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.
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).
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.