The Lakes

Development surrounding the lakes

Vacationers in front of the narrowing of Lake Saint-François-Xavier at Notre-Dame de Montfort 1951 | Source: BAnQ

'A peculiar character of this township [Wentworth] is the astonishing number of lakes, large and small, which complicate the terrain. In general, these lakes abound with fish and are set amongst hills covered with beautiful hardwood forests; they cannot fail to attract the attention of affluent citizens who seek a beautiful site for a summer residence.' Journal Le Nord, July 14, 1881. 

The lakes of Wentworth-North have nurtured the people who have lived here for thousands of years. They are home to brook trout (salmon trout) which inhabit the cooler depths, and bass which prefer the warmer strata. It is mainly around the lakes that the local tourist economy has developed since the end of the 19th century. The lakes have been abused by logging operations that used the waterways for log driving. Today, the lakes are carefully monitored by the more than 15 lakeside associations in Wentworth-North.

Due to its high elevation, Wentworth-North has several headwater lakes such as Lake Saint-Victor, Lake Notre Dame and Lake Fraser (which feed into the Rivière Rouge watershed); Lac à la Croix upstream of Lake Saint-François-
Xavier; and Lake Gustave which feeds the Rivière du Nord watershed.

Lake Saint-François-Xavier

Lake Saint-François-Xavier Association. 
Photographer: Arianne Beauchamp

Wentworth-North is home to 105 lakes on a territory of just over 172 square kilometers. The shores of sixty of them are inhabited and only Lake Saint-François-Xavier is accessible to visitors. The lake is the namesake of one of the Montfort orphanage benefactors who owned lots overlooking the lake: François Xavier Froidevaux, or François-Xavier Garneau (1809-1866) a Canadian poet and historian known for his History of French Canada and who gave the name of Laurentians to the region. But Saint François Xavier (1506-1552) is also the patron saint of all Catholic missions and a founder of the Society of Jesus. The Montfort Missionaries no doubt appreciated the concordance.

Ice cutter

An ice cutter on Lake Saint-François-Xavier. We see the saw used to cut the blocks and the tongs used to take the pieces out of the lake. Between 1930 and 1950.
Source: Lake Saint-François-Xavier.

From January to April, it was customary to cut the ice on the lakes and rivers of Quebec. The ice had to be close to 50 cm thick in order to support the weight of the horses and sleds and later the trucks which transported the blocks. Stored in a large building called an icehouse, the blocks were buried under sawdust to slow down their melting. These icehouses, which already existed in the time of New France, allowed the preservation of food during the warmer seasons.

From the middle of the 19th century until the advent of electricity and the widespread adoption of refrigerators, every family had its own icebox: a wooden cabinet with a metal interior into which was inserted a block of ice weighing about 13 kg that was replaced every two or three days.

Viking Canoe Club

The dragon boat of the Viking Canoe Club.
Source: Viking Canoe and Kayak Club

Lake Saint-François-Xavier runs 3.5 kilometers in length, is oriented east-west and offers few crosswinds. These conditions are ideal for the Viking Canoe and Kayak Club, the only sprint canoe and kayak club in the Laurentians. This non-profit organization was founded in 2001 by Lou Lukanovich, a former 1972 and 1976 Olympic athlete and coach, with the help of his wife Jean, Viki Clark, Judy Rogers and Wilma Wiemer. 

The club is anchored near the Montfort Pavilion and features a program for all ages and levels, recreational or competitive. The Viking Club has won the Burgee and Canmas Cup (Canadian Masters Championships) on seven occasions at the National Sprint Canoe-Kayak Championships.

Lac Notre-Dame

Lake Notre-Dame in foreground.
Source: Lake Notre-Dame Association

To the south of Lake Saint-François-Xavier are Lake Saint-Victor and Lake Notre-Dame, formerly known as Indian Lake. Towards the end of the 19 th century, the Laurentian Lumber camps settled there to cut the large white pines. The area around the lake quickly became deforested and cottages gradually appeared at the beginning of the 20 th century. The Crook family was among the first to purchase a summer home in 1910:

'In those days, cottagers took the train from Montreal, changed to the Colonization Railway at Piedmont, and got off at Montfort. The women would change out of their long dresses into country clothes in the station checkroom. Everyone would then take their backpacks, food, and kerosene and set out with children and dogs for a two-mile hike along a very rough road to Indian Lake. The road ... was often flooded at the edge of Wheeler Lake. From there, a trail wound over Franklin Creek and followed the present road. Side roads led down to each of the cottages along the north shore of the eastern bay. All large items had to be brought in on sleds in the spring before the snow melted, or on the ox cart of Mr. Dionne, known as the 'Hermit of Montfort'. They were then transported to the lake and then by raft to the cottages. This was not always successful - a stove belonging to the Garneys sank somewhere in our bay.' Louisa Crook Teron.

Toponymie lacustre

Lucien Dansereau's cottage on 
Lake Dansereau, today the property of 
the Society of Jesus.
Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Bonin

Some of the lakes in Wentworth-North are named after former lake residents: for example, Fraser Lake, which was named after Ewan Fraser who obtained an 84-acre lot from the Crown for six pounds and three shillings in 1858.

Grothé Lake takes its name from Félix-Avila Grothé (1862-19330) a contractor and mayor of Cartierville from 1912 to 1916, who bought the Black Lake in 1922 and changed its name in 1926. In the middle of the lake are two islands that he gave to his friend, Médéric Martin, then mayor of Montreal.

Lake Dansereau in Saint-Michel-de-Wentworth is overlooked by a large villa that belonged to Lucien Dansereau (1886 -1967), engineer and director of Public Works for the federal government. It was in this cottage that the political alliance between the Conservative Party of Quebec and the National Liberal Action was formed, which led Maurice Duplessis to power in 1936.

An exceptional forest ecosystem

Brother Dominique, Pierre Dansereau, 
Brother Alexandre, Henry Teuscher, 
Brother Marie-Victorin, Brother [U.-G.?] 
and Lucien Charbonneau at 
Saint-Michel-de-Wentworth, 1936.
Source: UQAM

Lucien Dansereau was the father of Pierre Dansereau (1911-2011) a scientist and humanist who developed ecological thinking in Quebec. He left his mark in a multitude of fields such as biogeography, urban and human ecology and land use planning. In the 1940s, Pierre Dansereau worked with the Jesuit Brother Marie-Victorin, director of the Montreal Botanical Garden.

The Jesuits bought the property from the Dansereau family in 1944. A clause in the deed of sale stipulates that part of the forest must be preserved in its entirety 'for the scientific work of Pierre Dansereau, biogeographer'. The Ministry of Forests has declared this maple grove, which has not undergone any human intervention, an Exceptional Forest Ecosystem (EFE). The protected area has since been tripled by the MRC des Pays-d'en-Haut. Thanks to the preservation of this forest and the absence of shoreline residents, with the exception of the Jesuit villa, Lake Dansereau is one of the healthiest lakes in Wentworth-North.

Extract of
Historical Tour of Wentworth North

Historical Tour of Wentworth North image circuit

Presented by : Municipalité de Wentworth-Nord

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