The Matapédia River valley can justly claim the prize as the Kingdom of the Atlantic salmon. Many other rivers have staked a claim to the title, but the Matapedia has been synonymous with sport-fishing since the 1850s when the river became the playground of the wealthy and their fishing parties.
For much of its history, the river was the private paradise of a select few. Coddled in their luxurious camps, their exploits on the river were shared around the world. But beware the traveller who tried to fish a pool that was marked ‘private’. Giving access to this and other salmon rivers was a debate that raged for decades before action was finally taken in the 1970s. The move to replace private clubs with public access was achieved through the creation of zones of controlled access (ZEC). The move to nationalize private clubs was controversial at the time but has since come to be seen as a model for local collective management of a precious resource.
Lucky drivers are sometimes offered the chance of seeing an angler in the fast current in the poetic movement of rod and line trying to hook a salmon. Today’s anglers are united by their love of the sport and their interest in preserving this precious resource.
The Gaspé tour often ends or begins with the Matapédia. Whether the starting or the end point, it provides a verdant backdrop that contrasts with the coastal road that hugs the St. Lawrence. Where the highway follows the banks of the river, the twisting and turning road opens onto breathtaking views of the steep hills and fast-flowing water. The vistas are many and punctuated with lookouts and rest stops to allow visitors to enjoy them on their trip through the valley.