Sea Kayak

 

Tadoussac, an Algonkian word meaning “breasts,”is a village dating back to 1600 and has bragging rights to being the oldest European settlement in Canada.
Being first, they had their pick of townsites, and chose the north shore of the gulf of St. Lawrence – not surprisingly since the Gulf is one of Québec’s most stunning visual panoramas. All of these kayak trips put you into the heart of this country, rich in adventure and wonder.

 


1. Gaspé Peninsula
Where the fish first walked.

Where the fish first walked. At Miguasha Beach, a narrow strip of pebbles at the base of ten-story high cliffs, look up and look carefully. Above you, these cliffs shed fossils with such fecundity that UNESCO may designate it a World Heritage Site. What makes UNESCO interested in this rude little beach is the type of fossils found, to wit, EUSTENOPTERON FOORDI. Paleontologists get sweaty and wild-eyed at the mere mention of 370 million year old EUSTI. This gill-and-lunged fossil fish with digit-like fins is, many of them believe, the missing link. So when you look up at these cliffs, bobbing in your kayak, ask yourself the question, is Miguasha the place where our vertebrate ancestors first heaved themselves from the sea and crawled on land? Staring at the cliff, are you face to face with your beginnings?

 

“The trip was excellent, inns, guides, kayaking excellent *****
Mel Weibush, New Jersey


PHOTO: Claude Bouchard/Courtesy Le Québec Maritime
Normand and Esther
Yes or no, thanks to volcanoes, glaciation, and a few million years of continental drift, the Gaspé coast will bring you face to face with one of Québec’s best sea kayaking adventures. Soaring Kodak-quality cliffs, pebbly coves, rugged headlands, and a myriad of explorable streams flowing into the sea are what attract kayakers to this peninsula of discovery. The marine life is extraordinary, too. Whales cruise offshore; gray seals closer in shore. Marine birds are everywhere. In fact, ILE BONAVENTURE is one of the eastern seaboard’s most important nesting sites for auks, kittiwakes, pufffins and others. History is everywhere on this coast. Here is where explorer Jacques Cartier claimed Canada for France in 1534, and where marauding American privateers – John Paul Jones among them – burned and looted villages in the 1770’s. It was to this coast that Acadian refugees fled the cruel British in the 1750’s, and Loyalist Americans fled the persecution of their bitter neighbors 20 years later.
You can see this history at Forillon National Park, within sight of where Cartier came ashore, where the tiny coastal hamlet at GRANDE-GRAVE has been preserved as a historical site to celebrate the centuries of fishing and fishermen, a curious blend of French, Scot, Acadian and American traditions. A four-mile trail leads from the village to the tip of the park, leading you along the edge of land and sea, often with cliff-top vistas of the sea and coast. Forillon Park is wrapped by a spectacular coastline, perfect for paddlers. This is where you see geology at work in the steep, grey-white limestone cliffs at oceanside.Wind and water have clawed at these cliffs to create beautiful crescent shaped beaches. The beach at Miguasha may or may not have been where life began, but there is no doubt a Gaspé adventure will enrich your life.

 

Departures: July 18-23/August 8-13 Duration: 5 days, guided


2. Mingan Islands: paddling off the beaten path.

After Forillon National Park, the second most spectacular park in the region has to be the Mingan archipelago. Directly across the Gulf of St. Lawrence from Forillon, Mingan is an enchanted fantasy land of some 40 islands, carved into the most whimsical Alice-In-Wonderland flowerpot shapes by tide and time.

PHOTO: Sylvian Majeau/TOURISME QUEBEC
These monoliths are 500 million years old and paddling through them is like being in the land time forgot. Pebbled headlands offer plenty of opportunity for camping and to beach the kayaks and hike up to headlands for terrific views of a rugged shore, sun washed and blessed with an abundance of marine life: seabirds, whales and oodles more…

 


Photo by: Alain DumasDepartures: August 2 – 6 – Skill level: Beginner/intermediate

3. Saguenay Fjord: at play in the arms of a fjord.
Walt Whitman, the dean of America’s best nature writers, journeyed to Québec in 1880. In describing the waters of the fjord-like Saguenay, he wrote, “…its hue, though dark as ink, exquisitely polished and sheeny under the August sun. Different indeed, this Saguenay from all other rivers – different effects – a bolder vehement play of lights and shade.”

PHOTO: Jean-Pierre Sylvestre/Québec Maritime Two guides will lead you on an 80 miles kayak camping tour of the St. Lawrence estuary and the mouth of Saguenay. You’ll glide between the fjord’s cyclopean cliffs, an ice-age relic. These olympian walls of ash colored rock “breasts” from which the village of Tadoussac takes its name, Cape Trinity and Cape Eternity, each soar 1,150 feet into the heavens, and plunge another 800 feet below water.


“The trip was one of the best all-round outdoor adventures that I have ever had! We enjoyed the ‘beluga escorts’ each day — thank you again for a wonderful experience.”

– Paul Just, Connecticut

As Whitman described them, “…the great haughty, silent capes… they do not startle, but they linger in one’s memory forever.” Finbacks, humpbacks, minkes, pilot whales, and the curious white porpoise called beluga – Saguenay fjord is a rich feeding ground for whales and whale watchers.

“The guides taught my 15 year old son a deep respect for the unspoiled beauty of the fjord, introduced him to camp life and taught him to build a fire. A trip neither one of us will ever forget.”
– Sharon Senicka, N.Y.

