Heritage Lower St. Lawrence’s first Trails (Metis West and Metis East), created as part of a project called Village Memories: Walk Our Heritage, took you from the junction of Route 32 and Beach Road offering beautiful views, buildings of historical interest, and tales of what it was like to live here 50 or 100 years ago. A new project, Live Our Heritage, goes further – literally and figuratively.
First, three new panoramic trails to the west and south of Metis take you on a journey spanning 200 plus years of history, revealing contributions people have made towards the development and proud heritage of the Metis area. Second, we have expanded the Metis West and Metis East Trails as new photos and information has become available. And third, we encourage you to enjoy a heritage trails in neighboring Price at the southwest end, and Baie-des-Sables at the east end. The map below covers the Trails, including those of Baie-des-Sables and Price, with roads linking them.
Throughout, you will find traces of Scottish, French, English and Indigenous influence – cultural, historical and ancestral. Each trail provides an interesting perspective on how those influences helped to create and shape a thriving community. Whether walking, cycling, driving or potentially even kayaking or canoeing, you can enjoy the many vistas along the trails throughout the Metis area best by setting aside a few solid hours. Each trail takes approximately an hour to complete from their starting points and the extension trails each take about one and a half to two hours each. To do all Trails on the same day? A bit of a challenge but not impossible. Enjoy and stay safe!
Old Metis Roads – A History
Route 132 has replaced the original horse-and-cart dirt trails that once twisted and hugged the St. Lawrence River coast. We still travel on parts of the original roads today. Leggatt’s and Patton Roads are part of the original throughfares but today may be called back roads as they are narrower and go by homes and wooded areas away from Route 132.
The original Beach Road going west from Sandy Bay (Baie-des-Sables) went as far as the brook ending in what is now 323 Beach Road (The Pecks) in Little Metis (Métis-Sur-Mer) before angling south-west by homes once owned by the Hodgsons, Dunns, Marlers and Dalys, continuing up through the Cascade golf course onto Station Road (chemin de la Station), coming out behind Charlie Turriff’s house (close to where the train station used to be, between 275 and 285 Station Road), before connecting to the second and third concessions (rangs).
When the McLaren and McNider routes were added, the second concession (2e rang) was cut off: it used to go between the hills up to McNider’s route where it connected to the second concession (2e rang) that still goes behind the Boule Rock Golf Course.
The road from Little Metis River (once known as Smith’s River at the junction of Route 132 and Beach Road) going west followed the shoreline along Patton Road to Lighthouse Road, where it turned by Killiecrankie Pass. The road then headed west continuing to Killiecrankie Rock where the Pass ended by the flagpole at the junction of Leggatt’s Road and what is now Route 132. Leggatt’s Road continued west towards Grand-Métis, ending in a Y in the road where it connected to the Kempt Road going south, and continued to follow the shoreline to the town of Ste.-Flavie.
Historical Kempt Road
John McNider pioneered road building in the Lower St. Lawrence region. He is attributed with persuading Sir James Kempt, Governor of British North America from 1828 to 1830, to build the first road (later named the Kempt Road in his honor) south from the Lower Saint Lawrence region via the Matapedia valley to the area around Cross Point in the Baie-des-Chaleurs (“bay of warmth”, in stark contrast to Metis’s chilly waters!). From there the Kempt Road continued on to the Maritime provinces. Building a route further from the America border following the War of 1812 between the United States and Canada was also a strategic decision. Thanks to McNider’s influence and with the then government, four posts were established along the road to assist travelers, one being the town of St.-Octave-de-Métis, which brought new residents south of the Metis area. This extensive project was in a fair way to being realized when John McNider passed away. However, the Kempt Road was roughly constructed and barely passable until 1840.
Did you know… ? If you turn east by the St. Octave Church you will be on the 3rd concession (3e rang), which will bring you back to Metis via McLaren Road. As you come down (go north) on McLaren Road, you’ll see some beautiful views of the St. Lawrence River and Leggatt’s Point, as well as the Metis Lighthouse.
Concession / Range / Rang Road History
The word rang comes from a French term for row. Rows of properties were established under the seigneurial system in ‘Nouvelle France’ (New France, now Québec), where tracts of land – long rectangles perpendicular to the water’s edge – were ‘conceded’ by the French Crown to French nobility and the Church. These developed the land or in turn conceded land to settlers – farmers or for other purposes – with both the seigneurs and tenants having responsibilities to each other.
When all of the first row of seigneurie properties with riverfront land had been granted, the seigneur would begin a second rang (range or concession in English) within his overall seigneurie, and possibly third, fourth and so on. This led to a need for roads parallel to the river along the ‘bottom’ of each rang, with perpendicular roads every now and then. Just as houses were, for convenience, built close to the river in the first concession (frequently known as the front, broken front or shoreline), houses were built near the second and subsequent concession road(s) with farmland stretched out behind in a long, narrow strip. For the inland concessions, roads took the place of the river for transporting supplies to, and goods from, farms and other small enterprises.
Concession roads are straight, and follow an approximately square or rectangular grid, usually oriented to a riverfront. Range roads are commonly numbered in one-mile (1.6-km) increments west from the east range line of a given township. When square, they are 100 chains or 1.25 miles (2.0 km) apart, so two consecutive north-south concession roads and two consecutive east-west roads enclose 1,000 acres (4 km2). These 1,000 acres were then divided into lots according to various plans.
Today the concessions connect to major roads and combine a radial pattern of roads within the regular pattern of the survey grid. The concessions make for a nice drive at any time of the year, but the autumn is the most impressive time, when nature bursts into beautiful color as the leaves change to bright reds, oranges, and yellows.
