ArcTrain Summer School – Day 5: Dam It… Let’s go North!

Group photo at the Daniel Jonson Dam (Manic-5). Credit: Damien Ringeisen

This day we drove from Baie-Comeau to the Uapishka station, following the Manicouagan River upstream, straight towards the north. This river flows from the Reservoir Manicouagan towards Baie-Comeau, on a distance of 221 km, and is the 3rd most important tributary of the St. Lawrence. Four dams were built on the river, the biggest being Manic-5 (there is no Manic-4) which is located 214 km north of Baie-Comeau.

Views over Manicouagan Lake. Credit: Qentin Duboc

In total, the road was 336 km but the ride took 5h30, as it is not strait at all and made us feeling like in a roller-coaster! Some of us were even a bit sick, reminding some feelings we had on scientific cruises… Despite that, the ride was beautiful, as the lands are not flat at all and full of lakes and rivers. We crossed many trucks, most of them carrying logs downstream, as forestry is, with mining, the main industry in this region. At the beginning, we saw the dam Manic-2, then did a stop after 100 km to get a last coffee for a while, and arrived at Manic 5 for lunch. There, the impressive Daniel-Johnson dam, with its height of 214 meters, is the highest multiple-arch-and-buttress dam in the world. Its crest is 1314 meters long, and it contains 2.000.000 m3 of concrete (enough to make a sidewalk from the North to the South Pole!). This hydroelectric infrastructure also includes two powerplants: Manic-5 and Manic-5-PA that generate a total power of 2.660 MW. And so, we followed not only the river, but also electric lines carrying electricity from the powerplants downstream.

Life on the Road does strange things to you. Credit Quentin Duboc

After the dam, we had a 100 km of gravel-road, crossing dust-clouds behind the trucks and roadworks preparing a better pavement. Once the dust clouds settled, we could enjoy the grand views over Manicouagan Lake. We even spotted a porcupine and a Bald Eagle!

Finally, in the evening, we arrived at Station Uapishka, which is part of the Manicouagan Uapishka Biosphere Reserve Center, and comanaged by them and the Innu communities. The recently finished station serves as a basecamp for scientists and offers ecotourism activities such as hiking in the Mont Groulx or experiences onboard the traditional native canoe called “rabaska”. When we arrived, we were surprised by the comfort it offers to the visitors in the completely new wooden building, with separated bedrooms, prepared meals and a fast Wi-Fi. All these amenities are in contrast to the wild and remote landscape that captured us right away. First order of business after arriving was a short walk down to the Manicouagan Lake to soak in the views of a phenomenal sunset. What a great way to end a long day of traveling on the road!

Written by Jens Weiser and Quentin Duboc

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