“Our hop down the Saguenay fjord was fantastic. Super guide and every meal a delight! A great trip for novice and expert kayakers. A must do trip.”
Anita Brown, N.J.
Departures: July 12-16, July 19-23, July 26-30, August 2-6, August 9-13, August 16-20, August 23-27; groups ups of 6 or more choose your date. – Duration: 5 days – Skill level: Beginner/intermediate – Departure from St-Fulgence

 


4. Anticosti Island: blue water paradise


Photo: Alain Dumas


Photo: Alain Dumas

We all dream of our personal garden of Eden. Frenchman Henri Menier thought he had found his Anticosti Island, 617 square miles of sea-sculpture coast, canyons, rushing rivers and caves. But unlike most of us, Henri was a chocolate magnate and had the money to turn dream into possession, buying the island in 1895 and building a mansion. Today, Anticosti is a paddling/hiking/hunting/fishing playground, quite a remarkable provincial park of sand spits and pebbled beaches, dramatic sea cliffs, forests and salmon streams. Moored in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the whale watching is terrific and the sea life abundant.
“Anticosti was a fine place to experience the remoteness and wildlife: deer, silver fox, seals, marine birds, eagles.” Walter Phillips, Philadelphia
Photo: Alain Dumas
But is it really a contemporary Garden of Eden? Find out in this guided Kayak tour of the island. For seven days you’ll gunkhole Anticosti’s shore. Like some latter day Robinson Crusoe, you and nine other people will find yourselves camping on secluded shores, accessible only by sea. In bays where the water is like a mirror, up canyon sided streams to waterfalls, dining on lobster everyday in season – Eden? Possibly.

“Anticosti is a treasure waiting to be discovered.”Walter Phillips, Philadelphia

Departures: Aug 11-18 – Groups of 6 or more choose your date. – Duration: 7 days – Skill level: Beginner/intermediate


5. Clearwater Lake: notes from the taïga country.

To my left, long, sloping sheets of bed rock, coughed up from the earth’s guts 2.7 billion years ago – not the usual Canadian Shield of granite, massaged smooth by mile-high glaciers, but something foreign. It looks volcanic, almost molten, in the way it puddles and lows down into the water.”On my right, the lake. It stretches for 50 miles, a veritable inland sea, although here in the taïga there are surprisingly larger lakes, all flowing north to Hudson’s Bay. Islands dot the lake, each covered like the mainland with thinly spaced black spruce, stunted by the shabby soil, duking it out for residency with the lichens and mosses.

 

 

 

Above me, there is the sky. At this latitude, you notice the sky far more than down south, where the sky just is. By comparison, here in the taiga country the sky is operatic, the difference between the quiet polite child and the loud bullying one. it slides from a clear crystal blue to gunmetal gray when the squalls move in over the lake. At dawn and dusk, it turns pink and scarlet, flooding everything with a rose glow.

 

“Beneath my paddle, the water is clear – and I mean clear. In spots, we’ve been able to see 50 feet down to the bottom. In this water, there are fish and lots of ’em. Ouananiche, salmon that ran away from the sea years ago, lake trout and brookies.

“This caribou country. And while we’ve seen wolf tracks in the mud of streams, the caribou’s worst predator are the mosquitos and black flies. These can drink as much as a litre of blood a day from an animal. So the herd presses tightly together, so only the ones on the outside can be bitten. Incredibly, they take it in turns to be the flank animal. Hawks circle above. An artic fox peered at us from shore and we’ve fed artic squirrels at lunch. –from and explorer’s journal

Departures: Aug 1-6 Skill level: Beginner/Intermediate


6. Ungava/Labrador Coast
paddling the last wilderness

A three hour flight from Montreal deposits you at Kuujuuuak. Then board our twin engine otter to Labrador where We’ll take to our kayaks and paddle the extraordinary Labrador Coast, wild with spectacular scenic vistas of soaring mountains, ocean fjords, ice age glaciers, icebergs, and daggerlike peaks. Wildlife abounds with carious, arctic wolves, polar bears, seals, and whales. Keep your eyes peeled along the Labrador coast for the eerie remains of the lost Thule civilization. Check out the coast line you and you might catch a glimpse of one of their semi-subterranean homes constructed of bones, rock and sod; a food cache or an occasional tent ring, all well over a thousand years old.

 

 

We’ll sea kayak for six days, camping on the coastline before we put in and head out towards the Tomgat Mountains. The Torngat chain of mountains are the highest in eastern Canada, towering over 5,000 feet between Ungava and the Labrador territory.

We’ll hike through an ancient glacier carved, valley that leads us to Bowl Glacier, with spectacular views of enormous, soaring jagged peaks. The glacier itself is spiked with fissures, ice caves and impressive piles of morraines.

Bring a small tent and your personal expedition gear and We’ll make the 4,500 summit and drink in the stunning views of the Labrador Coast. We’ll take one last admiring glance of the impressive Labrador coast from heights before we trek back to our kayaks and paddle to our meeting point.

 


Ask about our Anticosti Safari, eight days on Henri Menier’s paradise. Stay at a beautiful log built lodge and explore the island’s mysteries on day trips. 



Puffins in Bonaventure
PHOTO: Courtesy of Le Québec Maritime

Fin Whale Saguenay
PHOTO: Courtesy of Le Québec Maritime

 


Gray Seals on Anticosti
PHOTO: Courtesy of Le Québec Maritime

IN 1576, British explorer Martin Frobisher sailed into Canada’s north on a voyage of discovery. With him was artist John White who gave Europe possibly its first ever picture of a kayak when he sketched an angry confrontation between Frobisher’s men and the Inuit.But just how and when kayak came to be is lost to antiquity. It is known that the Aleuts had kayaks 9,000 years ago. And a stone carving of an umiak, 2,000 years old, was unearthed in easter Siberia. The kayak has changed much – then skin and wood or bone, now kevlar, aluminum and fiberglass – but what will always remain is the adventure they bring.