The Cascapedia River Museum is a vital part of the little community of Cascapedia-St. Jules, on the Gaspé Coast of Quebec. It represents the life surrounding the Cascapedia River and is a reflection of the pride that not only belongs to the world-famous river, but also to the people who worked and lived beside it all their lives. Cascapedia-St. Jules is a multi-cultural community with origins stemming from the Irish, Scottish, Loyalist, Acadian and Native descent of its residents.
The Cascapedia River is one of the most famous salmon fishing rivers in the world. Its history tells the story of a river, the community that surrounded it and the rich and famous of the world who came to enjoy the sport of salmon fishing. For over 160 years, the river has been an important part of life in the community. In the 1870s, it became known to the rich and famous as the place to fish for Atlantic salmon.
Canada’s governors general and prime ministers, presidents of the United States, and England’s Princess Louise all fished in the Cascapedia. The guest list also included businessmen and company presidents, such as George Eastman, founder of the Kodak Company; singers, such as Bing Crosby; hockey legend Bobby Orr; and artists, including Ogden M. Pleissner.
The sportsmen owned the camps along the river, and the locals furnished the skill and expertise needed to provide the guests with an enjoyable experience. The river provided the local population with a means to earn their livelihood and raise their families. To this day this tradition continues, with about 125 people employed on the river.
The story of the Cascapedia is one of tradition and history. The need to preserve this heritage resulted in the creation of a community museum. The Cascapedia River Museum was an idea that came about to preserve the local artefacts that were part of the culture of salmon fishing. The communities surrounding the river have always been proud of their heritage and wanted to convey this pride to their children and future fishermen. They wanted to preserve and guarantee that their way of life would be remembered and passed on to future generations.
It took the encouragement and commitment of many people to renovate a heritage building and turn it into what is now known as the Cascapedia River Museum. Through the initiative and support of local residents, government agencies and the salmon fishing communities, the building of a fishing museum began.
The Campbell Brothers' Store, already a historic building, had been a well known gathering place in the community for decades. It had recently been purchased as the head office of the Cascapedia Society, which manages salmon fishing on the Cascapedia for the Quebec government. The director of the society, Marc Gauthier, worked with a local citizens' group to build a cultural site that would represent their heritage. The artefacts were available, and the support of the community was the driving force to succeed.
The majority of the artefacts on display in the permanent exhibition of the museum were collected from local citizens before the museum was officially opened. The original collection contained rods and reels, books, photographs and many other artefacts relating to the early way of life on the Cascapedia.
A board of directors was formed and established the museum’s mandate: to collect, preserve, educate and nurture the understanding and appreciation of Cascapedia cultural and historical heritage. Their goal was to establish this museum as a tribute to their community and to the anglers who share the Atlantic salmon experience on this world-famous river.
At its official opening on July 4, 2000, the community had reason to be proud, for their museum not only represented the heritage of their river, but also the interests of a worldwide angling community.
The Cascapedia River Museum had been entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of this cultural treasure and the municipality of Cascapedia-St. Jules achieved a dream.
During its first season of operation, over 2,000 people visited the museum, 1,000 of them leaving very positive comments in the museum guestbook. From this excellent feedback, the board of directors realized that they had a quality product with the potential to attract tourists.
Since the museum officially opened, it has successfully undertaken many objectives to develop and grow as a cultural site. It has attracted much attention and has earned a place in the prestigious world of Atlantic salmon fishing. A major expansion took place in 2004/2005, and today the museum has a permanent exhibition, a temporary exhibition, a documentation centre, the Lady Amherst Tea Room, a fishing simulator, and a gift shop. It also has an Atlantic Salmon Interpretation Centre which offers an educational program and interpretative tours. The museum has the facilities to become a major player in salmon conservation and education and it is now working towards becoming the Canadian Atlantic Salmon Fly Fishing Museum.
The Cascapedia River flows quietly through the valley and mountains of the community of Cascapedia-St.Jules. If it could talk, it would tell a thousand tales about the lives of the people who came to experience salmon fishing on its waters, and about those that lived along its banks. It would recount the local folklore about the men that lost their lives during the log drives, or the farmers that had to start again after the river flooded their fields. It would tell of the largest salmon taken from its waters, or about a princess who painted its natural beauty. It would tell of the rich and famous who escaped their busy lives to find a sense of peace and balance in the hidden forests of the Cascapedia Valley. It would remind us of the anglers who made their yearly trips to the river to replenish their supply of fishing stories for another year.
The Grand Cascapedia shares a heritage with many people who have influenced its direction and management -- people like Princess Louise, the governors general of Canada, and various families that have worked to preserve the river. Today, authors Hoagy B. Carmichael (The Grand Cascapedia - A History) and Ron Swanson (The Cascapedia Giants) and artist Peter Corbin all pay tribute to the heritage of this river.
These people, and others like them, will continue to make their way to the river each year in the hope of not only catching a big one, but of sharing a unique experience on one of the truly great salmon fishing rivers of the world. Their love and concern for the Cascapedia will enable future generations of anglers to continue to enjoy the privilege of casting their lines over the waters of this beautiful river.