Looking up at the sky, the clouds hang low, and I anticipate it will rain before long. The parking lot is empty and I walk around to the back garden of the historic Matamajaw Lodge. A short path leads off towards the river and of course I follow it. Here I find an inviting old-style wood-and-cable footbridge spanning the Matapedia River.
From the middle of the bridge is a great view upstream to the confluence of the Matapédia and Causapscal rivers. I watch several fisherman cast their lines into the Les Fourches stream pool, hoping to pull out a story-worthy size salmon. The towering steeple of the Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur Church is a lovely backdrop.
The lodge and grounds, known as Site Patrimonial de Peche Matamajaw, was originally built by Lord Mont Stephen, the former president of Canadian Pacific Railway, in the mid- 1870’s. He sold it to the Restigouche salmon-fishing club in the late 1880’s, and it passed through their hands to a group of businessmen from New York, who purchased it and renamed it The Matamajaw Salmon Club Limited – limited being the operative word. It became a exclusive fishing lodge for upper-crust society.
The former lodge now houses a museum, but I choose not to enter. I just want to enjoy the outdoors before it rains. Pulling the hood of my raincoat up over my head, I walk down the path to a wide mowed lawn area shaded by well-spaced trees. I take a seat on one of the benches beside a flower bed and listen to the birds.
Lord Mont Stephen’s niece, Elsie Reford, like her uncle, was an avid lover of fishing and hunting, and upon his death, she inherited one of his properties called Estevan Lodge near Mont Joli.
Over a period of thirty years, she transformed the ground of that lodge into one of the best horticultural gardens in Canada, Les Jardins de Metis or Reford Gardens. I am now sorry I didn’t have time to visit her gardens on this trip, but Les Fourches park, here at Matamajaw, is so pretty and well laid out that I wonder if Elsie spent time here.
The rain arrives and I make my way back to my truck. Four minutes outside the town I come to the Heppell covered bridge and stop for a few photos to add to my covered bridge collection. It was built in 1909 and the peeling paint and the patch-work of mismatched boards show its age.
Highway 132 hugs the Matapédia river like a scalloped edge on its way through the valley. Fifteen minutes further along I come to Routhierville covered bridge.
It was built in 1931 to replace a ferry. Despite the noticeable sag in the middle, it has served the area well for over 80 years. I walk to the front and my eyes trace the wooden tresses, joined in the lattice style common to most wooden bridges. It has the two spans, and is the longest covered bridge in Bas-Saint-Laurent area at 78 meters.
Perhaps I stayed staring a little longer than the bridge deserved or perhaps I was trying to avoid ending my vacation. 35 kilometers up highway 132, I would cross the inter-provincial bridge and return to New Brunswick. My Gaspe vacation was unforgettable but complete.
Please join again as I find new places to explore. Happy travels from Maritime Mac.
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