Geography

Le Fjord, one of a kind

Fjord

Created in a glacially carved valley that is filled by rising sea water levels.

Saguenay Fjord

The only navigable fjord in North America. It is 105 km long, from Saint-Fulgence to Tadoussac, and 1.6 km wide on average (maximum width 3.2 km). It has a maximum depth of 275 m and its escarpments can reach up to 300 m.

Tides

4 to 6 m.

Notable fauna

16 typical Arctic species (including Greenland halibut).

The fjord was formed during the 4th and last ice age. The weight of the ice shaped the landscape and cut a valley into the land, thus forming what is now the Saguenay Fjord. It is estimated that the escarpments, today reaching as high as 300 m, were as impressive and high as the Himalayas.

Today, the escarpments can be reached in several ways, including parc national du Saguenay, where a series of trails lead to extraordinary viewpoints thousands of years old. One of those trails brings you to a nine-metre-high statue weighing three tonnes and representing the Virgin Mary. Created and erected in 1881, transporting such a large monument through steep terrain posed a formidable engineering challenge for the times!

When the ice cap melted, sea water invaded the region and formed the Laflamme Sea. In that era, salmon (saltwater fish) were bountiful in the region. Over time, the water receded, streams continued to flow into the Lac-Saint-Jean lowlands, and the lake water slowly lost all of its salinity. The Fjord, however, as it opens into the St. Lawrence River, is fed salt water downstream, and fresh water upstream.

Because salt water has higher density than fresh water, it flows under the surface water of the river. The surface of the Fjord (fresh water layer) freezes in winter, thus making it possible to build villages on ice. This creates a particular scenario as the sub-surface water is sea water, which means that we can fish for sea species while keeping warm in our fishing huts. The fresh water layer is all-important here because there would be no ice if there was only salt water, which does not freeze.

Lake Saint-Jean, a true interior sea

"Lake Saint-Jean is a true paradise; it is the best-ever in-ground swimming poo"
Lyrics of the song “Lac-Saint-Jeanpignon magik” by Ouanani.

Dimensions

  • 45 km long (northwest/southeast)
  • 34 km wide (northeast/southwest)
  • 1,100 km2 in surface (about twice the island of Montreal)
  • 11.3 m average depth (63 m maximum)

Notable fauna

Walleye and ouananiche (landlocked salmon

Notable flora

The blueberry. The blueberry bush reproduces more rapidly and produces more fruit after fires. Following the devastating 1870 fire, the small fruit proliferated. Over 15,000 hectares of commercial blueberry farms are operated in the region.

The Lake Saint-Jean shores are quite flat and made up of extremely fine sand, which make it a safe environment for the entire family. A large part of the Lac-Saint-Jean lowlands are made up of sand deposits left behind by the four ice ages. One of the most beautiful beaches in the region is located in the northern part of the lake, at parc national de la Pointe-Taillon, and stretches over 14 km.

The “ouananiche” (meaning “the little lost one”) is the most sought-after fish in the region, but the law forbids its sale. When the region was covered by the Laflamme Sea, it was filled with salmon (saltwater fish). Following desalination of the water, the fish had to adapt to new conditions over the centuries. The salmon that remained imprisoned in the bowl formed by Lake Saint-Jean thus became adapted to fresh water. Ouananiche is therefore saltwater fish that got lost and had to adapt to fresh water!

But the ouananiche is not the only species in Lake Saint-Jean waters. Each year, 25 swimmers from a dozen countries dive head first into the legendary waters and try to tame this natural element. Lasting on average six to eight hours, La Traversée internationale du Lac Saint-Jean swimming marathon is one of the ten FINA Grand Prix open-water competitions taking place in seven countries. Support for the swimmers is expressed through a street dinner in Roberval on the Wednesday preceding the competition. Chairs and tables as far as the eye can see, as 10,000 people invade the streets and devour “tourtière”, our regional dish.