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THE WILD APPEAL OF NATURE: ANTICOSTI ISLAND
 
(2023 - Fall/Winter Issue)

Writer: BRUCE SACH AND STAFF



THE SCENE

Off Québec’s coastline in the mighty Gulf of St. Lawrence where the sea churns and gurgles, there’s this hardy island that packs in a nature playground for critters on both land and sea. It’s a storied setting that dates back over 445 million years and has been evolving ever since. These days watch fin-slapping whales, bald eagles diving for fresh catch, as island wildlife trudges the low-lying coastline or seeks cover in the dense forest. Zoom in your binoculars at a landscape rich in deep canyons, impressive waterfalls and gigantic caves. Zoom some more, and you’re likely to spot one of Canada’s rock heroes hard at work. Geologist Dr. André Desrochers has been recording and studying the unique fossil formations in this exceptional geosite for 40 years. He has been leading the charge for the newly designated UNESCO World Heritage Site status announced in September. 

THE HITS

An unspoiled place where the local deer population outnumbers the residents (only 200), Anticosti Island is not only a newly protected area in Québec but it has a provincial park run by Sépaq open in summer or fall for exclusive 5- or  6-night stays.

THE BACKSTORY

The island’s evolution goes back to the Ordovician Period when an eerie mass extinction occurred during this ice age of climate change, leaving behind rare fossils and peculiar rock formations. “It’s the best place in the world to observe evidence of the first extinction of life on the planet,” observes Dr. Desrochers on the extraordinary abundance of fossils. While Anticosti has remained off the radar most of its history, it has encountered a few incarnations over the past century. Anticosti was a private island in 1895 when its owner introduced deer for sport hunting, wiping out the native bear population by overgrazing the bears’ food. This, on an island whose Indigenous name Notiskouan means “Where the bears are hunted.” In the 20th century, the island was visited by hunters, fishers and logging companies. Moreover, as of a few years ago, oil and gas exploration has been permanently halted.

THE TAKEAWAY

Thanks to overall conservation efforts, and the tireless work from organizations and scientists like Dr. Desrochers, the island will no longer be exploited commercially, with the exception of sustainable industries like bee raising and oyster farms. The UNESCO naming will undoubtedly keep even touristic visits to a respectful minimum.

MUST SEE

In this mammoth open lab, head to the cliffs between Anse-aux-Fraises and Cap de la Vache-Qui-Pisse where you’ll see layer upon layer of the fossil-infested strata.

TRAVEL PLANNER

Visits occur from late June until November. Depart from Mont-Joli. sepaq.com/sepaq-anticosti

 
 
 
 
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