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Village de Petite-Rivière-Saint-François



Even before the city of Quebec was founded, Samuel de Champlain dropped anchor in a cove which he qualified as dangerous and having small lush prairies as well as a small river. We are in 1603. He believed that settlers could farm and settle the land, being that the site was already frequented by the Montagnais. The first settlers would in fact take up residence on the coast of Beaupré between Montmorency and the Valley of the Gouffre as early as the mid 1700’s. Real colonisation would begin in 1675 when the regions’ first farmer, Claude Bouchard, arrived. This is how the village of Petite-Rivière Saint François was founded. Sixteen more settlers would soon follow, Pierre Laforest, René de la Voye, Pierre Tremblay and Noel Simard among them. The descendants of these first pioneers still make up the basis of the villages’ population.

The soil was poor in the early years and despite being on the shores of the St Lawrence river, the settlers only barely managed to scrape by a subsistence. Also, the region was very isolated from the rest of the world being that until the early 19th century no land route linked Petite Rivière Saint François to Côte de Beaupré. Being that the village is located between the St Lawrence on one side and steep mountains on the other, it comes as no surprise that the villagers would rapidly learn to navigate the river and fish for eels near the shore. Thanks to the many natural resources provided by the forests around the village, its residents would also become gifted shipbuilders of goélettes as well as talented seafarers.  


Les Anguilles: name given to the municipality's
of the municipality in Quebec folklore

The eel, the flagship symbol of Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, has a special place in the municipality's history. The settlers, isolated by land until the early 19th century, took to eel fishing, which was particularly abundant in this section of the river.

To this day, the community of Petite-Rivière-Saint-François proudly celebrates its origins with the friendly name Les Anguilles, which in popular folklore refers to the residents of the municipality. Various events are even organized here every year.

The village of

Towards the end of the 17th century, abundant forest resources, access to the river and the expansion of the rail network contributed to the village's growth. At one time, there were as many as seven mills in Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, some steam-powered, others bucket-wheel driven. Their production varied according to use: spindle wood, bars, lumber and cedar shingles. These precious materials played an active role in the village's development. 


At the same time, Petite-Rivière-Saint-François was home to a number of lumber camps. Although these have now disappeared, some villagers still carry on the tradition by making their own firewood.

Then, in the early 18th century, schooners began to ply the river at Petite-Rivière-Saint-François to break the isolation of the land. The peculiarity of the beach (which follows a very gentle slope) and the wide part of the shoreline (located between low and high tides) favored shipbuilding in temporary yards along the river. From 1863 to 1959, 64 schooners were built here. 


Until 1927, when the quay was built, ship captains anchored as close to the shore as possible, waiting for low tide to load and unload their goods. The quay became so busy that it had to be extended in the early 1950s. Although there are no longer any schooners in Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, the current version of the quay remains a popular spot and a fabulous observation site. 

After the First World War, the steel horse business is back in the saddle. The capes were dynamited and the coves filled in. The railroad now crosses the village from Quebec City to La Malbaie. The steam train revolutionized the region, which entered an era of changing lifestyles, industrialization and urbanization like many other regions of Quebec.


A major transformation took place in the 1970s when the Quebec government purchased the Massif de Charlevoix mountain. The creation of a ski center, with the help and determination of a citizens' committee, gave new impetus to the municipality of Petite-Rivière-Saint-François. 


The area's new recreational and tourism vocation is attracting a large number of visitors, stimulating the economy through the development of the commercial showcase, tourist accommodations, local services and the range of major tourist activities now on offer.



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