Parc Marin Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Bas-Saint-Laurent © TQ/M.-A. Delisle

Société Duvetnor | Bas-Saint-Laurent, Rivière-du-Loup

Protecting the St. Lawrence Estuary Islands

Duvetnor’s mission is to protect land in the St. Lawrence Estuary, especially several islands that have unique wildlife. And to do so with an approach that’s geared as much to science as it is to tourism.

Nature reserve

Committed to nature and conservation

In 1979, a group of biologists aware of the immense riches of the islands of the Bas-Saint-Laurent decided to protect them by founding the Société Duvetnor Ltée, a private, non-profit corporation. With the help of partners and profits generated by harvesting eiderdown, they purchased Les Pèlerins, two of the three Pot à l’Eau-de-Vie islands and Île aux Lièvres. 

Then in 1989, the Société decided to make certain islands open to the public. They developed a nature interpretation program, created camping sites, built accommodations, and bought boats to transport visitors, all while reducing the environmental impact of their activities. Their last acquisition—the Pot à l’Eau-de-Vie lighthouse, which was restored and converted into an inn in 2001—is the pride of the Société and the Bas-Saint-Laurent region. 

Île aux Lièvres Île aux Lièvres ©TQ/G. Leroyer Île aux Lièvres Île aux Lièvres ©TQ/G. Leroyer
Duvetnor
Portrait of Jean Bédard © TQ/G. Leroyer

Interview with Jean Bédard

How does Société Duvetnor contribute to creating an unforgettable experience for visitors?

We provide a warm welcome, transmit knowledge and share our love of the land and of animals. Our employees are local and they have the same convictions as the administrators. But what people love the most here is the adventure and the wildness of the place. When they visit, they feel like they’re in a different world—like they’re at the ends of the Earth, though they’re only 20 minutes away from Rivière-du-Loup.

How does this company encompass the best Québec has to offer?

There’s a real convergence of interest for wildlife, heritage and history. Our little community was of one mind, and we wanted to make our conservation project permanent. Besides harvesting down and preserving the eiders’ habitat, we make some absolutely incredible spots that are only accessible by boat available to visitors.

Bas-Saint-Laurent Île aux Lièvres © TQ/G. Leroyer

What are Société Duvetnor’s projects for the future?

We have no desire to develop our fleet of boats or increase their size or number. But we do want to make the experience more accessible and allow visitors to discover other facets of the estuary. The idea is to help people explore the St. Lawrence like no one else and share our knowledge and love of the river with tourists.

If you had some advice to give your colleagues in the industry, what would it be?

Our attitude to developing our tourism product is influenced by a constraint. Our goal is not to grow but to focus on quality and to have a lasting impact. We don’t want to restrict visitors, but rather limit their number and increase the quality of the service we provide. It’s our philosophy. 

How is Société Duvetnor expressed through the QuébecOriginal pillars

01

Spectacular site

The St. Lawrence River is at the heart of the Québec landscape. Everyone talks about it and knows it. It’s powerful and big. But where it becomes an estuary, between Rivière-du-Loup, Kamouraska and Tadoussac, it’s larger than life. There’s 30 km of wild shoreline around Île aux Lièvres. Try to find 30 km of wild shoreline on the St. Lawrence—it’s nearly impossible or it’s broken up or private or inhabited or a road or inaccessible swampland. But here you can lie on the beach and dream, look out to the St. Lawrence River and just dream.

02

Creative culture

We see our creativity along with the model we created as unique. We’re somewhat backward-looking in that we’re focused on deep-seated values, our heritage, historic notions, and the idea of the St. Lawrence River as the way in to the American continent. We actually have an exhibit of old photographs from around 1890 to 1925 that were given to us by pioneers. We put them on display—it’s our retro side! This is something that’s very important to us, linking us to the past.

03

A warm welcome

A warm welcome is what contributes to a singular tourism offer. The experience on the island is very friendly. Everyone has to talk to each other. There are never more than 100 people on a 1,000-hectare island, so there’s a lot of interaction. We have a team on site that consists of 30 employees who are from the area and share the same conviction as management. Some have been with us for 20 years. It’s seasonal work, so they have to love and believe in what they do.

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