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Backpacking the Laurentian Trail
La Mauricie National Park of Canada

©Outdoor Adventure Canada

La Mauricie National Park, established in 1970, is located in the center of Quebec, north of Trois-Rivières. This park encompasses 536 square kilometers of rolling plateau covered in forest and dotted with lakes. La Mauricie National Park is at the southern end of the Canadian Shield in the Laurentian Mountains. Twenty thousand years ago this area was covered in glaciers that were higher than mountains in the Himalayas. The glaciers have gouged, eroded, scraped and shaped this landscape. This region is a transition zone between the boreal forest of the Laurentian Plateau and the deciduous forest of the St. Lawrence Lowlands. As a result plants and animals from both types of habitat are found in the park.

There are also more than thirty archaeological sites dating back thousands of years. These sites belonged to the Attikameks, a subgroup of ancient Algonquin people who roamed the region in the Paleolithic Era. These people were hunters and gatherers who left paintings at Lake Wapizagonke. The area was rediscovered in the 1600's by explorers and was logged in the 1800's.

The Laurentian Trail was added to La Mauricie in 1998, so it is a relatively new feature that offers a minimum of a 5 day hike along a 75 kilometre trail though Laurentian forest. It is a linear trail with many spectacular lookouts. The trail head is at Rivière-à-la-Pêche and the trail ends at le Passage Lookout. As you travel through the forest, you will journey to the northern end the park in large loop that eventually takes you south to the trail's end. At the end of the trail you have a 30 kilometre trip back to you car. If you are traveling in a group you might want to arrange to have a vehicle at each end. There are nine campsites placed approximately 7-9 kilometres apart and eight of the sites border a small lake. Campfires are prohibited so you must to take your backpacker's stove.

You hike under the shade of sugar maple and yellow birch that grow in the rich soil on the abundant hills. More than ninety percent of the park is forest and over 30 species of trees have been reported including a substantial white spruce plantation. The scenery and vistas are plentiful and can be viewed from lookouts as high as 450 meters. As you descend into the valleys, you pass by spruce, fir and pine that flourish in damp, thin soil here. Towards the north end of the park the maple and birch diminish to give way to fir. There are numerous lakes, ponds, steams, and water falls to see along the way.

The varied forest and wetlands allow for a diversity of animals to exist within the park and there are more than 40 recorded species of mammals. The predator species of La Mauricie include bear, wolf, red fox, coyote, fisher and lynx. Moose graze around lakes and ponds where one might also see beaver, muskrat, mink, or even a playful otter. Waterfowl includes duck, the common merganser and loon. Among the amphibian and reptiles are the salamander and the rare wood turtle who survive here because of a healthy ecosystem and the perfect balance between water and woodland. La Mauricie is also home to red squirrels, brown bats, red-eyed vireos, ovenbirds and yellow-bellied sapsuckers. There are blue jays, chickadees, hawks and owls.In fact there are over 180 species to delight any birder including northern orioles and ravens at their southern most limits. This is a textbook forest environment with each one of your steps turning a new page.

La Mauricie National Park provides the backpacker with a memorable wilderness experience. The Laurentian Trail is wonderful for a weeklong trip and is very beautiful in late September when the sugar maples and yellow birches are drenched in the rich colours of fall.

The Laurentian Trail is open from early May to October. To make reservations call (819) 538-3232 or visit La Mauricie National Park of Canada.For more information about the region visit Tourisme Mauricie.

Written by Laurie March
Photo courtesy Tourisme Mauricie

masthead photo courtesy




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