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The Manicouagan region borders the St. Lawrence for some 300km, extends north into the Laurentian plateau to include the Monts Groulx and the Réservoir Manicouagan, and is joined to the Duplessis region, forming what is called the "Côte Nord." Covered by thick Boreal forest, Manicouagan also has an extensive river system that powers the eight generating stations of the Manic-Outardes hydroelectric complex.
In 1600, eight years before Québec City was founded, Tadoussac was established as a trading post; it was chosen for its strategic location at the mouth of the Saguenay river. Tadoussac was the first permanent non-Aboriginal settlement north of Mexico. In 1615, the Récollet religious order established a mission here, which operated until the mid-19th century. The town's tourism trade received a boost in 1864 when the original Tadoussac Hotel was built to better accommodate the growing number of visitors coming to the area to enjoy the sea air and breathtaking landscapes. Although the town is old (by North American standards), it has a look of impermanence, as if a strong wind could sweep the entire town away.
The Parc Marin du Saguenay-Saint-Laurent (182 Rue de l'Eglise, Tadoussac, 235-4703 or 800-463-6769) features the Fjord du Saguenay, the southern-most fjord in the world, and was created to protect the area's exceptional aquatic wildlife. The fjord was carved out by glaciers; it is 276m deep near Cap Éternité, and just 10m deep at the mouth. The distinctive geography in the fjord, created by glacial deposits, includes a basin where fauna and flora, indigenous to the Arctic, can be found. The top 20m of water in the Saguenay is fresh and its temperature varies between 15oC and 18oC, whereas the deeper water is saline and maintains a temperature of approximately 1.5oC. This environment, a remainder of the ancient Goldthwait Sea, supports wildlife such as the arctic shark and the beluga, creatures usually seen farther north. A number of whale species frequent the region to feed on the marine organisms that proliferate here due to the constant oxygenation in the water. One of these, the blue whale, reaches lengths of 30m and is the largest mammal in the world. Seals and occasionally dolphins can be seen in the park, as well. Today, visitors can venture out on the river to observe the whales at close range. However, strict rules have been implemented to protect the animals from being mistreated, and boats must maintain a certain distance.
Duplessis is a vast and remote region bound to the south for almost 1,000km by the Gulf of St. Lawrence and to the north by the Labrador border. Its small population of Francophones, Anglophones and Montagnais is concentrated along the St. Lawrence coast and in a few inland mining towns. The region is far from any large urban centres, and its economy has always been based on natural resources. Aboriginals have lived in the region for thousands of years. In the 16th century, Basque and Breton fishermen and whalers set up seasonal posts in the region. Today, the important economic activities are fishing, forestry, and iron and titanium mining. Additional jobs are provided by a large aluminum smelter, which was built in Sept-Îles to take advantage of the availability of hydro-electricity.
A series of islands and islets stretching over a 95km long area, the Mingan Archipelago
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