Hugging the north shore closely we draw in under towering Cap Tourmente, fir-clad, rising nearly two thousand feet above us; a mighty obstacle it has always been to communication by land on this side of the river. Soon comes a great cleft in the mountains, and before us is Baie St. Paul, opening up a wide vista to the interior. We are getting into the Malbaie country for Isle aux Coudres, an island some six miles long, opposite Baie St. Paul, was formerly linked with Malbaie under one missionary priest. The north shore continues high and rugged. After passing Les Eboulements, a picturesque village, far above us on the mountain side, we round Cap aux Oies, in English, unromantically, Goose Cape, and, far in front, lies a great headland, sloping down to the river in bold curves. On this side of the headland we can see nestling in under the cliff what, in the distance, seems only a tiny quay. It is the wharf of Malbaie. The open water beyond it, stretching across to Cap a l’Aigle, marks the mouth of the bay. The great river, now twelve miles broad, with a surging tide, rising sometimes eighteen or twenty feet, has the strength and majesty almost of Old Ocean himself.
As we land we see nothing striking. There is just a long wharf with some cottages clustered at the foot of the cliff. But when we have ascended the short stretch of winding road that leads over the barrier of cliff we discover the real beauties of Malbaie. Before us lies the bay’s semi-circle—perhaps five miles in extent; stretching far inland is a broad valley, with sides sloping up to rounded fir-clad mountain tops. It is the break in the mountains and the views up the valley that give the place its peculiar beauty. When the tide is out the bay itself is only a great stretch of brown sand, with many scattered boulders, and gleaming silver pools of water. Looking down upon it, one sees a small river winding across the waste of sand and rocks. It has risen in the far upland three thousand feet above this level and has made an arduous downward way, now by narrow gorges, more rarely across open spaces, where it crawls lazily in the summer sunlight:—les eaux mortes, the French Canadians call such stretches. It bursts at length through the last barrier of mountains, a stream forty or fifty yards wide, and flows noisily, for some ten miles, in successive rapids, down this valley, here at last to mingle its brown waters with the ice-cold, steel-tinted, St. Lawrence.