Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Tour of les Forges

Sunday afternoon we took a drive out to the Forges. It's about 13 kilometers, or roughly 8 miles, from Trois Rivières. Apart from being an interesting national landmark, it's a wonderful place to spend the day:  kite-flying, picnicking or walking the winding trails through the forest along the Saint Maurice River.

Trois-Rivières was founded as a trading post in 1634 in what then came to be known as "New France."  Almost a century later, in 1730,  Les Forges du Saint-Maurice was built, which marked the start of Canada's iron industry.  It also led to the creation of the country's first industrial community.

Hundreds of workers lived and worked here at the blast furnace and two forges, turning out iron for shipyards, cannons and cannon balls for the military, building railways and producing goods for the domestic market, such as iron stoves and axes. The whole thing shut down in 1883, after more than 150 years of operation.  Today it's a popular walking place because of its spacious grounds and wooded hills along the Saint Maurice River.

 The road leading to les Forges is flanked by 
the ever-gracious birch, sentinals of welcome

The Ironmaster's House.  This grande maison has been
 completely rebuilt and is now a Welcoming Center.

Go behind the house and
you can begin a walking tour ...

These steps take you down to a path that winds
 through the forest and eventually comes out at
the Saint Maurice River.

This is what it looks like from the bottom, looking up.
It's always easier going down, than coming back up again!

You quickly become surrounded by trees.   Occasionally,
 you'll find a sign, warning you to be on the lookout for
bears. We found raspberry bushes, ancient trunks of felled
trees, and  squirrels, and birds.   But no bears.  I think the
bears are busy hunkering down for the winter.

A view from a walking path down to the river. It's
 quite steep in some places; you can take a shortcut
straight down, but it is not advised.

If you stop and look straight up, this is what you'll see.
Sunlight filters through the branches, and scatters itself
on the trails below.

The Saint Maurice River.

All that's left of the original ironworkers' settlement.

Blast furnaces, house foundations from centuries ago.

En route to the river.

 At the river's shore

Le fontaine du diable--the "Devil's Fountain"--a pocket
 of ground where natural gas escapes, producing an eternal flame.

Another boardwalk portion of the trail,
leading  into the forest

This would be fun on roller skates


 At the top of the stairs--the Ironmaster's house again

Site of the waterwheel, and small museum

Click here for a large photo of the original worksite, and here to see the forges' waterwheel, as well as to find information about visiting Les Forges should you ever be in the Mauricie region of Québec.

An elderly couple, walking the grounds.
Still holding hands, after all these years.

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