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Sea Kayaking and Canoeing Québec Authentique

In this episode of Paddle Tales, we're heading to a part of Québec that's considered by many to be a distillation of the best the province has to offer. It's a beautiful and wide-open landscape that offers incredible access to the natural world through its two national parks, 15 regional parks, and three wildlife reserves, but the postcard beauty is anything but static, as the area prides itself on having a vibrant community that shares an intimate connection with the outdoors. In this episode of Paddle Tales, we're exploring the beautiful waters and incredible diversity of Québec Authentique.

 

Located on the north shore of the St Lawrence river, between Québec's two urban hubs of Québec City and Montréal. Authentique Québec is a blending of the province's beautiful Lanaudière and Mauricie regions. To kickstart my adventures, I found myself in the province's largest, oldest, and probably most-well-known national park, Mont-Tremblant National Park.

 

Although I've spent a fair amount of time in the park over the years, this particular area is new to me. The Mont-Tremblant Park that I know is very close to Mont-Tremblant Resort and it's beautiful, but pretty busy, because it's close to Montréal. Where we are here in the park is only an hour further from Montréal, but it has such a remote feel. Not many people here, very thick wilderness, it's- this is very cool. To show me around I'm meeting up with Ben Peterson from Au Canot Volant. 

- Hi Again 

- Nice to meet ya 

- You, too. Welcome! 

- Thank you very much! L'Assomption? 

- [Ben] There it is! 

- Very cool. 

- [Ben] This looks like it's gonna be a good day. 

- [Ken] Yep! So this is the lake itself?

- [Ben] This is the main lake, about one square kilometer 

- Heading down?

- We're heading that way 

- That way? 

- Towards the beginning of the river it's about five kilometers down so it's a long narrow lake, caused by the dam. 

- Cool. Well, 

- beautiful day 

- shall we do it?

 - Let's do it.

- it's a good day

- Yes (laughs) 

- [Ken] Although I've never been to this part of Québec before, I've heard plenty about the L'Assomption River. It's a well-known paddling route and at over 120 miles in length it's one of the most important rivers in the Lanaudière region. Although canoes tend to be the preferred choice on the river, there are three of us on the water today and I really don't feel like fighting the wind in a solo canoe, and so I'm taking a kayak, while Ben is taking a canoe with the help of park naturalist Eric Loiseau. 

- [Ken] So Ben, tell me about Au Canot Valot 

- [Ben] Um, the company itself has been around for, we celebrated 15 years last year, so this is our 16th summer, and so we do mainly canoeing, a little bit of kayaking 

- Yeah 

- It's a great school river 

- Okay 

- For, no matter what level you are on canoeing or even certain sections for river kayaking. There's gonna be a section for you to, you know, raise your game.

- Yeah. 

- So we take people that have never seen a canoe, never been in a canoe and take them into class two rapids, guided. 

- Yeah 

- But we can give classes on different parts of the river, you know, so people can get up to like their level threes and stuff like that with the Québec Federation. Whatever level you're at, we can take you to parts to raise you up a notch. So you've got waterfalls and you've got rapids and you've got nice beautiful rock and stuff like that. 

- [Ken] Well the neat thing about, I mean for me seeing it is just how much variety it offers, even, you see a lot of it when you're driving 

- [Ben] Yeah 

- [Ken] Alongside the river 

- [Ben] Oh there's hun- I think there's over a hundred lakes in the watershed of L'Assomption. Like important lakes, they're not puddles.

- Yeah 

- And you've got here we're in the shield, the Canadian Shield, so you've got waterfalls and you've got rapids, and you've got nice beautiful rock and stuff like that. 

- [Eric] The park is open all year round so during the winter you can still come here do snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And we are not so far from Montreal so we've got a lot of families that are coming here so it's really, it's really nice. 

- [Ken] The L'Assomption River really is a classic wilderness river. From the moment you leave the launch you feel as though you've left civilization behind and the only connections that matter are the connections you make with nature and those you're traveling with. 

- [Ken] But as amazing as it is to dive into the wilderness and escape the real world for a while, paddling is more than that and can play a special role in our day-to-day lives, and in urban environments. A perfect example of this is Maikan Aventure an adventure travel company found in the city of Trois-Rivières. 

