History of the Trans-Canada Highway from Riviere du Loup, Quebec and Grand Falls, New Brunswick



Ferry across the St Lawrence River Before he Europeans, this route was important. Territorial boundaries changed constantly during the many wars between the Algonquins and Iroquois (and their French and British allies, respectively) to control trade. The Temiscouata area was occupied mainly by the Etchemin tribe, a member of the Malecite Nation. The Algonkian-speaking nation lived along the Saint John River between the Micmacs and the Abnaki. Unlike their neighbors, the Etchemins practiced agriculture during summer, planting corn and pumpkins along the Saint John. In winter they hunted moose and caribou in the surrounding forests.

This route cuts through the Appalachians (whcih contiue further east into the Gaspe Peninsula), and follows one of the earliest portage routes between the St Lawrence, Lake Temiscouata, and south to the Saint John River. The area was important to Britain's defence of its colonies after the American independence, since it was an important connection between its major fortresses at Halifax and Quebec. Smaller forts were established along this route, but these were abandoned after all border disputes with the US were settled in 1862.

The countryside has mixed forest and farmland. A hundred years ago, the forests were mostly maple, yellow birch, balsam fir, white spruce, white pine, and red pine. The Second Growth forests of today are mostly hardwoods like aspen, birch and maple.

The construction on this route, between Riviere Du Loup and Edmunston, NB went relatively smoothly and roughly follow the rail route between the comunities. This was originally the Intercolonial Railway's Nova Scotia-Lévis line inaugurated in 1876, by railroad engineer SSandford Fleming.

Quebec Route 85/185

Autoroute 85 is under construction extending southward from Rivière-du-Loup (where it connects with Autoroute 20) toward a junction with New Brunswick's Route 2 at the Quebec-NB border. The A-85 is projected to be approximately 100 km (60 mi) long. There was lots of silt in the soils near Riviere-du-Loup which presented additiona engineering challenges.

Lake and boating at Cabano Route 185 connects Autoroute 85 and New Brunswick Route 2, and the southern section of the highway follows the valley of the Madawaska River. Route 185 is mostly a 2-lane highway, with passing lanes. The roadway is being built out to a 4-lane restricted-access freeway, when it will assume the Autoroute 85 designation.

Once this section is completed, the Trans-Canada with be continuous freeway between Arnprior, Ontario, and Sutherlands River, Nova Scotia.

Town sign for St Louis du Ha Ha Currently there are two completed sections of the A-85. The first section runs from Saint-Antonin (km 87) to a junction with the A-20 at Notre-Dame-du-Portage (km 100). Originally signed as Route 185 in 1970 when built, it was designed as A-85 in 2005 following extensive rehabilitation and a second two lane roadway.

The second, newer section was started in 2002 and extends from the New Brunswick border (km 0) to Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! (km 48), and construction continues northward to this day. The Quebec Ministry of Transport has set aside $557 million for this project.

Trans-Canada Trail

Alongside the highway, you will see the Trans-Canada Trail recreational path, on the roadbed of the long-abandoned railway between Riviere-du-Loup and Edmunston. The railway quality grades (nothing greater than 4% slope) makes it perfect for a family outing..

Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac: Fort Ignall

Following the experience of the War of 1812, the British established a series of forts along the Grand-Portage to protect their lines of communication between Quebec and Halifax, including the 1838 Fort Ingall located on the south shore of Lake Temiscouata. The 1842 Ashburton Treaty ended the bloodless Aroostock War and resolved the border between New Brunswick & Maine. A second conflict in 1862 was quickly settled, and the forts fell into disuse and were abandoned. In 1973, archaeologists uncovered the fort and rebuilt the fort.

Cabano

Cabano is the final home of Grey Owl, the famed Indian chief who preached about the environment and conservation in the 1930s, including a meeting with King George V. After his death in 1938, it was disclosed that he was really an Englishman named Archie Belaney. A recent movie Grey Owl about him had Pierce Brosnan (James Bond) in the lead role.

Degelis: The Grand Portage

The Grand Portage was used to link the St Lawrence and Lake Temiscouata (aborginal for "deep lake") as part of a 60 km route used by the area's Firt Nations. The route was used by the French to travel between Quebec City and Port Royal on the Bay of Fundy, as early as 1634. The British widened the trail to 3 metres in 1750, and today the route if followed by both the Trans-Canada Highway and the Trans-Canada Trail. The northern end of the Portage leads to Trois-Pistoles on the St Lawrence, a few dilometres east of Riviere-du-Loup.

The Madawaska River, whose name may mean "marshgrass·at· the·mouth", has its source in Lake Temiscouata and flows into the Saint John River at Edmundston. Opposite Ville Degelis is a place where the river never freezes, even during the worst winter cold spells, hence the picturesque name of this locality (in French, degel means thaw).

Rock Cuts

Just east of Deglis, past east end of the lake, at bend in 185 for Madawaska River. Look closely at the excavated rock cuts along the edge of the highway. You will see crevices in the rock that sometimes reveal a folded structure. These folds are caused by lateral pressures deforming sedimentary rock. Most of the high mountain ranges originated from similar folding, but on a much larger scale. The convex portion of a fold is termed anticlinal, as opposed to the concave or synclinal portion.

New Brusnwick portion

From this point east, the exit numbers again mark the kilometres from the NB-QC border.

The New Brunswick stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway was completely twinned from the Quebec border to the Nova Scotia border in 2014, with the last two-lane 2.8 km stretch of highway at the NB-Quebec.

Saint John River: International Boundary

The Saint John River forms the international boundary for 50 km from Edmunston to Grand Falls. Both sides of the valley have similar agricultural uses.

Other Resources

Riviere Du Loup to Grand Falls, NB itinerary Quebec Highways Map 50 Years of Trans-Canada

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