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The Saguenay Fjord
Sea kayaking Quebec's Saguenay region
©Outdoor Adventure Canada

The Saguenay Fjord, measuring more than 100 kilometers long, runs northwest from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the mouth of the Saguenay River in Quebec's Saint-Lac-Jean-Saguenay Region. Kayaking along remarkable vistas and paddling alongside beluga whales offers a unique opportunity.

As glaciers from the last ice age scoured the earth to form a U shaped trough, the Saguenay Fjord was formed with its high and jagged cliffs. Seawater rushes in from the mouth of the St. Lawrence that combines with the fresh cold water within the fjord. This mixture creates the raw materials for a rich diversity of marine life. The geography is a magnificent and the St. Lawrence Estuary and Saguenay Fjord are so valuable ecologically that both the Government of Canada and the Quebec Provincial government protects them under legislation. This 1138 kilometer square area has been designated as the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park.

The stretch from La Baie to Tadoussac at the St. Lawrence River is dotted with small communities on the north and south sides of its banks. The towns and villages make up what is referred to as the ten stages of the Fjord, all having their own unique character and charm. The people of this region are affectionately known as Bleuets due the area's abundance of blueberries or as the French say, bleuets.

Tadoussac founded by Champlain in 1535, and he called the land westward to Lac-Saint-Jean the "kingdom". This began a long era of relations between the indigenous people, the Montagnais, and the French. For 200 years the focus of this region was the fur trade. The rivers and lakes from Tadoussac made up the network for fur trading.

For sea kayaking you may access the Fjord through four communities along its route; La Baie, Sainte Rose-du-Nord, Riévère Éternité and L'Anse Saint-Jean. When kayaking in Baie Éternité you will view high cliffs. Caves are found in the steep walls between Cap de la Boule and Tadossac. On La Petite Ile there is a grotto that was once used by natives and of the few beaches that are along the Saguenay Fjord, L' Anse Saint-Étienne has a beach of black sand. Beluga whales are found from L'Anse Saint-Jean to Tadoussac as these creatures follow the tides to feed.

The Fjord offers many enjoyable experiences but it is not without its perils. The water is extremely cold. The average water temperature is 16-20 degress celcius (60-68 F) in July and August. Wearing an isothermal suit is a must and you will need a tidal schedule. The wind can blow violently, and you must be always mindful of the tides and the weather report. High tides can make the Fjord unmanageable and very dangerous. Bad weather conditions can churn the Fjord into a sea of metre high waves.

There are many guided tours available in the Saguenay Fjord and if you are not experienced in sea kayaking a guided tour is a must. This offers greater safety and security than venturing out on your own by allowing you to enjoy the experience with minimal risk. Kayaking tour companies have well trained guides that hold certificates from the Quebec Government. These people have traveled for extensive hours on the Fjord, and are knowledgeable about weather patterns and tide schedules. Guides have first aid and CPR training plus they carry marine radios.

A variety of excursions are available from ranging from a 1 hour paddle to a 5 day trip. Solo and tandem kayaks can be rented and life jackets and isothermal suits are generally supplied. The 1 and 3 hour tours would be ideal for the whole family to enjoy. These shorter tours can accommodate adults with children from the ages of 3 to 14. On an extended trip of 3 to 5 days all the meals and provisions are included and you will camp at remote sites on the shoreline.

Visiting the Saguenay Fjord will provide you with many fond memories of the people, the spectacular geography, and incredible sunsets. I cannot imagine anything more peaceful than kayaking with the whales in this beautiful setting.

Written by Laurie March
Photo courtesy

masthead photo courtesy




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