Some roads you will come across are named after famous or distinguished individuals, even with no or a limited link to a locale, and sometimes for people directly associated with the road, usually after their deaths. Naming a street for a family is very common in many countries. Roads in the Metis area named after the families who once lived, or still live, in the area include Leggatt, Patton, McNider, McLaren, Castonguay, Rousseau – these are just a few of such names. The Kempt Road and Boulevard Perron (now Route 132) were named for prominent people. Still other roads are named for local geographic features. In 1977, Quebec’s Commission de Toponymie, became responsible for managing Quebec place names and changed some; as can be expected, many people still refer to places by their original names – habits are hard to break!
Chemin Leggatt’s Road, a coastal road that was part of the old original roads of Metis, is worth taking a leisurely walk, bike, or drive on. You’ll enjoy the lush, wooded areas, and seeing the shoreline with its amazing views. There are beautiful historic homes and buildings that range in style and type, with lots of charm, giving the area its architectural identity.
Rue Anse des Morts was once McDonald’s route and still today is often referred as McDonald’s route by locals. In 1977, the Commission de Toponymy changed the local name to Anse-des-Morts (Cove of the Dead). If you turn south on this road, you’ll find it’s a shortcut that brings you to what is called locally the ‘Scotch second’ or rang des Écossais (second concession or 2e rang).
Route du Phare or Lighthouse Road is named for the Metis Lighthouse, and we can’t think of a better way for you to spend an afternoon, if you have a few hours to spare and are in the area. As you walk along this private road (only walkers and bikers are permitted beyond its start), you will notice that some houses stand out from the rest. These are old, and built in the 1850s and 1860s, of simple design but efficient for the harsh winters in Metis in their day. Then there are newer (but still old and quaint) cottages of people who began coming in Metis’s heyday as a resort, a century ago. This gives you a wonderful glimpse into the lives of the pioneers who lived in the community at that time.
As you come to the end of the road you will see the Pointe Mitis Lighthouse. It is the most well- known structure in the Métis-sur-Mer area and its location makes it a natural landmark and well-loved tourist attraction. The lighthouse stands on the point of land surrounded by rocks that become submerged at high tide. The lighthouse is highly visible for boats on the St. Lawrence and from the coast road.
Chemin Patton is named for the Patton family that once lived in the vicinity. It isn’t the hardest or longest trail, but does have historical relevance as being part of the old road that twisted its way along the shoreline. It’s a lovely place for an afternoon stroll or bike ride through a pretty, wooded setting. While this trail does not have many views or lookouts, at Domaine Annie-sur-Mer you can have a beautiful view of the Metis Lighthouse in the not-too-far distance.
Route Castonguay is a scenic route with natural landscapes that integrate the physical elements of hills, fields, and wooded areas. It helps define the self-image of the people who inhabit the area and gives a sense of place that differentiates this region from other regions. It is the dynamic backdrop to the people’s lives who live there. If you continue south on Route Castonguay you will come to the 4th rang. Gone but not forgotten was a round barn that was built by Michel Marcheterre who was born in Baie-des-Sables (Sandy Bay) in 1874. He was an innovative builder and you can still see his work today on the third rang, which is a diamond-shaped barn that he built with his sons in 1924. If you turn east on the 4th rang and keep travelling to the end you will come to Route 297, where you can turn north continuing to the town of Baie des Sables; if you turn south, you will end up in St. Noel. The Route 297 acts mainly as a shortcut between Baie-des-Sables and the southern section of Route 132 which leads to the Matapédia River Valley and the southern part of the Gaspé Peninsula.
Rang des Écossais in French and the Scotch second (2nd concession) in English is so named because of the many Scots brought over to the McNider Seigneurie in the early 1800s who settled on the concession to farm. It connects McLaren Road to the Kempt Road in Grand Metis. The road is partially dirt in the Metis section, and paved in the Grand Metis area. The trail offers ample opportunities for wildlife watching in the wooded areas and agricultural land where you can see the beautiful crops that are grown and harvested, and then put into barns – sometimes quite impressive building structures.
Chemin de la Station in French, known to the English as Station Road, was once part of the second concession and is called Station Road because of the train station and stop that was once there. At one time there were many farms along the road and had stores, a mill, and a sawmill. Today it is changing from agriculture to residential land. Whether you walk, bike or drive, it is on a flat curvy, tree-lined, shady road and you will enjoy the peaceful scenery.
- Did you know… ? There is another road just off Chemin de la Station (road) on the south side, now called Chemin de L’Aqueduc, but it was originally called McRae, then Mills Road for the families that once lived at the end of the road. Many English-speaking residents still refer to the old names when speaking of the road.
Route McNider is what is called a Townline road, that is, a road that runs on or across the boundary line between a town and another town, a village, or a city serving both traffic flow and land access functions. As you travel south along McNider Road, you’ll come to a covered bridge built in 1925 to cross the Tartigou River, linking the town of Métis-sur-Mer to the parish of Saint-Noël. Pont Belanger is a timber-truss bridge structure, with the connecting supports forming triangular (sometimes appearing to be diamond-shaped) units. The purpose of the ‘cover’? To protect the wooden structure from the weather, particularly in winter. The coverings can increase such bridges’ lifespans to up to 100 years; uncovered wooden ones usually last only 20 years. Nicknamed ‘The Belanger Bridge’ for the family of the same name who had land nearby, it also was known as the Red-Covered Bridge, because of its red paint. Today it is white with green trim and usually just referred to as the covered bridge.
- Did you know… ? The covered bridge has always been a favorite spot for the young people of Metis. Many have fond memories of the days when they’d ride their bikes up to the bridge to spend the day fishing for brook trout, to picnic, and to swim. It was much easier biking back!
- Pam Andersson
- Rod Turriff