but its influence is seen everywhere in the park. The topographic surface undulates on either side of Réservoir Choinière, offering visitors a number of panoramic views featuring textured vegetation, where mature forest zones live alongside uncultivated fields and young regenerating forests.

A Reservoir of Life

Over the years Réservoir Choinière has become a home of choice for 19 fish species, including perch, smallmouth bass and chain pickerel, and a favourite migratory stop for waterfowl and shorebirds. In this respect, Réservoir Choinière is recognized as an “aquatic bird concentration area”. Large numbers of gregarious migratory birds, such as the Canada Goose and the Snow Goose, stop here in the fall, sometimes amazing bird watchers with spectacular takeoffs.

The water’s edge is a great place for watching shorebirds, such as sandpipers, plovers and birds from the scolopacidae family. The reservoir’s water level is subject to seasonal variations of 3 metres between the spring and fall. This phenomenon, attributable to the function of the reservoir, contributes to freeing dozens of metres of shoreline for these birds, which, with their “feet” in the mud, roam the shores in search of food.

A Mosaic of Vegetation

Along the trails, sugar maples with huge forked trunks are reminders of this species’ dominance in the area’s forest landscape. The park also has a diversity of over 425 fern and herbaceous plant species, 41 shrub species and 40 tree species.

In spring, the undergrowth of the maple-linden forest is adorned with a subtle carpet of flowers. The attentive observer can discover a whole host of special plants, which, like the yellow trout lily, the purple trillium, and the Carolina springbeauty, take advantage of the absence of leaves to complete their life cycle. In fall, the show moves upwards as the canopy of maple, ash, beach and linden becomes a fairyland of colours.

Diversity of Wildlife

The unique combination of Réservoir Choinière and a wide variety of plant communities makes for many habitats. These living environments are generally favourable to an amazing diversity of wildlife. Sixteen amphibian species, 5 reptile species, 240 bird species and 40 mammal species have already been recorded in the park’s territory. Recent research on spiders led to the discovery of three new species previously unknown to science. They were named in honour of Park national de la Yamaska, now recognized as the type locality for this species.

Rare Elements to Protect

Within this natural heritage, the park is home to some forty fragile species considered rare. Among the plants are wild yellow lily, bloodroot and large-flowered bellwort, all designated vulnerable. Rare wildlife species in the park include the purple salamander, listed as vulnerable, the Northern dusky salamander, the four-toed salamander, the spring salamander, the pickerel frog, the snake necklace, the Canada warbler, the southern bog lemming vole, the red bat, the hoary bat and the silver-haired bat, all likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable.

The Cultural Heritage of the Park

The last visible vestiges of human occupation on the territory are old roads that get “lost” in the water, uncultivated fields, alignments of maple trees with huge trunks, abandoned orchards and stone fences surrounding the fields.

Savage-Mills, a small community of pioneers, stood on the banks of Rivière Yamaska Nord in the early 19th century. The location of this former hamlet now lies under Réservoir Choinière, where the boat ramp is today. All that’s left of this pioneer village is a small church and a picturesque cemetery on the edge of the park.

The first settler in the northern part of the budding township of Shefford was a young Anglophone soldier by the name of John Savage Junior (1770-1858). When he arrived in about 1818, he built a dam to create a water reservoir that could be used to operate a sawmill. Through this initiative, J. Savage Jr. initiated the development of the hamlet of North Shefford.

The descendants of J. Savage Jr. continued his work. At one time, four sawmills stood on the banks of the small river. The community was then known as Savage Mills and it was fairly prosperous. The arrival of the railroad, the South Eastern in 1879 (this line is now La Campagnarde cycling path) consolidated this industrial excitement for a while. In January 1895, a tragic fire destroyed three of the four mills. They were never rebuilt, and the village inhabitants slowly left Savage Mills in favour of the growing towns of Granby and Waterloo.

In the same spot, over 150 years after John Savage Junior built the dam, the Québec government built the Réservoir Choinière dam to create a water reserve for supplementing Granby’s water supply. This municipality had become the regional capital.

In 2011, a hike along the shores of the Choinière reservoir resulted in the extraordinary discovery of a projectile-head which, according to the prehistoric archeologist Roland Tremblay, “confirms an early Amerindian presence on the banks of Rivière Yamaska Nord, in the Appalachian foothills.” The general morphology of the piece is typical of the Vergennes phase of the Laurentian Archaic archeological period, dating back approximately 5,000 to 6,000 years. It is a hunting weapon resembling a javelin or an assagaie (slender throwing spear), no doubt used for hunting large mammals, such as white-tailed deer, moose, or black bear.

Did you know?

The Park in Numbers

Year established: 1983
Area: 13.4 km2
Perimeter: 22,5 km
Annual attendance: 170,000 visit-days

Lists of Species

(in French only)

Amphibians and reptiles

Threatened species



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