Arctic Studies Center
||| St. Lawrence Gateways Project |||
Smithsonian - National Museum of Natural History


Region Map: Lower North Shore on north side of Gulf of St. Lawrence

Map of region: Lower North Shore on north side of Gulf of St. Lawrence; Newfoundland lies to the east across the Strait of Belle-Isle, and Gaspé Peninsula lies to the southwest

The Lower North Shore is the section of Québec located along the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence between roughly 50 and 52 degrees north latitude and 58 and 64 west longitude. As this section of Québec is contiguous with southern Labrador, it is sometimes referred to as “Québec Labrador”, and during the 19th century, at the time of John James Audubon’s visit, it was considered an integral part of "The Labrador".

From the west, the Lower North Shore can be approached from a variety of directions. Along the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, one can proceed northeast on Highway 138 through the port towns of Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles, Havre-Saint-Pierre, and through Mingan Archipelago, a gorgeous Canadian National Park.

From the south, one can approach by ferry from the Gaspé by crossing the Gulf from Rimouski or Matane, disembarking at either Baie-Comeau, Godbout, or Sept-Îles. However, to travel farther east to the Lower North Shore one can go no further by automobile than Natasquan, the end of the road from the west and the beginning of the remotest portion of the Lower North Shore. From the east, one takes the ferry from St. Barbe, Newfoundland, to Blanc Sablon, Québec, the last community on the Québec shore before entering Labrador, which lies only a few miles to the north. The road runs westward for only a few miles, to the town of Vieux-Fort, making most of the area inaccessible by road.

Nordik Express ship

Nordik Express, the workhorse of the
Lower North Shore

To reach this coast one either flies from Blanc Sablon, Trois Rivieres, or Natashquan, Qu»bec; from Goose Bay, Labrador; or, more likely takes the coastal ferry, Nordik Express, which stops at most of the coastal communities along the LNS.

Major settlements along the LNS, a coastline of roughly 400 km (250 m), include Natashquan, Kégashka, La Romaine, Chevery, Harrington Harbour, Tête-à-la-Baleine, Baie Mouton, La Tabatiére, Saint-Augustin, Vieux-Fort, St. Paul’s River, Middle Bay, Brador Bay, Lourdes-de-Blanc Sablon, and Blanc Sablon. Most of these villages are connected to the outside world only by steamer or light plane.›

summer fishing camp at Baie Mouton

Summer fishing camp at Baie Mouton

In the terminology used in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, these villages would be called "outports", that is, accessible only by water or, sometimes, by air.› Most of these villages were settled in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by French, Basque, Jersey, or English whalers and fishermen, and many had been settled seasonally thousands of years earlier by Native American groups.›

Today, with the decline of the North Atlantic cod fishery and its closure by Canada in 1992, fishing on the LNS has lost most of its economic importance and is tightly regulated.› However, one still sees reminders of its former prominence—shipwrecks, abandoned fishing shacks, rotting boats, and stacks of abandoned crab and lobster pots.›Despite the decline of commercial fishing, local residents still draw much of their livelihood from the sea and nearby coast and interior. With the decline of fishing, fur, and other traditional pursuits, communities along the LNS have begun to explore alternative economic activities, including recreation and heritage tourism. These new directions have heightened local interest in the Gateways Project.