Day 36 – July 12 – Sherbrooke, QC to Montmagny, QC

Our destination today was Montmagny which is located on the south side of the St. Lawrence River and further east than Quebec City on the north side. Once again we skipped all the major highways and followed a roadmap route winding through country municipalities and small towns. We drove almost all day through gorgeous farm country – mostly dairy farms. And we went up and down some VERY steep hills – as in 8% -14% grades.

We drove north of Sherbrooke first to the town of Windsor where there was a building still surviving from an old powder mill – as in black powder for explosions and guns. I was hoping there would be information plaques or a brochure available but there was only the empty building. The property is now a popular hiking area and the lady at the desk just collects a fee to use the trails. She let us in for half price because we only wanted to walk down to the bridge that we could see from the mill building.

Look closely at the picture above. You can just make out a smooth water line a tiny bit below the bridge. It is like the edge of an infinity pool, completely straight, no ripples or waves. This is because there is a sloped concrete wall for the water to flow over which creates a smooth waterfall.

Since there was no information about the powder mill available at the site I found this write-up on the Township Heritage Webmagazine: “Three components make up the explosive combination of black powder: saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulphur, and charcoal (carbon). In its heyday, black powder had two primary applications: blasting powder for use in mining operations, and gunpowder for hunting. In 1864, three American entrepreneurs, Thomas Sheldon, Seth Andrews, and Jarvis Marble, decided they would profit from the mining boom that was happening in the Eastern Townships. They established a powder mill in Windsor, on the banks of the Watopeka River, calling it “Sheldon, Andrews, & Company” Over the next half-century, the mill would change hands, and expand in size, several times.

In 1869, with the arrival of a Montreal businessman, George Davies Ferrier, the mill became the “Windsor Powder Company.” It manufactured both blasting powder and gunpowder. In 1873, the mill became the first in Canada to manufacture dynamite, a powerful nitroglycerine-based explosive. Purchased by the “Hamilton Powder Company” in 1877, the facility comprised some forty buildings. Bought in 1911 by “Canadian Explosives Ltd.,” it underwent a number of modifications to both its product line and equipment. By the end of the First World War, the operation had grown to fifty-six buildings, an enormous complex.

In 1922, a violent explosion rocked the facility, killing a number of workers. This was not the first such accident (since opening, twenty workers had lost their lives on the job). It would, however, be the last. The plant closed its doors that same year.”

Looking down river from the bridge

We saw a sign indicating there was a viewpoint a kilometer up the road so we pulled in even though the sky was low and we did not expect to see far. We had been driving through rain since leaving Sherbrooke and even though it had stopped the clouds had not risen much.

Who cares if you can’t see a view. Isn’t this the most awesome viewpoint you have ever seen?

The view of the distant hill was indeed negligible and not worth photographing but it made a cute image between the ears.

An elk farm

Just before the main town of Thetford Mines is a suburb-sort of town called Black Lake. It actually refers to the groundwater that has filled a massive open pit asbestos mine. I managed to snap a photo from the road as we drove by.

The most amazing thing were the mountains of tailings from the many mines. They stretched for a long distance out of the two towns in all directions. This area had the largest high-grade pocket of serpentine ore in the world. (You break the serpentine to extract the chrysotile asbestos fiber.)

We managed to find a viewing platform in Black Lake that overlooked the Black Lake and had good information boards. I have attached photos and text from them in this blog because the story is so amazing.

How horribly heartbreaking for the community to see their beautiflul church turned into rubble!

Because the lake has been created from groundwater, rain, and snow melt there are no impurities as would be the case if there were input and output water access. This makes it look a lovely turquoise when the sun is out. Crater Lake in Oregon is the same and on a sunny day it is a gorgeous sapphire. We were not blessed with a clear sky but there were enough breaks in the clouds to show some of the colour.

We arrived in Montmagny at 4:30. Tomorrow we spend the night in Grand Falls, New Brunswick.

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