The Fjord du Saguenay is one of the world’s longest fjords, cutting through the Canadian Shield before merging with the St Lawrence River. A stupendous expanse of rocky outcrops, sheer cliffs and thick vegetation, the land flanking the fjord on both sides is protected as the Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay (w sepaq.com) and Parc marin du Saguenay–Saint-Laurent (t 418 235 4703, t 1 800 463 6769, w parcmarin.qc.ca), whose main entry is at Baie -Éternité. The marine park contains six different ecosystems and supports hundreds of marine species, but has had its work cut out for it. Since the park’s creation, government initiatives have eliminated ninety percent of the pollutants from industrial plants in the immediate vicinity. Still, pollutants remain in the sediment and the number of St Lawrence River beluga whales is currently at one thousand, down from five thousand a century ago, placing them on Canada’s list of endangered species. The area continues to attract whales because the mingling of the cold Labrador Sea waters with the highly oxygenated freshwater of the Saguenay River produces a uniquely rich crop of krill and plankton. The white St Lawrence River beluga lives in the area year-round, and from May to October it is joined by six species of migratory whale, including the minke, finback and blue.
The walls of the fjord itself extend to a depth of 270m in places, almost as much as the height of the cliffs above the waterline. Wedged between the two halves of the Parc du Saguenay are some of the most attractive parts of the Parc marin du Saguenay–Saint-Laurent. But since no bridges cross the Saguenay for the 126km between Tadoussac and Chicoutimi, you may need to backtrack to explore both shores.