History of La Malbaie River
La Malbaie River owes its name to Samuel de Champlain, one of the first Europeans to explore eastern Canada in the early 17th century. In those days the river mainly served communication and transportation needs. The native people, mostly Montagnais from Saguenay, used it to travel to the Saint-Lawrence River. From the 15th to the 17th century, the native Montagnais fished the river for Atlantic salmon. A practice quickly adopted by the newly settled French Canadian peasants in the 18th century.
Long before the arrival of the Europeans, this rich and fertile land was used for hunting and fishing salmon. The locals fished salmon recreationally and also as a valuable supplement to their diet. Lord John Nairne and his friends quickly realised that visitors to the area appreciated the excellent fishing opportunities. As a result of its’ growing reputation, salmon fishing on La Malbaie River quickly became the foundation of the tourism industry in the Charlevoix region.
In the 19th century, the tourist industry in the region bloomed and became an important part of the local economy. Many cruise boats sailed to La Malbaie River from the Saguenay River bringing with them waves of curious visitors. In the middle of the century, organised tours of the Charlevoix backcountry began. Tourists were taken by carriage from hotels located in Pointe-Au-Pic to go picnicking at Snigolle and Cran Martel. At the time, Snigolle area was a very popular tourist destination. Its popularity faded early in the 20th century, when the paper manufacturing industry was established close to Nairn waterfall. As is the case in many other areas, the increase of industry saw a decrease in tourism and the popularity of La Malbaie River as a fisherman’s paradise waned.
Log driving also contributed to the decline of Salmon fishing on the river. Log driving was a process used by the paper companies to transport trees over long distances, by floating tree trunks to saw mills located downstream. The last of the log drives took place in 1987, and this combined with several successful conservation efforts, has led to the resurgence of Atlantic salmon in La Malbaie River.
In 1992, a local group began a project to restore Atlantic salmon within a framework provided by a program of economic development. Since 1995, the Corporation of Saumon de la Rivière Malbaie (CSRM) has worked to enhance the habitat of La Malbaie River. Through a variety of conservation initiatives, CSRM has facilitated the reintroduction of Atlantic salmon throughout its original domain, and manages the resource to allow equal and fair access to the fishery. La Malbaie River has been open to fishing since 1998.
Most of the information in the about the river and History of La Malbaie River is from Serge Gauthier’s book: Raconte-moi…La rivière Malbaie