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Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park in Quebec

 

Enjoying a view of the Saguenay fjord. (Jean-Louis Provencher  / ©Parks Canada / Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park)

You can celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday by exploring the country’s national parks, historic sites and marine conservations areas — they’re free to visit all this year. Your adventures in Canada don’t have to be all on land — when you visit Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park you can take to the sea! While you're out on the water you might even be lucky enough to spot a whale — that’s because this park is one of the best whale-watching places in the world.

Where is it?

a boy and a girl looking at some water at low tide

Even the smallest amount of water is full of life between his and low tide. (Éric Lajeunesse  / ©Parks Canada / Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park)

Located in Quebec, the park is a 215 kilometre drive from Quebec City and 465 kilometre from Montreal. But lots of people get there by boat instead of driving. The marine park is where the Saguenay River meets the St. Lawrence River. It covers an area of 1,245 square kilometres. That’s a lot of space! Of course most of that is water, but there’s also the land around the marine park. These shores are their own park too — the Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay.

What’s a fjord?

looking down at the river from a cliff

The Saguenay fjord landscape. (Jean-Louis Provencher  / ©Parks Canada / Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park)

The Saguenay River where it reaches the St. Lawrence is what’s called a fjord (say "fee-ord"). That’s a long, narrow channel of water leading out to the sea, with steep cliffs on either side. Fjords are made by glaciers receding — in the case of Saguenay River, the fjord was created 10,000 years ago, during the last ice age.

Why go?

a minke whale showing its back through the water

Minke whales come every year to feed in the marine park. (Jean-Louis Provencher  / ©Parks Canada / Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park)

The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is one of only four marine conservation areas in Canada. Because of its special location so close to the Atlantic Ocean, and with its mix of freshwater and saltwater, the marine park is a favourite spot for all sorts of animals. There are over 300 different species that live there or regularly migrate through the park. Among the most important are two endangered species: blue whales and St. Lawrence beluga whales.

Belugas and Blues

beluga whales pop up from the water off the shore of park

As beluga whales are endangered, it is best to see them from the shore at whale spotting locations. (Jean Louis Provencher  / ©Parks Canada / Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park)

The beluga whale is known for its white colour, small size and rounded head. The beluga whales that live in the St. Lawrence River year-round are also very rare. There are less than 900 of these whales left. Like the blue whale, which also visits Saguenay, belugas are considered endangered. Lots of people are trying to help these whales continue and increase their numbers. Because of that there are rules about staying away from endangered whales. There are special whale-spotting areas along the shore in the park where you can try to spot a blue whale from a safe distance.
 

a bunch of people standing on the rocky shore to spot whales

The coastline is a great and safe space to maybe catch a sighting of endangered beluga or blue whales. This is a very popular activity in the park. (Marie Isabelle Rochon Duran  / ©Parks Canada / Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park)

If you're lucky, you might spot a blue whale from the shore, but it's not easy. They're the biggest animals in the world but, just like the beluga whale, they're considered endangered so it's best to view them from a distance and not disrupt their habitat. They can be as long as 30 metres — that’s as long as two school buses! The blue whales that visit Saguenay stay through the summer and autumn before swimming south for the winter.

Other aquatic animals

a fuzzy grey seal sitting on the shore

A grey seal resting on the shore. (Jean-Louis Provencher  / ©Parks Canada / Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park)

While you may not see the rarest of whales on your visit, you can still look for other aquatic visitors. Keep an eye out for minke (say "ming-key") whales, fin whales and humpbacks. Sometimes sperm whales, killer whales and pilot whales have been spotted in the park’s waters, enjoying fish and krill (tiny shrimp-like creatures). You might also see porpoises, three different species of seals and an amazing amount of sea birds.

Other things to see and do

a boy and a girl checking out exhibits at the visitor centre

Kids learning at the visitor centre. (Eric Lajeunesse  / ©Parks Canada / Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park)

There’s lots to do on the waters of the two rivers, including kayaking, sailing, snorkeling and even diving. On land, there are visitor centres where you can learn more about the park, the surrounding region and its history. All the better to help you appreciate Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park as one of the most unique places on earth!
 

an Atlantic wolffish

The Atlantic wolffish is also a species at risk in the St. Lawrence. (Louis Falardeau  / ©Parks Canada / Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park)