22 October 2013: Saguenay, Quebec

22 October 2013: Saguenay River and La Baie, Quebec

Ha! Ha! Indeed

The Rivière Saguenay – the Saguenay River – is one of the major waterways of Quebec, and the largest fjord in the province.

A fjord is a long, narrow inlet of the sea between steep cliffs.

The Saguenay drains Lac Saint-Jean in the Laurentian Highlands; that lake is filled by thousands of streams and rivers in the watery north of Quebec.

Quebec extends nearly 1,200 miles north from the Saint Lawrence to the top of the Ungava Peninsula at Ivujuvik.

The Saguenay flows just slightly south of east meeting the Saint Lawrence River at Tadoussac. As a fjord, its waters are tidal as far upriver as Chicoutimi, about 100 kilometers or 62 miles.

The fjord cuts through the Canadian Shield, the huge rocky plateau that makes up nearly half of all of the Canada, extending from the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Valley northward to the Arctic Ocean.

The metamorphic base rocks are mostly from the Precambrian Era (between 4.5 billion and 540 million years ago), and have been repeatedly uplifted and eroded.

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Saguenay National Park, south of La Baie. Photos by Corey Sandler

The Canadian Shield was the first part of North America to be permanently elevated above sea level and has remained almost wholly untouched by successive encroachments of the sea upon the continent.

The walls of the fjord reach to as much as 500 meters or 1,600 feet in many places; in many places the cliffs descend at least that much below the waterline.

La Baie, Quebec

La Baie is part of the city of Saguenay, Quebec, located where the Rivière à Mars flows into the Baie des Ha! Ha!

It is a beautiful place and the locals are trying very hard to develop the port as a cruise destination; I wish them well–but hope it is never spoiled by too much success.



Performers on the pier at La Baie, welcoming to town. Photos by Corey Sandler

Ha! Ha! does not refer to a place of great merriment; it is a native word that means dead end or cul-de-sac.

No roads go north from the area into the wilderness; the last roads north end just a short distance from the city—still within the Lac St-Jean area. There are no human settlements due north of Saguenay all the way to the Canadian Arctic islands, except for a few isolated Cree and Inuit villages.

Our Lady of the Saguenay

Charles Napoleon Robitaille was one of the first salesmen to travel the roads of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.

He worked for a Garneau Brothers, a shop in Quebec, and traveled between the small villages of the Saint Lawrence and the Saguenay selling household goods.

One of his winter routes required him to cross the frozen Saguenay between Chicoutimi and the parish of Sainte-Anne at Lac-Saint-Jean.

In the winter of 1878, the ice broke and Robitaille fell into the water with his sleigh and his horse.

Fearing he was about to die, he implored the help of the Virgin Mary. He got to shore, and he decided to commemorate his survival with a statue.

In 1880, Robitaille managed to engage the great Canadian sculptor and wood carver Louis Jobin to make a statue to be installed on one of the headlands overlooking the fjord at the mouth of the River Eternity.


Notre Dame du Saguenay. Photo by Corey Sandler

For more than a century, visitors have made pilgrimages to see Our Lady of the Saguenay. At some point, it became traditional to sing or play Ave Maria.

Regardless of religious faith, most of us found our thoughts directed at friends and family and former shipmates as we made a graceful 360-degree circle in front of the cliff before proceeding further up the river to La Baie.

Personally, my thoughts turned to the first time I made this voyage up the Saguenay, accompanied by the gracious cruise director Judie Abbott.

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Judie Abbott on the bridge this past July. Photo by Corey Sandler

All photos and text copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo, please contact me.