The Québec maritime Blog
A regular contributor to Explore magazine, Whistler-based writer/editor Leslie Anthony holds a PhD in Zoology from the University of Toronto and has taught herpetology (the zoology of amphibians and reptiles) and vertebrate anatomy at McGill University (Montreal). He is also an avid skier and a published author of two books about his passions: White Planet: A Mad Dash through Modern Global Ski Culture and Snakebit: Confessions of a Herpetologist. In the summer of 2010, Anthony visited Anticosti Island for the first time. He had always wanted to visit Anticosti, ever since he saw it on a map in grade school.
I’d always been drawn by Anticosti because it was so unknown. In school, even our teachers knew nothing about it. Anticosti is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. For biologists, islands are interesting because they are isolated and have their own ecology.
Also of interest to biologists are the non-native species. The white-tailed deer is one of many introduced by the Anticosti’s former owner, French chocolate baron Henri Menier. There are now about 115,000 of them on the island and they are everywhere. They have no natural predators and some are so tame that they come right up to you. Mink frogs, another introduced species, are incredibly numerous in freshwater lagoons. They have no predators either. None of the native fish species eat their eggs or tadpoles. Like other species on the island, frogs eat many insects, controlling the usual insect swarm. It is so surprising, at this latitude and in this state of wilderness, to be almost left alone by bugs.
During my stay, the water surrounding the island was so unusually calm that when a seal stuck its head out, we could spot it from far away. However, that calm water was deceptive for a place that is known as the Graveyard of the St. Lawrence. There is a system of reefs surrounding the island, so ships would founder there; some of those wrecks date back to the 1600s.
Part of this incredibly pristine territory is protected by a national park. This island is home to fantastic wildlife: gulls, cormorants and marine mammals, of course. You can spot seals and whales and occasionally, if you are lucky, the largest animal on earth—a blue whale.
The rivers on Anticosti run through deep-cut canyons—much like the Grand Canyon. The water is crystal clear and surrounded by sedimentary cliffs of Ordovician and Silurian limestone (over 400 million years old) filled with incredible fossils. Henri Menier used to love fishing on the Jupiter River, famous for its Atlantic salmon.
I also visited the Kalamazoo and Vauréal Falls. Vauréal (about 75 m or 250 ft) is actually significantly higher than Niagara Falls but nowhere near the same in volume; Kalamazoo is small but beautiful and interesting. You can see Vauréal Falls literally jumping from gravel bar to gravel bar from an observation deck above or from below if you hike down and about 7 km (4 mi.) upriver. I also explored Grotte à la Patate (Potato Cave), an amazing cave system over 600 m (2000 ft) long, with helmet and headlamp. I saw all types of fossils there.
Anticosti is an incredible place full of natural wonder. It has something for everyone: hiking, fishing, kayaking, camping. Yet, it will never get crowded with people! It is definitely adventure tourism at its best.
To get a glimpse of what there is to see and do on Anticosti, read Leslie Anthony’s itinerary for his trip to this amazing island!
Initially published in 2010
As told to Le Québec maritime
Sponsored by Sépaq.