Archive for August 6th, 2010

I had a hankering to see Montmorency Falls. When we were returning from our trip out east last month, we spent a night in Quebec City and visited the falls in the morning. Montmorency Falls is located just on the outskirts of the city, where the Montmorency River drops over a cliff and flows into the St. Lawrence. At 275 feet, the falls are the highest in Quebec and 98 feet taller than Niagara Falls. The basin at the bottom of the falls is 56 feet deep. The falls were named by Samuel de Champlain in 1613, in honour of Henri II, duc de Montmorency, viceroy of New France from 1620 until 1625.

Montmorency Falls, Etching, James Peachey c 1781

The falls have been a tourist attraction for centuries. The etching illustrated above was completed by James Peachey around 1781. It is in the collection of the Library and Archives Canada and is one of the earliest known etchings to be completed in Canada.

The Ice Cone, Robert Clow Todd, c 1845

This oil painting showing the falls in winter was completed by Robert Clow Todd (1809-1866) about 1845. Now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, it illustrates the popularity of the falls with visitors a century and a half ago. The cone of ice that forms at the base of the falls in the winter is called The Sugarloaf.

Montmorency Falls, John Mackie Falconer, c 1850

This watercolour, gouache and graphite illustration was completed by John Mackie Falconer (1820-1903) a few years later, around 1850. It is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

These days, the falls and the surrounding parkland form something of an island in a maze of highways and development. From the parking lot, the roar of the falls can’t be heard over the roar of the traffic.

Up close, however, the falls are just as majestic and awe-inspiring as they ever were. Not surprisingly, the tourist potential of the falls has been fully exploited. There is an aerial tram that runs up to the western cliff top. There is a stairway with lookout platforms that scales the eastern cliff face, and you can cross over the lip of the falls on a suspension bridge.

Just up the road from Montmorency Falls is a smaller falls, Le Voile de La Mariée, also very pretty, and rather neglected, overshadowed by its larger neighbour.

We weren’t tempted by the aerial ride and were satisfied to walk halfway up the cliff face staircase to take in the view from a lookout platform before returning to the car and continuing our journey. I enjoyed visiting this historic and scenic attraction.

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