I love fjords! And I have been fortunate to see some in Alaska and Norway, and now have an opportunity to see the largest one in Quebec, the Saguenay Fjord. It’s one of only 38 of the 2,130 fjords around the world that is at least 60 miles long. Most of the fjord is protected as part of the National Parc National du Fjord-du-Saguenay.
This awesome place was formed during the fourth and last ice age, which ended about 10,000 years ago. The sheer weight of ice sheets covering the region sculpted the land and chiseled a U shaped valley.
Hector and I opted for a six-hour boat tour out of Tadoussac, a beautiful village located at the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord and the St. Lawrence Estuary. Tadoussac is a member of the Association of the Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec and is one of two representatives of Canada in the Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club (there are 100).
The Most Beautiful Bays in the World are selected not just for their natural beauty but also for their commitment to respecting the way of life and traditions of those that inhabit the area, their commitment to sustainability and to protecting their habitat, and their potential for economic development.
Tadoussac is also the gateway to the Côte-Nord and is located at the heart of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park was created to protect the environment, wildlife, and natural resources that are a part of the Saguenay Fjord and the St. Lawrence River Estuary.
We boarded our tour boat in Tadoussac in the morning of a day whose weather was predicted to be sunny and windy. Of course, that morning the weather was cloudy and calm but just fine for a boat outing.
The confluence of the Saguenay and the St. Lawrence creates a very nutrient rich environment which attracts a large variety of marine mammals. One of the areas that we sailed through is known for attracting Beluga Whales. This is the southernmost point in the world where Beluga Whales congregate, as they are typically only found in the Arctic and Subarcttic zones
So we were extremely fortunate to see quite a few “little” belugas swimming around in the fjord. At 13-16 feet long and 1,300-1,500 pounds they’re not really little, but they are in comparison to some of the other whales in the area.
Since the Belugas are a threatened species, boats are not allowed to get closer than 400 yards from them. This meant we saw only the top of their bright white heads and backs as they swam along the water.
But it was still a thrill to see them.
These adorable white whales are a threatened species as their population was decimated by commercial whaling. Although whaling has been banned in most countries, their recovery has been slowed by pollution, disturbance by humans, habitat degradation and occasional entanglement in fishing gear.
Cruising through the fjord, we learned some amazing facts about its size and depth. It’s 65 miles long and its width varies between just over ½ and 2½ miles wide. The Saguenay Fjord has an average depth of 690 feet, with the deepest point at 890 feet.
There is a statue called Notre Dame du Saguenay perched high at the top of one of the cliffs. The statue, sculpted in 1881, is 30 feet high and commemorates the survival of a traveling salesman who fell into the frozen waters of Lac St Jean, prayed to the Virgin Mary to save him and washed up miraculously on ice.
The cliffs along the fjord have an average height of 490 feet, with the highest one at 1,150 feet. The fjord is at once a sea and a river, as cold salt water from the St. Lawrence estuary runs under warmer fresh water from its tributaries and Lake St. Jean.
Just a stunning place. As we continued on our cruise, we made a stop at L’Anse St. Jean, located in a beautiful valley on the shores of a natural bay. After visiting a couple of shops which had very high quality local art, we decided to stop, have a leisurely lunch and enjoy the view. A little café by the dock served food typical of the Brittany area of France – simple crepes with delicious fillings – fabulous.