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Parc national d'Anticosti

Portrait of the park

History of Parc national d'Anticosti

The idea of creating a park on Anticosti Island goes back a long time. In the 1920s the floristic richness of Anticosti was highlighted by Brother Marie-Victorin, who described the Rivière Vauréal canyon as a “remarkable sanctuary” for ferns.

In 1974, the idea first came up of creating a park on Anticosti Island in the Rivière Vauréal area.  In 1987, the RCM of Minganie took up this idea in its development plan.

Then some studies and plans were selected for the creation of a park. The Rivière Vauréal sector was still considered the best site for the establishment of a protected area.

In 1996, biophysical studies and inventories were done to produce a document, “State of Knowledge for the Rivière-Vauréal Project”. In 1999, public hearings were held on the park project.

Recognizing the need to ensure the permanent protection of certain unusual elements and fragile environments in Anticosti, the Québec government created Parc national d'Anticosti on April 26, 2001.

The Park’s Natural Heritage

Anticosti Island, a huge forested territory, criss-crossed with about a hundred rivers and bathed in the cold waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, forms a natural region of great ecological wealth. Added to this natural representative heritage are awe-inspiring landscapes, rare plants and unusual elements, such as the Vauréal canyons and falls, the Rivière Chicotte and Rivière Observation canyon, Grotte à la Patate cave and Baie de la Tour.

No matter where you are in Parc national d'Anticosti, nature reigns supreme, inspiring a continuous wave of admiration, wonder and curiosity.  That’s the way it is too for the spectacular geographical manifestations caused by the Karst phenomenon, or the dissolution of limestone: breathtaking canyons, caves with stalactites, lakes of variable levels, and rivers that suddenly disappear into the ground, others that suddenly surge out of it...

The Island is also one of the most complete and best exposed fossil sites in the world: close to 600 fossil species from the Ordovician and Silurian periods have been recorded. To take a closer look, simply glance down.

The white-tailed deer is the animal emblem of Anticosti, with a population estimated at over 166,000! The intensive browsing of this ever-present deer on the island is also a threat to the park’s vegetation, which is characterized by a coniferous forest dominated by white spruce and black spruce. Also noted in the park are white pine stands, unusual at this latitude.

The park is also remarkable because of the abundance and variety of avifauna: some 159 bird species are likely to be seen, of which over 100 nest on the island. Among them are the impressive Bald Eagle and several other species of seabirds that nest in the cliffs or coastal marshes.

Marine mammals near the coast are a remarkable sight. Whether you’re watching gatherings of grey seals on the beaches or minke whales and fin whales farther out in the water, you’ll be dazzled.

The Cultural Heritage of the Park

Natisgôsteg, Nadiscousti, Natiscosti, Anticosty: In the very name of the Island are far-off echoes of the men and women who first trod the soil. If we believe the artefacts found on the island, the first inhabitants frequented Anticosti at least 3,500 years ago. The Micmacs from the Gaspé Peninsula and the Montagnais from the North Shore found an abundance of game and fish here. According to Yves Ouellet, author of d'Anticosti, L'éden apprivoisé (Éditions du Trécarré 2000), it seems that Anticosti was also the scene of clashes between several Amerindian tribes. Light still remains to be shed on the exact origin of the island’s current name. Some researchers believe that Natisgôsteg means an “advanced land” in Micmac, while others think the island got its name from the term “Nâtâkwan”, a Montagnais word meaning “where bear is hunted”.

The first written description of the Island is attributed to Jacques Cartier who sailed along the shore in the summer of 1534. It wasn’t until a century later that the first settlers arrived in Anticosti. Or rather, we should say, the island’s “first master” because the whole island was granted to this man, who was already famous in his day. His name was Louis Jolliet, the Canadian explorer, who discovered the Mississippi in 1673. Named Seigneur of the Mingan and Anticosti Islands in 1680, Jolliet moved in with his wife, children and five servants. The small group quickly established a fishing and seal-hunting station.

The war between France and England would wipe out the efforts of the Seigneur of Anticosti. In August 1690, the army of William Phipps, which was en route to Québec City, burned down all of Joliet’s installations. The island became deserted once again, except for the miserable shipwrecked that destiny sometimes threw up on the shores of Anticosti.

In the following century, the State built several lighthouses, such as the Pointe-Sud-Ouest lighthouse, built in 1831. Isolated in the immensity of the island, the lighthouse keepers lived there with their families. The Pope family made its mark by taking care of the Pointe-Sud-Ouest lighthouse between 1840 and 1899. During the same period, deep in a bay on the western part of Anticosti, Louis-Olivier Gamache, an eccentric character nick-named the Witch of the Island, reigned like a king over his island domain.

It wasn’t until after the Confederation (1867) that several fishing families from the southern part of the Gaspé Peninsula established a small hamlet in Anse aux Fraises, building their houses with wood from shipwrecks. A little further north, another settlement was created in English Bay (today Baie-Sainte-Claire), while at the other end of the island, fishermen from Newfoundland settled in Fox Bay. In 1872, a company was formed to colonize and develop the territory. But the Anticosti Company quickly went bankrupt, abandoning the families that had believed its promises of prosperity, like the fishermen of Fox Bay (today Baie du Renard).

In 1895, there were over 62 families throughout the territory. It was at the end of this year that a French multimillionaire named Henri Menier bought Anticosti Island. Having inherited with his brothers a chocolate factory founded by his grandfather, in1895 Henri Menier was the head of a true multinational that owned the entire production and distribution chain of its products. Menier had several luxurious vacation homes, including Château de Chenonceau, in the Loire. But the “candy king” dreamed of a virgin game-filled territory, a secluded domain where he could pursue his two passions, hunting and fishing. His friend, Georges Martin-Zédé, heard tell of the island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada. It was to this reserve captain that Menier would entrust all of Anticosti’s management and administration powers.

Under the tutelage of Georges Martin-Zédé, a quasi-feudal regime was established in Anticosti. Forced to sell their houses, the inhabitants of the island became tenants, which in turn ensured them of work in Menier’s companies. Others left or were expelled from the island. At the request of the Director, the island was separated from the electoral district of Saguenay, and from then on the regulations of Henri Menier became law. Considerable work was undertaken: the construction of a model village (now Port-Menier), a wharf, a railroad, roads, houses, farm buildings. Several salmon fishing camps and lobster pounds were also built. In 1905, Menier inaugurated the Scandinavian-style villa he had built by the sea, a luxurious wooden manor, where the marble of the chimneys rubbed shoulders with Gobelins tapestries.

Driven by the abundance of conifers, commercial logging made its apparition. In 1913, the death of Henri Menier slowed down the development of Anticosti, his heirs finding it too costly to pursue the island’s development.

In 1926, the island passed into the hands of Wayagamack Pulp and Paper. Like the rest of Québec, Anticosti entered the era of logging, and Port-Menier turned into a huge lumber camp. A few rare and very wealthy anglers came to match wits with Anticosti salmon.

Logging would continue until 1971. Considering its operations unprofitable, the logging company at the time, Consolidated Bathurst, decided to sell the island. The Québec government bought it: after over a century as private property, the island returned to the public domain.

In 1982, the State intervened so that Anticosti residents could buy houses and businesses on the island. Port-Menier then became a municipality, managed by a duly elected council. Outside the village, the territory was entrusted to Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (Sépaq).

Did you know?

The Park in Numbers

Year established: 2001
Area: 572 km2
Perimeter: 320 km
Annual attendance: 5,000 visit-days

Lists of Species

(in French only)

Amphibians and reptiles

Species at risk



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