Here is the itinerary for the 201 km along Highway #20 between Quebec City-Levis and Riviere du Loup:
Just east of Levis is a series of overhead hydro lines connecting Northern Quebec power dams with Quebec City, Montreal and the US, with a span of 1.5 km over the river. From Quebec City eastwards, the St Lawrence River widens significantly. The river here is a tidal estuary, where freshwater mixes with Atlantic tidal saltwater. This is a major stopping-off point on the East Coast migratory route for birds. Montmagny is renowned for its snow geese which visit in October on their way south from Baffin Island.
The North Shore is characterized by forest and rugged mountains overlooking the river, the South Shore is characterized by gentle farmland plains. The St Lawrence Lowlands provide diverse range of hardwood trees including maple and birch, mixed in with white spruce, balsam fir in higher areas and black spruce and eastern white cedar in wetter areas. This attracts many species of song birds, and the area is rich in hawks (who feed on small rodents). Along the highway you may notice some orchards.
The next crossing of the river is by ferry connecting Riviere du Loup on the South Shore with St Simeon on the North Shore. The ferry takes 1:15. During the winter, the Trans-Canada is subject to Nor'Easter wind conditions, and there are gates to block this stretch of the highway at Levis and Riviere du Loup.
At La Pocatiere (Exit 439) you can get off the highway and observe the opposite shore, now 20 km away. You can observe two valleys with a hill in the middle, which marks the 40 km wide Charlevoix Crater caused by the impact of a 2 km meteor over 350 million years ago. The southern half of the crater, was eroded away by the creation of the St Lawrence River valley.
To discover the river by car, take one of the panoramic Route 132 that winds along the South Shore, and discover stunning scenery and a host of charming ancestral villages (many dating back to the 1600s and 1680s) await you! These villages were laid out on the French seigneural system, under the Anciens Regime (ie before the British) and have long narrow plots rising up from the river, used to provided transportation and the water supply. Roads connected farms to the seigneur's flour mill and the church. We have information on a number of the villages along this route:
The Trans-Canada Highway was built away from the St Lawrence to keep these historical villages in their pristine state. There is an industry association for these villages, Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec, though the good parts of their website are French-only.
Riviere du Loup is a seaside town of 15,000, roughly the opposite bank from where the massive Saguenay pours its nutrients into the St Lawrence. There are several variations on why the town was named, though the French word for seals, "Loup," seems the most plausible. There are some parks along the shoreline where you can observe the birds and sea mammals along the river. If you head about 10-15 km east of Riviere du Loup, to where the Saguenay River mouth is opposite, you can observe lots of whales, especially beluga whales. They prefer this area as a rich feeding ground, fed by two rivers.
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|Next West: Montreal to Quebec City||Next East: Riviere du Loup, Quebec to Grand Falls, NB|
Quebec Government road condition reports for this segment.