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5 Quebec waterfalls saved from private hydroelectric dams

Chute au Tonnerre par Pierre Leclerc - Chutes du Québec

It's no secret: there are so many beautiful falls in Quebec! But did you know that many would probably have disappeared without the operation? Adoptez une rivière? This movement led by citizens and artists caused the Quebec government to falter, as it planned to authorize the construction of private hydroelectric dams. Result: 36 falls on around twenty rivers in Quebec were saved! A victory for nature and for the emergence of ecotourism projects. She even gave the inspiration she needed to Roy Dupuis and his allies to co-found the Fondation Rivières!

Here are 5 magnificent falls in Quebec and useful information for visiting them

Canyon Sainte-Anne waterfalls, Capitale-Nationale

Chute Sainte-Anne par Pierre Leclerc - OS
Sainte-Anne waterfall by Pierre Leclerc

You have certainly already visited it: the Sainte-Anne Falls canyon in Quebec welcomes several thousand people each year! This important recreational tourism site has not always had such an appearance. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Sainte-Anne River was used for floating logs and was even dynamited to facilitate their descent. In 1965, Jean-Marie and Laurent McNicoll purchased the wooded land surrounding the falls and leased the banks of the river from Hydro-Québec. The first visitors had access to the Sainte-Anne Falls canyon almost a decade later.

Sainte-Ursule Falls, Mauricie

Chutes de Sainte-Ursule par Daniel Pouplot - FQM
Sainte-Ursule Falls by Daniel Pouplot - FQM

Located in the Parc des Chutes de Sainte-Ursule, the filiform falls extend over several kilometers and flow over many levels. The trail along the Maskinongé River is mainly made up of stairs that lead to an observation tower. The view of the falls is magnificent! In winter, the landscape is magical and the power of the 73 meter high falls promotes a meditative state. At the end of this route, we find ourselves on a point from where we see the river going in the opposite direction in a serpentine furrow. In summer, the place is well chosen for a picnic.

This site was once an important hub of the local economy. Indeed, a sawmill and a pulp mill operated there, from 1811, for more than a century. The Sainte-Ursule Falls, located in a gorge, have interesting geological and geomorphological features, including pink granite, polished rocks and pots.

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Plaisance Falls, Outaouais

Chute de Plaisance, Rivière Petite Nation par Pierre Leclerc
Plaisance Falls, Petite Nation River by Pierre Leclerc

The Plaisance Falls also bear the names Sault-de-la-Chaudière, Chute du Moulin or Chutes de la Petite Nation. In the summer, the park located on the east bank of the Petite Nation River offers activities that allow you to become familiar with the history of the village. It is possible to admire the imposing 67 meter high waterfall from different viewpoints, as a path runs very closely along the river.

The site of Plaisance Falls Park was once home to a village that is remembered today as North Nation Mills. At the beginning of the 19th century, Joseph Papineau, father of the leader of the Patriotes and owner of the seigneury of the Petite Nation, had a sawmill built on the site near the falls. During the years following its construction, the operation of the mill passed through the hands of different entrepreneurs. The village developed around this industry, and the wood was transported mainly to England. The moving of the mill at the beginning of the 20th century marks the end of the village.

Nine Falls, Mauricie

Chutes du Neuf en Mauricie par Pierre Leclerc_OS
Nine Falls in Mauricie by Pierre Leclerc

In the heart of the village of Notre-Dame-de-Montauban in Mauricie, the Neuf Falls flow proudly! On the main street, from the terrace of the Cinq Dollars Falls bar, the view is striking since you can see the monumental water spill in its entirety. After the village bridge, on the west side of the Batiscan, there is a parking lot at the top of the hill which leads to a path following the river to the falls. A path in the heart of a majestic old forest runs along the Batiscan River to the falls. Wooden installations allow you to move forward on the Batiscan River. This is the opportunity to open your eyes wide and appreciate the power of the 21 meter high falls.

Third Magpie Falls, North Shore

Troisième Chute de la Magpie, Côte-Nord
Third Magpie Falls, North Shore

The Magpie River is undoubtedly a jewel of nature and the fight for its preservation is not over! This river is recognized for its immense whitewater potential, but it is possible to admire its legendary Third Falls from the mainland. The wooded path that leads there is well defined, but before reaching it, you must take different paths in the forest. And since it is not maintained, you have to expect to encounter certain obstacles.

First walking on sandy ground, we quickly find ourselves in a forest covered in moss. We also pass a small summit that looks like the Great North with its Nordic flowers and lichen. Near the river, we notice an old abandoned camp that we must pass to access the falls. We first find ourselves at the top of the Third Falls. Two other viewpoints follow one another: it is the second which gives the best view of a totally enchanting setting!

No question here of considering a swim; we are in the great power of the river, where no peaceful basin is formed. You can catch your breath at the third viewpoint which overlooks a final drop. From a distance, we see the river returning to its calm course... until the next waterfall.

Explore the 36 saved falls of Quebec

Help us protect Quebec Falls

Faced with forecasts of increasing energy needs, some of the waterfalls saved by Operation Adopt a River are threatened with disappearing. Several are in the sights of the government or private developers.

The content of this article was inspired by the Quebec Falls Guide.

Main photo: The Tonnerre waterfall is one of the spared falls. Credit: Pierre Leclerc

About the author

Sophie Lachance
Sophie Lachance

Sophie is responsible for communications and mobilization at Fondation Rivières. A writer with journalistic training, she is interested in environmental issues, particularly in terms of water management.

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