The Québec maritime Blog
At the heart of the Manicouagan Peninsula is a jewel of nature: Parc Nature de Pointe-aux-Outardes. Located about 15 minutes off Route 138, this nature park along the banks of the St. Lawrence is well worth a visit.
When I reached the park, I realized that this was a place where I could fully enjoy the sea. On the afternoon I was there, it was a bit overcast, but had stopped raining. In any case, I had dressed to make the most of my visit! I was welcomed by Denis Cardinal, the park’s executive director. We decided to walk the Le Contemplatif trail, which took us through four of the park’s eight ecosystems: the boreal forest, the salt marsh (the second largest in the St. Lawrence Estuary), the beach and the sand dunes. We also visited Wabush, an Innu who leads an interpretive activity about the customs of the Innu of yesterday and today on this territory. (You will encounter several Innu communities as you drive along Route 138 in this area.)
As soon as we stepped into the forest, I was impressed by the diverse vegetation. Walking along the trails in this park is an experience that engages all the senses: we admired the varied colours of the vegetation, listened to the soothing sounds of the waves, breathed in the spicy aroma of some of the plants and trees around us, felt the spongy or sandy ground beneath our hiking boots and even tasted a few edibles along the path. A word of caution: before you eat anything in the park, be sure to ask your guide to confirm that the plant or fruit is actually edible. I thought I’d found some blueberries, which turned out to be a toxic look-alike instead!
As we walked, Denis introduced me to many different plant species and a multitude of mushrooms. We even saw two partridges pecking at one of the trails.
Quite quickly we arrived at the observation tower in the salt marsh. Be sure to visit the park with your binoculars, so you can take full advantage of this opportunity for bird watching. During the 15 or so minutes we were there, we saw a great blue heron, ducks in the distance and even a bird of prey, which may have been a hawk or northern harrier.
We then headed back along the beach. The water was calm and we were charmed by the setting. Denis explained that you can find many interesting things washed up along the shore, such as glass polished by the sea and bits of porcelain from the dishes of people who used to live on the point or the various shipwrecks in the area. You can also collect shells from the many marine creatures living in the St. Lawrence: blue mussels, whelks, clams, crabs, etc. During our walk we observed several birds of prey flying over the nearby dunes, including a peregrine falcon being attacked by a hawk.
I missed some of Wabush’s interpretive activity, but he told me that he spends 1h30 explaining Innu culture by talking about animals, dwellings and the key people in the community. It’s fascinating to realize that, even today, many Innu traditions remain anchored in these communities.
At the end of my visit, what struck me most—other than the beauty of this site where I could easily spend days of my time—is how the Pointe-aux-Outardes community has claimed this corner of nature and managed to sustain it through all the many projects that are underway here.
Denis and his team have been working on several new ideas this year: the park will soon feature giant birdhouses where visitors can enjoy a unique glamping experience. In addition, a new bird garden has been designed to feature plants that serve as food for the many birds in this area.