- [Ken] Where exactly are we? 

- [Alex] We are at Maikan Club in Trois-Rivières and this is a canoe, canuk, kayak club and also a center for ski, skiing, and hiking. 

- [Ken] And this is the Saint-Maurice River? 

- [Alex] Saint-Maurice River It's a, we're at the bottom, exactly at the bottom of the Saint-Maurice River. 

- [Ken] Has this always been home this area? 

- [Alex] Yeah 

- [Ken] Yeah? You've always lived here? So this river has played a big role in your life? 

- Yeah a big, big, big. Yeah I started racing in 1965 

- [Ken] Really?

- And I 

- [Ken] Canoe or kayak? 

- Canoeing, yeah. 

- [Ken] Yeah? 

- Yeah Tandem canoeing, that's what we have popular down here and now they have also in the race big canoes there were 9 persons in it. 

- [Ken] Oh really? 

- [Alex] Really spectacular. 

- [Ken] It's such a big canoe, kayak, paddling community 

- [Alex] Yes it is 

- [Ken] I mean it's beautiful, but it's you know it's it's really cool to see all the people out paddling just enjoying the water.

 - [Alex] It's wonderful, meet friends and you'll see when we go dinner, there's a lot of people on the shore there. So this is Borealis. 

- [Ken] Borealis. 

- [Alex] Borealis. That was the Canadian International Paper Corporation 

- [Ken] Yeah 

- [Alex] And this was the draining system here they took it and made a beautiful restaurant inside 

- [Ken] Really? 

- [Alex] And all the explanations and respect for all the loggers, the thousands of loggers that worked on the river over the years. 

- [Ken] Saint Lawrence is just down there

- [Alex] Just down there. In the Saint Lawrence River the water is green.

 - [Ken] Right.

 - [Alex] And it make's a separation with the water that comes from the Saint-Maurice that are black.

 - [Ken] Although I love wilderness paddling trips there's something really cool about urban paddling especially in a place like Trois-Rivieres that has such an active paddling scene. It's fun to see other people enjoy the river so much and to be able to pull over at a riverside restaurant. You also just a unique perspective of things from the water that you simply can't get from the land. After a quick lunch stop Alex and I head further upstream to a section of the Saint-Maurice River that has some fast flowing water and which leads to a very special place. 

- [Ken] Well I'm guessing this is the spot? 

- [Alex] Yeah this is the spot It's the Devils Fountain legend. Anyway you're gonna go and see that and look what it looks like 

- Let's do it! 

- And sometimes it burns a lot more maybe it's because we're late in summer.

 - [Ken] Look at that. 

- [Alex] Yeah, so you see? 

- [Ken] That's very cool. Whoa! That one was still on fire. 

- [Alex] Yeah it was still on fire. 

- [Ken] I think it got your hand a little because  I smell burnt hair. 

- [Alex] That's okay I have so much I can spare some 

- Right on that's cool! You don't usually get to light water on fire that's a nice. 

- [Alex] Yeah just to see water burning 

- [Ken] Burn.

 - [Alex] That's something. 

- [Ken] Yeah 

- [Alex] So this is it. 

- Well. Shall we? 

- [Alex] Shall we? We shall 

- Let's move on  

- [Ken] Leaving the Devil's Fountain we have a few miles of cruise-y class one whitewater to take us back to Maikan Aventure. It's been a really enjoyable day paddling with Alex through the heart of Trois-Riviere, but even though the sun is quickly dropping towards the horizon, I have one more place to check out. Word has it that Lac Saint-Pierre is one of the best spots in Quebec to watch the sunset. And I'm a sucker for a good sunset. Sunsets are like waterfalls and lighthouses it doesn't matter how many you see it's always cool. I really can't think of a better way to finish this trip to Lanaudière-Mauricie than a sunset paddle in Lac Saint-Pierre. What a night, what a day! Paddling away the last hour of light is a great opportunity to reflect on the past few days in Lanaudière and Mauricie. The trip has been amazing and a real reminder of how many different types of experiences you can have with a paddle in your hand, and there's no such thing as the best experience, all that matters is having an experience, and that just means getting out there, whenever you can, in whatever craft you can, wherever you can.

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