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From One World to Another

When your life as a river ends
and your life as the great river starts
may you stand firm like a mast
paying tribute to all
the possibilities
that lie ahead

Madeleine Sauriol

[Loose translation]

Aerial view of the confluence of the Saint-Maurice and St. Lawrence rivers. At this precise location, two islands separate the Saint-Maurice into three branches.

The Myth of the Three Rivers

After travelling 563 km, the waters of the Saint-Maurice merge with those of the St. Lawrence, from where they are carried down to the sea to drift around the world’s oceans. In this adventure, these waters sometimes carry ships that take things from the Mauricie to the four corners of the world.

In the days of New France, these ships’ holds were filled with furs. With pelts from the Haute-Mauricie region making their way to the ports of France, Mauricie entrepreneurs soon grasped Trois-Rivières’s export potential.

Men walking on a quay in front of the huge bow of a docked ship.

Port of Trois-Rivières, 1957

Many years later the sound of steamboats could be heard in Trois-Rivières harbour. Starting in 1809, mooring docks were built to accommodate these vessels. In 1882, the city’s businessmen united to establish the Harbour Commission to modernize the port’s facilities.

In the 20th century, the port handled shiploads of coal, pulp and grain. Its international operations expanded dramatically when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959. Still today, the port is a major player in the region’s economy.

Central to Our Identity

Our journey has shown us to what extent the Saint-Maurice and its watershed have played a key role in the economic development of the Mauricie. The river inspired Indigenous nations to build ties with each other, and later prompted entrepreneurs to invest enthusiastically in developing the fur, lumber, paper, energy and metals industries.

The sunset is reflected on the river water. A snow-covered railing is in the foreground.

Sunset on the Promenade du Saint-Maurice in Shawinigan, 2017

This force of nature was instrumental in the founding of the cities of La Tuque, Grand-Mère and Shawinigan, as well as in the development and economic expansion of Trois-Rivières.

On the banks of the Saint-Maurice, people wrote poems, stories and legends, and captured the beauty of the landscape in pictures. Fishermen, athletes, log drivers and engineers have all tapped into their imaginations to overcome the challenges of this fierce yet spectacular river. A place of anchorage and a place for gathering, the river is both the soul of the region and the driving force of its development.

This trip downriver by canoe from Opitciwan to Trois-Rivières has given us the opportunity to explore key facets of our history that have shaped the Mauricie region’s identity. Throughout our journey, the Saint-Maurice has shown itself to be the true source of our creativity.