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Visiting Rapides-des-Joachims, Quebec: Isolated Community Recalling Edgar Rice Burroughs?

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Flag of Quebec

Flag of Quebec

Rue Principale in Rapides-des-Joachims (also known as Swisha), Quebec, Canada

Rue Principale in Rapides-des-Joachims (also known as Swisha), Quebec, Canada

Engraving of Governor General of New France the Marquis de Denonville

Engraving of Governor General of New France the Marquis de Denonville

Time and isolation seemingly telescoped

In Edgar Rice Burroughs's novel, The Land That Time Forgot (1924) (1), the island of Caprona is described as a very isolated location where life went on almost entirely uninfluenced by the wider world. While Burroughs' island is pure fiction, the sheer sense of isolation in this Municipalité régionale de comté de Pontiac / Pontiac Regional County Municipality community, named Rapides-des-Joachims, does at least in my mind subliminally recall the title of this work.

Rapides-des-Joachims is the westernmost portion of the Outaouais region of Quebec.

The village (2) is situated on an island — l'île de Rapides-des-Joachims — which was created following the building of an dam on the Rivière des Outaouais / Ottawa River in 1950: previously the island was a peninsula. Many of the village's inhabitants have traditionally been associated with the hydro-electric industry.

However, the locality has long been known by First Nations; and in the 17th century a Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson / Hudson's Bay Company was established close to rapids here on the Rivière des Outaouais / Ottawa River. The name of the locality seems to date from 1686, in a reference made to Rapides des Joachims de l'Estang by Jacques-René de Brisay, Governor of New France (see picture, above).

Interestingly, while forest trails exist, linking Rapides-des-Joachims to other areas of Quebec's Municipalité régionale de comté de Pontiac / Pontiac Regional County Municipality, to all practical intents and purposes the community's sole road link is via neighbouring Ontario (see also 'How to get there', below).

Pontiac — and, indeed, western Quebec — is a huge area, which recalls W. E. B. Griffin's description of the Pampas (stretching across Argentina and Uruguay — where I grew up): 'incredibly vast...and incredibly silent' (3).

Although Quebec is overwhelmingly French-speaking, Rapides-des-Joachims is a locality with a sizable native Engish-speaking population, which is actually in the majority.

While to a certain extent the village's population is swelled by vacationers in the summer months, there is still a very strong sense of isolation year round. Visitors are attracted by boating / docking facilities, forest trails, fishing opportunities and bird-watching.

Roc destroying Sindbad's ship from  The Book of Knowledge, The Grolier Society, 1911

Roc destroying Sindbad's ship from The Book of Knowledge, The Grolier Society, 1911

...and eagles

Eagles are a noted species of bird which are regularly seen near Rapides-des-Joachims (4).

This is the sort of place where eagle watchers may pause to reflect...

How many visitors and residents have thought of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, 'The Eagle'?

"He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls." (5)

The French poet Apollinaire (1880-1918) famously compared the emerging aviation scene with the behaviour of eagles:

"The aeroplane finally lands without closing its wings...

The Roc bird celebrated by the storytellers and poets...

The eagle peels away from the horizon sounding a great cry..."

I close with lines, which include an eagle theme, by J. N. Darby (1800-1882):

"Though thy way be long and dreary,
Eagle strength He’ll still renew;
Garments fresh and foot unweary
Tell how God hath brought thee through." (6)

November 3, 2020

Notes

(1) The novelist is more well known as the creator of Tarzan.

(2) Sometimes known informally as 'Swisha'.

(3) W. E. B. Griffin, Death and Honor, New York: Jove Books, 2009, p. 17.

(4) The local municipality has issued a brochure, which includes information on eagle-spotting facilities: https://municipalites-du-quebec.ca/rapides-des-joachims/custom/webroch.pdf ; https://municipalites-du-quebec.ca/rapides-des-joachims/pic_photogalerie/accueil3.jpg

(5) https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45322/the-eagle-56d224c9a41d1

(6) MJFenn trans.; orig. French:

'L'avion se pose enfin sans refermer les ailes...

L'oiseau Roc célébré par les conteurs et les poètes...

L'aigle fond de l'horizon en poussant un grand cri...'

https://www.comptoirlitteraire.com/docs/877-apollinaire-zone-.pdf

(6) https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/664/j=a

Also worth seeing

Témiscaming, Quebec (distance: 167.4 kilometres) Quebec; the Musée de la Gare / Railroad Museum contains temporary and permanent exhibits about the history of immigration to the district; an ornamental fountain is a prominent landmark in the locality; forest views and walks are noted.

...

How to get there: Air Canada flies from Toronto Pearson Airport to North Bay Airport (distance: 156.8 kilometres), where car rental is available. From North Bay, take Highway 17 east to Rolphton, and thence Hwy 635 north to the Quebec border and onward via Route 635 to Rapides-des-Joachims, Quebec. Air Canada also flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa (distance to Rapides-des-Joachims, Quebec: 220.5 kilometres), where car rental is available. From Ottawa take Hwy 417/17 west to Rolphton, and thence Hwy 635 north to the Quebec border and onward via Route 635. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

Map location of Municipalité régionale de comté de Pontiac / Pontiac Regional County Municipality

Map location of Municipalité régionale de comté de Pontiac / Pontiac Regional County Municipality

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