Parc national de la Gaspésie: Québec’s Second Oldest Park
Created in 1937 to protect the region’s rich natural heritage and beauty as well as promote local tourism development, Parc national de la Gaspésie attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world in a beautifully preserved environment.
Creating the park
As early as the mid-19th century, scientists were interested in the mountains found in what would become Parc national de la Gaspésie. They mounted expeditions into this area, which was a lot riskier than it would be today (since they did not have access to sophisticated equipment or marked trails). Mount Logan was named in honour of Sir William E. Logan, the geologist who climbed the mountain in 1844. As for Mount Albert, geologist Alexander Murray, who ascended it in 1845, named it in honour of Prince Albert.
Parc national de la Gaspésie was created after Parc de la Montagne Tremblante (now Parc national du Mont-Tremblant) and Parc national des Laurentides (now a wildlife reserve). Today, it is the second oldest national park in Québec. It includes two mountain areas: the Chic-Choc Mountains (which are 480 million years old) to the west and the McGerrigle Mountains (which are 380 million years old) to the east. The park has four main purposes: to preserve the beauty of Mount Albert and the McGerrigle Mountains; to protect the salmon in the Sainte-Anne River; to safeguard the habitat of the caribou, a species that had been decimated by hunters at the turn of the 20th century; and to promote the development of tourism in Gaspésie.
The building of the Gîte du Mont-Albert hotel, in the heart of the park, began in 1938. However, the Second World War slowed construction work, which resumed around 1945. The hotel finally opened its doors in 1950 with Chef Euclide Béland in the kitchens. He would build the hotel’s reputation for gourmet excellence over a period of about 30 years, followed by Chef Yvano Tremblay, who further strengthened the hotel’s reputation over the next 30 years or so.
In the 1960s, the Quiet Revolution brought its share of upheavals to the park. An amendment to the law protecting the territory led to the commercial exploitation of natural resources, which ran counter to the park’s conservation objectives. Fortunately, the Parks Act, which was passed in 1977, would ensure the territory was protected and showcased. This law marked the beginning of the implementation of a network of parks in Québec; the management of the activities and services provided by this network was entrusted to Sépaq (Société des établissements de plein air du Québec) in 1999.
The park today
Over the years, the park’s infrastructures have been developed and the activities on offer have expanded, making it accessible to everyone in all seasons. From late spring to early fall, Parc national de la Gaspésie offers short easy to expert hiking trails ranging from 1 to 17 km, from easy to expert levels. It is also possible to go backpacking long distances on a 100-km trail from Mount Logan to Mount Jacques-Cartier along a segment of the International Appalachian Trail.
With a little luck, you may spot caribou on Mount Jacques-Cartier. However, it is important to comply with the rules regarding access to this mountain in order to protect their habitat, as this herd is the only one found south of the St. Lawrence.
In addition to hiking, the park offers a wide range of other activities during the summer. At Lake Cascapédia, you can rent canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and pedal boats, and several other lakes welcome visitors who have their own watercraft. You can also fish for brook trout on some rivers. In the Sainte-Anne River, you can fish for Atlantic salmon by wading or from a canoe. However, catch and release is mandatory on this river.
In terms of accommodations, the park now offers many options. In addition to the cosy 4-star Gîte du Mont-Albert hotel, which is renowned for fine regional cuisine, you can also stay in cabins or huts. The park also offers several campgrounds, where you can pitch your own tent surrounded by nature or rent a “ready-to-camp” (glamping) unit.
To be in the loop and find out more about Parc national de la Gaspésie, visit tourisme-gaspesie.com and plan your trip today! #gaspesie
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