The Jardin des Glaciers is all about the last ice age, climate change, and the migration of the first inhabitants of North America.
Located along the St. Lawrence River in beautifully woodsy Baie-Comeau, Quebec, Canada, the Jardin des Glaciers is a vacation destination where a family can spend a few hours or several days learning and exploring the fascinating world of glaciers.
Most people know that French is the first language of the province of Quebec. Since this article is written in English, the Jardin des Glaciers, appears here as The Garden of the Glaciers or simply The Garden.
Although the signs in Quebec are mostly in French, it is important to note the majority of the people you encounter in this province will speak fluent English with a delightful French accent. C’est si bon.
A little earth history
20,000 years ago, much of North America was covered by an ice sheet that was over seven times as deep as the Empire State Building is high. That is about two miles of vertical ice. If that does not impress you, just wait until you hear your Garden guide explain what happened next!
Your journey begins in the Multimedia Zone
Your adventure at The Garden begins in a church building that has been converted into a massive earth science and anthropology lab called the Glacier Exploration Station.
The Multimedia Zone program inside the Exploration Station is an I-Max type extravaganza – skillfully augmented with extra-sensory sounds, feelings, images, and lights.
Starting with a multimedia experience entitled 20,000 Years under the Ice, your virtual expedition elevator takes you down 2 miles into the heart of the glacier to explore the effects of thousands of years of climate change.
Condensing eons into minutes, the glacier sheet disappears before your eyes. As the ice recedes, you walk with the first people to enter North America across the frozen straits from Asia. Intriguing stuff, very cleverly executed.
During your walk around the Exploration Station, spend some time in the Cyber Center and its Research Room and play on the Center’s ten interactive workstations. They will help you expand your newly acquired knowledge of the glaciers and climate change.
Follow your guide through the remarkable Alcove Hallway of frescos and murals and listen to the exciting stories that are sure to add to the fun of what you have already learned.
Out you go
When you finally exit the Glacier Exploration Station, you are ready for three post-glacier guided tours in the great outdoors of green Baie-Comeau, Quebec.
The Nature Zone
There are three 2 to 3-hour tours in the informative and interesting Nature Zone.
The Seashell Valley
The Seashell Valley is many miles from the ocean; nevertheless, the eye beholds an enormous hill of seashells piled one atop the other and reaching 150 feet high – right in the middle of a dense forest.
This unusual marvel was created by a post-glacial sea that existed some 10,000 years ago. The receding water gathered shell specimens of a particular weight and size and moved them into an obstructed area that took the shells out of the normal erosion pattern, thereby creating a “mountain” of isolated shells as the sea receded to its current level.
Visitors walk along the steep hillside and scoop up hundreds of seashell specimens in their bare hands – fascinated by the knowledge that what they hold lived over 10 millenniums ago.
Peoples of the Ice Age
This interesting electric shuttle bus tour takes you deep into the local woods to get first-hand experience about how the early people of North America lived and worked.
18,000 years ago, our ancestors migrated from Asia across the Bering Ice Strait in search of food. The Gardens has skillfully reconstructed four thematic camps containing lodges and tools from the period. This tour is an excellent way to get an appreciation for the difficult lifestyle of the ancients.
Traces of the Glaciers
You do not want to miss this motorboat tour on the St. Lawrence River. Your guide will point out spectacular glacial grooves carved in the rock cliffs along the river’s shore. You will see gigantic furrows scored by the extreme pressure of the slow moving Laurentide Ice Sheet – the world’s largest glacier.
You may get a glimpse of seals and other sea mammals that now live in the waters of the St. Lawrence. They are the descendents of those that crossed the arctic Goldthwait Sea over 12,000 years ago.
The Adrenalin Zone
Yes, the Garden of the Glaciers has plenty to keep the outdoor thrill seeker excited. A via ferrata (road with iron) winds along the St. Lawrence just 10 feet from the sea. Supported by metal cable lifelines the views from this activity are breathtaking.
You can also try one of the 8 maritime Zip lines or perhaps you would enjoy the excitement of rappelling, or hiking over 20 miles of scenic trails. You can scramble up a climbing wall, or paddle enthusiastically in a sea kayak. We think you get the picture.
If you go
Baie-Comeau and the Garden of Glaciers are located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River about 425 miles northeast of Montreal. For more information about The Garden of Glaciers, visit their website at http://www.jardindesglaciers.ca/homepage-1.html
There are several hotels in the area. We stayed at the Hotel Le Manoir. The accommodations were quite comfortable and the food was excellent.