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Cap Tourmente: An Exceptional Bird-Watching and Outdoor Activity Site


Snow Geese Watching in Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Reserve

Snow Geese Watching in Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Reserve

Photo © Robert Lafond.

In a Nutshell

Cap Tourmente is a National Wildlife Area located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, just 50 km outside of Quebec City. It’s a popular outdoor activity site open to visitors 12 months a year, but it is most popular in the spring and fall when it becomes a temporary home for tens of thousands of Snow Geese during their migration. Budding ornithologists and bird lovers come to observe and photograph the birds while they feed in the protected wetlands for a few weeks before continuing their route north or south.

But there is more to see than birds in Cap Tourmente: the site also features over 20 km (12.4 mi) of hiking trails and many rewarding panoramic viewpoints that allow visitors to enjoy the impressive scenery: the St. Lawrence River, Mont Ste-Anne, Île d’Orléans, Grosse Isle, and Isle-aux-Grues are just some of the sights that can be admired from Cap Tourmente.

About Cap Tourmente

Cap Tourmente is a recognized bird, fauna, and flora paradise. The Canadian Wildlife Services acquired the area in 1969, and it was later declared a National Wildlife Area in 1978 to protect American Bulrush marshes, the main habitat of the Greater Snow Goose during migratory periods. In 1981, Cap Tourmente was the first site in Canada to obtain the RAMSAR site status (the RAMSAR convention designates wetlands of international importance.)

Over 300 bird species have been identified in Cap Tourmente. The rich avian population is largely due to the area’s unique location, right at the junction of the St. Lawrence Lowlands, the Canadian Shield, and the Appalachians. Of course, the most popular bird species to be observed in Cap Tourmente is the Snow Goose, but ducks, passerines, and even raptors stop by the area during migration periods. The bird population changes from season to season, as some species prefer to live in the area in the spring during the nesting period, while others spend their winters there.

The fauna population is also extremely rich with more than 30 species of mammals as well as many amphibians, reptiles, and even fish that call the National Wildlife Area home. The flora, too, features impressive diversity: 22 types of forest stands and over 700 plant species thrive in the area, and the vegetation changes with each season. Fall is an especially spectacular time to visit, as the forest switches from greens to a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and yellows in October.

Cap Tourmente is also a historical location: the founder of Quebec City, Samuel de Champlain, named it in 1608 (“Storm Cape”) because he noticed that waves build on that particular section of the St. Lawrence River “whenever there is the slightest wind in the area.” Cap Tourmente is also in the heart of the Côte-de-Beaupré region, which is considered the birthplace of Nouvelle France (New France).

Things to Do

  • Interpretation Center: Presents an exhibition and multimedia projections about the history and the flora and fauna particular to the site. It is also the starting point of most of the hiking trails and the place where visitors can meet with guides and join in themed or self-guided tours.

  • Interpretive Activities: Professional naturalists offer themed tours from mid-April to late October.

  • Self-Guided Tours: Many options, including GPS-guided tours, provide learning fun for bird, animal, and plant lovers alike as well as excellent educational opportunities for children.

  • Hiking Trails: The area features 20 km of hiking trails. There’s a quick, accessible-for-everyone half-kilometer loop close to the interpretation center, but there are also more challenging paths leading to the top of the cape offering rewarding views of the St. Lawrence River and the surrounding area. Rest areas are located along the trails, and there is a heated shelter available during winter.

About the Site

  • Address (see map):
    Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area
    570 chemin du Cap-Tourmente
    Saint-Joachim, Québec  G0A 3X0
  • Official Website: Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area

  • Phone Number: (418) 827-3776

  • Email Address: cap.tourmente@ec.gc.ca

  • Hours of Operations:
    • Early May to late October: Open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    • Early January to mid-March: Weekends and during spring break from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Location: Easily accessible by car in 45 minutes from downtown Quebec City. Follow Route 138 toward Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. At Beaupré, follow the posted signs for the national wildlife area.

  • Parking: Abundant outdoor parking is available, and it is free of charge.

  • Admission Rates (including taxes):
    Note: Group rates are available.
    • Adults: CAD$ 6.00
    • Students: CAD$ 5.00
    • Children under 12 accompanied by an adult: Free
  • Picnic areas on site.
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