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Far to the north in Quebec's vast evergreen forests, Pipmuacan Reservoir performs unseen yet vital service to the customers of Hydro-Quebec. About 90% of the province's electrical power is generated by hydroelectric, necessitating a way to store and control the large amount of water rushing from the higher lands in the interior toward the St. Lawrence River. When the task can be accomplished without destroying natural habitat or scenic beauty, and when recreational opportunities can be increased at the same time, the project can be considered an unqualified success. Such a success is Pipmuacan Reservoir.
Pipmuacan Reservoir covers over 241,000 acres. About 198,400 of those acres are water; the remaining acres are islands and rugged outcroppings that support a variety of native animals and birds. Created from former Lake Pipmuacan and Lac Casse, the deep basins and rocky shoals shelter a wealth of fish that are favorites among sport fishermen. Several outfitters arrange fishing trips to the reservoir for visitors from around the world. The deep holes support lake trout and lake whitefish, while the many incoming streams provide the perfect spawning ground for brook trout and speckled trout-all cold-water fishery favorites of anglers. The shallower and warmer coves and ledges hold a spectacular population of northern pike. It is a rare visitor who leaves without a picture of a trophy string of these beauties, although many are cooked and eaten for a delicious shore lunch. Visitors are encouraged to practice good conservation techniques; catch, admire and release is the process followed for much of the catch.
Access to Pipmuacan Reservoir is a bit easier than reaching many of Quebec's more remote fishing locations. The reservoir can be reached by gravel road, although it is quite a distance from the nearest town of any size. Montreal is 435 miles from the reservoir, but Chicoutimi is only 80 miles to the south on the Saguenay River. Several outfitters solve the logistics problem by flying in their guests by sea plane, either to Pipmuacan Reservoir or another nearby lake. They maintain small lodge facilities along the shore and leave their guests everything needed to enjoy their stay, including fishing guides. Outfitters can assist guests in obtaining the proper fishing license and carrying a supply of tackle to replace any lost to the chase. Facilities are usually spartan but comfortable, with cooking facilities, running water and generator power. One outfitter advertises directly to European visitors and business guests with short-week schedules.
Currently, only one full-time lodge operates directly from the shoreline of Pipmuacan Reservoir. Operated by the Innu First Nations band, the lodge is more of an all-around northwoods nature experience than luxury resort. Besides fishing trips, the lodge also arranges hunts targeting bear, moose, ruffed grouse, ptarmigan and ducks. An all-season lodge, the facility also accommodates hiking, nature observation, ATV riding, mountain biking, snowmobile treks, kayaking and canoeing. A supervised swim beach is provided, and forest survival and native culture are taught. Ice fishing vacations are popular, with the lodge providing everything, including fishing tackle. The lodge has only been in existence for a few short years but has already developed a reputation for good food, cleanliness and glowing reports on all provincial inspection standards. It is hoped that the lodge will be able to grow and expand their services at the reservoir. Long the native lands of the Innu, the name Pipmuacan is actually derived from the Innu word for 'arrow' and commemorates a historic battle with the Iroquois on Mount Pipmuacan which overlooked the original lake.
Pipmuacan Reservoir lies on the border of two well-known Quebec tourism regions: Cote-Nord and Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean. The Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean area is popular with those who wish to experience nature reserves and river culture. The Saguenay Fjord National Park downriver from Lac Saint-Jean holds spectacular scenery, camping facilities, plenty of hiking and biking trails and winter sports venues. Cruises on Saguenay Fjord are available departing La Baie and showcase the towering cliffs and unique ecology of the fjord. Other cruises are available from the mouth of the fjord on the St Lawrence, where excursions can be arranged for whale watching and tours using underwater video of native flora and fauna. All of the activities can be found in the area between Lac Saint-Jean and the St. Lawrence River.
Those with an appreciation for geology or engineering will appreciate the unique surroundings at Pipmuacan Reservoir. The feat accomplished in creating the massive reservoir required three years and untold hours. Two dams were built to contain Lake Pipmuacan and Lac Casse, collecting the flow of many rivers including the Pipmuacan, Sylvestre, Hirondelles and Betsiamites rivers. Then a spillway was blasted through another mountain and a tunnel to carry the water drilled through tons of rock to carry the water for power generation to the Bersimis underground power facility 7.5 miles away. Since completion in 1956, Hydro-Quebec has partially diverted the flow of Portneuf River into the reservoir to provide more water for power generation and is considering diverting the partial flow of other rivers into the reservoir in the future. The successful project is possible due to the sparse population of the region and the unsuitability of the land for farming. Modern environmental and conservation knowledge assures that the area can be maintained in as pristine a condition as possible while still providing the clean hydro-power needed by Quebec's growing population. Hydro-Quebec also sells power to eastern North American markets, providing some of the United State's renewable energy.
So, if you're looking for a unique, adventure-filled vacation, visit Pipmuacan Reservoir the next time you plan a fishing trip. Even if your tastes run more to nature observation, paddling or hunting, you'll find everything you could wish for offered by the services centered around the massive lake. The lodge will provide high adventure to a family with children, and even teens may acquire a new passion for nature and their world.
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