The Guardian of the Rivière Saint-Maurice
Some 10,000 years ago, the glaciers covering Québec retreated, leaving behind mountainous areas and thousands of lakes and rivers. The bed of the Rivière Saint-Maurice was shaped by two successive thrusts of enormous ice masses along its 381-kilometre course, creating a multitude of waterfalls and rapids over a 400-metre drop in elevation. The river was considered untameable up until the end of the 19th century, when it caught the interest of a company producing a new and increasingly sought-after form of energy: electricity. In the early 20th century, the Shawinigan Water and Power Company, nicknamed the architect of the Saint-Maurice, built Québec’s first hydroelectric complex, with Gouin reservoir at its head.
A spirited river
The Rivière Saint-Maurice meanders through the Mauricie region over 381 kilometres, and its flow varies substantially from one season to the next. It originates in the ocean watersheds of Hudson Bay and the Atlantic, upstream of Gouin dam, known as the river’s guardian.
In September 1916, the construction of Gouin dam began. It was an enormous challenge at the time, comparable to the construction undertaken on the Manicouagan and in Baie-James decades later.
A territory to be shared
The Rivière Saint-Maurice was originally a travel route for Indigenous peoples and explorers, and was later used to transport logs. In the early 20th century, the river became a source of energy. Since the 2000s, it has become an increasingly popular site for tourism activities.