About the River
The Cascapedia is one of the world’s most famous salmon fishing rivers. In fact, due to the size of its salmon some fishermen consider it to be one of the ten best salmon fishing rivers in the world. It also has a very unique and interesting history.
In the 1870’s the river became known to the rich and famous as the place to fish for Atlantic salmon. Canada’s Governor Generals and Prime Ministers, United States Presidents, and even England’s Princess Louise fished these waters. The guest list also included business men and company presidents such as George Eastman, founder of the Kodak Company, singers such as Bing Crosby, hockey legend Bobby Orr, and artists including Ogden M. Pleissner. The sportsmen owned the camps along the river and the locals provided the skill and expertise needed to provide the guests with an enjoyable experience. The river provided the opportunity for the local population to stay in the area and raise their families. To this day the tradition continues as approximately 120 people still work on the river.
The river itself begins as two fast flowing streams high up in the Shick Shock Mountains. The river flows downward over a series of falls and through narrow rocky passages, and continues on through the broad valley of Cascapedia-St Jules. It flows over a distance of 139 kilometers (or 87 miles) before emptying into the Chaleur Bay.
Early Fishing on the Cascapedia
Geologist William Logan came to the Gaspe Coast in 1843 and made the first scientific study of the Cascapedia River. The information collected became part of the Geological Survey of Canada. After the accounts of his explorations were reported, word of the bountiful salmon resources spread throughout the angling community.
In 1862 Richard Lewis Dashwood, who wrote the book Chiploquorgan, or Life by the Camp Fire in Dominion of Canada, made a trip to the Cascapedia but found the river disappointing. At that time there were no regulations regarding the salmon. The river was said to have been open to everyone, whether with rod or spear, in season and out, giving the salmon little chance in which to multiply. The government around this time realized that something had to be done and parliament passed a law that outlawed spear fishing (which was considered to be the chief cause for the decline in the salmon). Within a few years the river became the most noted on the continent. George Dawson made a trip to the Cascapedia in 1874. By this time the prohibition against spearing had been in force for eight to ten years. In his book, entitled Angling Talks, 1883 he said that the Cascapedia’s “waters were teeming with the lordly fish, and their capture aforded all the excitement and sport any reasonable angler could desire”.
We know that there were several American anglers on the river as early as 1874, when Chester Arthur who later became president of the United States was said to have caught a 52 pounder (visit our Salmon Hall of Fame to learn more about this amazing catch). He also caught 98 salmon, with an average weight of 24 pounds, in less than a week.
In 1878 the Marquis of Lorne was named as Governor General of Canada. The following year he made a trip first to the Restigouche and then to the Cascapedia. He was an avid angler and thoroughly enjoyed the fishing experience. It was at this time that the government of Quebec decided to give him the rights of the Cascapedia River. The Marquis was married to Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter. There were no camps along the river yet, except the Woodman house, which had been an inn on the river as far back as 1837. During the winter of 1880, the princess had a serious sleigh accident at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. The Marquis of Lorne knew that the Princess would need somewhere comfortable to stay and so he had Lorne cottage built for her. It was the first pre-fabricated building made in Canada. It was built in Quebec City, shipped down the St Lawrence, and then shipped up the Cascapedia, where it still remains today as one of the private camps on the river. This began a trend and soon there were numerous fishing camps being constructed along the river. The Marquis of Lorne considered the Cascapedia to be the best salmon stream in the world. In one letter he wrote that “the river is lovely almost beyond belief, and were it not that the Princess is not feeling strong and that the flies are odious, our happiness would be perfect”. Princess Louise is also known to have said that she said that she preferred the mosquito’s on the Cascapedia to the buffoons in Ottawa.
The river became the domain of the Governor Generals of Canada. Three of them had the rights of the river. Lord Landsdowne was given the rights after the Marquis’ term finished. He built New Derreen camp. Lord Stanley, after whom the Stanley Cup is named, built his camp in New Richmond because his wife found that there were too many flies on the Cascapedia.
To learn more about the amazing history of our river, please come and visit the museum. We offer guests a guided tour, where our knowledgable staff share even more history with you.