Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean can be divided into two regions: Saguenay as the city itself (formerly Chicoutimi-Jonquière) or the city and river, Lac-Saint-Jean as the group of communities to the west around the lake of that same name. To the northwest is Chibougamau-Chapais, a northern mining area usually treated as its own region.
Chibougamau, in turn, serves as a gateway to sparsely-populated (and sometimes inaccessible) northern Québec; a gravel road continues to James Bay, beyond which further travel is left to ships (seasonally) or bush planes (general aviation).
The main population centres in the Saguenay region (Chicoutimi-Jonquière, La Baie, Arvida, Bagotville) were merged at various points, with the last merger leaving a single municipality (in 2002) named "Saguenay", the name of the river. Downriver of Chicoutimi-Jonquière, the river shores become a fjord and there are no settlements, services, fuel or cellular/mobile communications for many miles.
Towns (there are no major cities) in the Lac-Saint-Jean region include:
- Alma (Quebec) - largest town in the region, point of entry from the Saguenay valley
- Chambord (Quebec)
- Dolbeau-Mistassini - home of the annual Blueberry Festival and a confectionery operated by Trappist monks
- Roberval - the closest modern settlement to Val-Jalbert, a preserved 1920s tourist ghost town
- St-Félicien - zoo and nature preserve
St-Honoré-de-Chicoutimi, a small town north of Saguenay, has the largest Niobium (Nb) mine in North America.
The main economic forces in the region are the forest, paper, aluminium, tourism and hydro-electricity.
French is the primary language of instruction for university (université) and community college (collège, cégep) programmes in the region. There is an established immersion programme in Jonquière to teach French as a second language.
- Cégep d'Alma - http://www.calma.qc.ca [dead link]
- Cégep de Chicoutimi - http://www.cchic.ca
- Cégep de Jonquière - http://www.cegepjonquiere.ca and http://www.langues-jonquiere.ca
- Cégep de St-Félicien - http://www.cegepstfe.ca
- Université du Québec à Chicoutimi - http://www.uqac.ca
Many people in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean speak only French; it is the region with the smallest proportion English speakers in Quebec. It is also important to note they speak French with an accent that might sound strange, even for other people from Québec. If you speak only English, you might encounter problems as you visit this area. Otherwise, most of this is true: Quebec#Talk
It's well known around Québec that people from the area use expressions you might not have heard before. Here is a few of them (in French, naturally.)
- Cotteur - Possibly a simplification of the French word "accotement", equivalent in English to "curb", a concrete demarcation between asphalted and non-asphalted land.
- Faire simple - Being silly. Arrête de faire simple de-même, Stop being silly.
- Froque - Jacket.
- Plaisant - Fun, nice. C'est bien plaisant, It's really nice. (* In Metropolitan French, plaisanter means to joke)
- À cause used instead of pourquoi - Why. À cause tu parles de-même?, Why do you talk like this?
- Durex- Scotchtape
- Robeur- From the English "rubber," but meaning tyres. M'a faire poser mes robeurs d'hiver bientot
- Panel- Designates a mini van, or van in general. Viens-tu dans mon panel?
- Colon- Having no style
- Top- Cigarettes. Faut que j'm'achète un paquet de tops
You're most likely to arrive to Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean by land. If you're coming from Quebec City, you will cross the Parc des Laurentides on provincial road 175. This road is about 200 km long between Québec City and Chicoutimi and there is but one gas station (known as l'Étape) in the middle so plan ahead. It is also a great paronamic view of the deep Quebec Forest. If you come from Chibougamau-Chapais or Abitibi-Témiscamingue, you will arrive by road.
There are also a few airports in the area. None of them are international airports, but if you're coming from somewhere else in Canada, you might arrive at one of them. The main one is Bagotville in Ville de La Baie (now part of Ville Saguenay). There is also one in St-Honoré-de-Chicoutimi.
A car will be required to drive around the area. Some cities in the area have bus systems, but most of them don't.
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean has a big territory so be ready to drive long distances.
- Les Saguenéens de Chicoutimi - The local hockey team on the Ligue de Hockey Junior-Majeur du Québec. They play at Centre George-Vézina. - http://www.sagueneens.com/
Here are a few things you might want to do.
Places To Visit
- Jardin Zoologique de St-Félicien, St-Félicien - http://www.zoosauvage.qc.ca/ [dead link]
- Parc Aventures Cap Jaseux, St-Fulgence - http://www.capjaseux.com/
- Parc national du Saguenay - http://www.sepaq.com/Fr/index.cfm?reseau=PQ&etablissement=SAG&page=BIEN
- Vieille Pulperie, Chicoutimi
- Village historique de Val-Jalbert, Chambord - http://www.valjalbert.com
- Fabuleuse Histoire d'un Royaume, La Baie - http://www.grandsspectacles.com
- Festival du bleuet, Dolbeau-Mistassini - http://www.festivaldubleuet.com
- Symposium des couleurs, L'Anse-St-Jean - http://www.cybernaute.com/symposium/ [dead link]
- Traversée du Lac-Saint-Jean, Roberval - http://www.traversee.qc.ca
Things To Do
- Beach - Lac-Saint-Jean offers many beautiful beaches.
- Camping - There are many beautiful camping sites located directly on the Lac-Saint-Jean.
- Fishing - There are many lakes in the region and fishing is allowed on most of them during the appropriate season. Make sure you get the proper license and equipment.
- Fishing on ice - During winter, you can fish on ice on the Saguenay river. The main site is at St-Fulgence.
- Hunting - There are many ZEC (Zone d'Exploitation Contrôlée or, in English, Controlled Exploitation Area) on which hunting is allowed if you get the proper licenses.
- Skiing - There are many ski hills in the Saguenay region. Look for Le Valinouet, Mont Édouard, Mont Lac-Vert, Mont Fortin, Mont Bélu and many more.
- Snowmobile - There are miles and miles of path across the region. Most of them will require a special membership card to use.
If you visit the area, try to find a place where you can eat some Tourtière (a sort of meat pie). The tourtière in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is a different meal that in other regions of Québec.
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is known for its blueberries. Make sure you try a blueberry pie or some chocolate covered blueberries (available in August only) from Les pères trappistes.
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is renowned for its party-loving population. They take great pride in drinking "grosse bière" (literally "big beer", meaning most of them drink bottles of beer of around 700 mL in bars), arrive early and leave late. The title of main street of drinking is usually given to rue Saint-Dominique, in Jonquière, where you will find 6 or 7 bars on a less than a kilometre stretch.