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Outdoor and Leisure Activities

Black and white picture of 4 women cross-country skiing during winter in the forest.

Four women cross-country skiing. Winter sports were not only for men!

Black and white picture of a man in a parka, snowshoes in hand, outside during the winter.

A snowshoer.

With more than 50,000 square kilometres of forest and 22,000 lakes and rivers, the outdoor enthusiasts of Abitibi-Témiscamingue are very fortunate. They are also proportionately more numerous in the practice of their outdoor leisure activities in their region than in the rest of Quebec.

Back in the colonization period, the first inhabitants organized activities allowing them to indulge in nature leisurely: banquets, boat rides, snowshoe and dog sled races, a game of hockey played on the frozen river, etc. The gathering of berries and mushrooms, once an important source of food or commerce, is practiced today as a leisure activity which is gaining popularity.

Black and white picture of a man on a sled pulled by dogs on a commercial street in the city during winter.

Dogsled race in Rouyn-Noranda, around 1940.

Black and white picture of a young girl in the woods with a basket filled with blueberries.

Young girl with her blueberry basket between 1930 and 1940.

In Abitibi-Témiscamingue, it wasn’t until the 60s that we began to concern ourselves with the development of tourism and offer leisure activities in nature other than hunting and fishing. Many recreational sites are developed for this purpose. To be able to organize events and activities of a certain scale, it’s the mass mobilization of volunteers that makes the region stand out for a long time. We think of the “Tour de l’Abitibi” (1969), “La Magie des Neiges” in Amos or “la Traversée du lac Abitibi” (the crossing of lake Abitibi) (1993). There are also the events that no longer exist, like the canoe races in Senneterre (1961),  the sailing regattas in Ville-Marie (1981) or “le Raid des Conquérants” (the Raid of conquerors) (1997).

Coloured picture of a brown and black pair of ice skates, faded leather.

Ice skates from the 20s.

Pulling communities together, these outdoor leisure activities encouraged a feeling of belonging to the region. Today, it’s adventure tourism that takes the lead, with several private entrepreneurs offering excursions by canoe, dog sled, cross-country skiing, mountain biking or on horseback.

Interview with France Lemire

France Lemire is a development consultant for the great outdoors in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. She surveys the territory in order to georeference all the trails and attractions. A modern-day explorer! She talks about her passion and what it means in her day-to-day life.

Click here to view the video with an English transcript.