In the Bas-Saint-Laurent, as the river begins to transform into the sea, a handful of wild islets allow themselves to be docked with the respect due to the most precious natural sanctuaries. They appear naked and lonely, on the contrary they abound with life.
Placed for thirty years under the protection of the Duvetnor company, these islands enclosed in the Saguenay-Saint-Laurent marine park inevitably awaken the imagination when we contemplate them from the shore. Their names are already a journey in themselves: the Les Pélerins archipelago – five seemingly bare massive islands – the Îles du Pot à l’Eau-de-Vie – three islands, one of which has a lighthouse – and the island aux Lièvres, some 13 km long … If we except the lighthouse keepers and a few bold settlers, they have never really been inhabited and have remained a choice shelter for large colonies of seabirds and many seals.
They are also a privileged sector for the observation of marine mammals such as belugas. Does it take more to get to the Pointe de Rivière-du-Loup and leave the mainland for an excursion into a world both so near and so far?
Several types of excursions are offered by Société Duvetnor aboard safe and comfortable boats. Impossible to sunbathe idiot: a guide-interpreter comments on the observations made at sea, that one crosses birds or marine mammals. We can’t wait to set foot on one of these solitary pearls of the St. Lawrence.
Only Île du Pot du Phare and Île aux Lièvres are open to the public, but it is only after the birds have finished nesting that you can explore them in their entirety. Some marked sections are therefore only accessible after the first days of July, while other particularly fragile sectors remain permanently closed. Birds are at home here and there are countless species to observe. Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Common Eider, Razorbill, Black Guillemot and Gulls nest everywhere, barely disturbed by seal haulouts!
LIGHTHOUSE GUARDIAN OR A ROBINSON?
The care with which the human frequentation of the islands is managed in no way limits the chance to spend an exciting day there. And more so, since it is possible, from the end of May to the beginning of October, to stay on the two islands: nineteen wilderness camping sites, six rooms in inns, several small houses and three rooms at the lighthouse of Île au Pot. The latter is a little jewel of maritime heritage. Abandoned in 1964, a little over a century after its commissioning, it was restored in 1989 and classified as a federal heritage. The rooms are decorated in yesteryear style and you will quickly find yourself scanning the horizon the lighthouse keeper was doing. The rest of the island is to be discovered by taking steep paths leading to small secret coves steeped in the history of shipwrecks and contraband. For endless Robinson-style explorations, opt for Île aux Lièvres, which has no less than 45 km of hiking trails for all levels. From natural lookouts to deserted shores bordered by rosehips, from dwarf forests to endless beaches, this large network covers landscapes as beautiful as they are unexpected. It remains to decide between comfortable accommodation at the inn and camping in the heart of nature, just to extend the Robinson Crusoe experience on these small island wonders of the St. Lawrence.
Another tourism with Duvetnor
Société Duvetnor Ltée is a private non-profit corporation founded in 1979 by a handful of biologists determined to protect the natural resources of the Bas-Saint-Laurent islands. Ten years later, she decided to open some of the islands she had acquired to the public and set up a reception infrastructure, an interpretation program, camping sites, several cottages, and bought boats for transporting visitors and undertook to renovate the Pot à l’Eau-de-Vie lighthouse to convert it into a place of accommodation. Duvetnor is a leading figure in environmental protection
in Quebec, having been one of the first to campaign for the development of a quality standard in ecotourism. The principle of this standard? The company must respect the natural environment it highlights and give its visitors a quality interpretation.
SILENCE AND PLEASURE ON THE GREEN ISLAND
Covered in mist, coppery by a setting sun or blown by the winds, the Île Verte lighthouse is fascinating. It promises pleasant nights, whatever the season. In summer, for example, it is easily accessible from the quay, located two kilometers away. This enchanting site is revealed after a final curve on a bumpy dirt road that
gives an overview of the ambient hardiness. With your pupil glued to the red roofs of its houses, one trembles at the idea of snuggling up in the arms of this national heritage, forced to retire in 1972. At the height of its two centuries, and even a little more ( it was completed in 1809, making it the oldest of the St. Lawrence), one marvels at the river, especially at dusk. The history of this emblematic place in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region is revealed in two small adjoining cabins. The house of the caretaker and the assistant caretaker have become charming and warm homes, after having undergone a makeover in 2009. Breakfasts are hearty and friendly, and two kitchens allow you to combine tranquility with autonomy.
and the head full of colorful sensations. A happiness without erasure, which the darting of a pack of seals in the distance sometimes increases tenfold … *
5 OTHER PEARLS IN THE BOTTOM OF THE RIVER:
Owned by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), Île aux Fraises is located southwest of Île aux Lièvres, in the middle of the river, 6 km from Les Pèlerins.
The Bic Islands
They are not for nothing in the crazy charm of the Bic National Park, even if they are not all part of it. From west to east, we find Île du Bic (14 km2), the tiny Île Bicquette, its old lighthouse and its large colony of common eiders, Île Brûlée, Île aux Amours, Île au Massacre then, opposite the city of Rimouski, Saint-Barnabé Island (5.5 km long) and Canuel Island.
The Kamouraska archipelago
Five small islands form the Kamouraska archipelago, facing the beautiful eponymous village. These are Île aux Corneilles, Île de la Providence, Île Brûlée, Île aux Patins and Grosse-Île.
This tiny island belonging to Gaston Déry has been designated as an area for the conservation of birds. It shelters in particular the common eider.
Opposite Trois-Pistoles, it owes its name to the Basque fishermen who came here to hunt whales in particular.