The Gaspésie (official name), or Gaspé Peninsula, the Gaspé or Gaspesia, is a peninsula along the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River to the east of the Matapédia Valley in Quebec, Canada, that extends into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. It is separated from New Brunswick on its southern side by the Baie des Chaleurs (Chaleur Bay) and the Restigouche River.
The origin of the name "Gaspé" comes from the Mi'kmaq word gespe'g, meaning "end", referring to the end of the land. A Basque linguist has instead suggested "Gaspé" comes from a mutation of the Basque word "geizpe", meaning "shelter", but this view is disputed.
The Gaspé Peninsula is slightly larger than Belgium, at 31,075 square kilometres (11,998 sq mi). The population is 140,599 as of the 2011 census. It is also noted as being the only region outside the Channel Islands to contain native speakers of Norman Jersey.
Sea cliffs dominate the peninsula's northern shore along the St. Lawrence River. Cap Gaspé, jutting into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, is the easternmost point of the peninsula. Percé Rock (or Rocher Percé), an island pierced by a natural arch, is located just offshore of the peninsula's eastern end. The peninsula's interior is a rugged northward continuation of the Appalachian Mountains called the Chic-Chocs, with Mont Jacques-Cartier at 1,268 metres (4,160 ft) the peninisula's highest peak.
Mount Albert (Mont Albert) at 1,151 m (3,776 ft) is another high mountain in the Chic-Chocs. Its summit, an alpine area above the tree line, is a nearly flat plateau about 13 km (8 mi) across composed of serpentine bedrock and supporting a quite unusual flora. The ascent of Mount Albert from near sea level is challenging, but popular with hikers, offering a view of the St. Lawrence and the Côte-Nord, the river's north shore, part of the ancient bedrock of the Canadian Shield.
The town of Murdochville, at about 660 metres (2,170 ft) above sea level, has had a varied history, and is now home to several wind turbines. It is reached by Route 198, which extends inland from the northern shore of the peninsula, soon climbing into the mountains and entering vast forests, crossing several small rivers before reaching the town. From Murdochville, Route 198 follows the York River to the city of Gaspé on the peninsula's eastern tip.
Rocher Percé, circa 1900.
Explorer Jacques Cartier landed in Gaspe, claiming it for the King of France in 1534. Expelled from Acadia, some exiles fled to nearby Gaspé in 1775. About 400 English speaking Loyalists fled the American Revolutionary war and its fall out in the colonies and settled in the area in 1784.
The economy of the peninsula has historically been focused on fishing, agriculture and forestry. However, primary resource based industries are suffering due to overfishing, overexploitation and fewer numbers of farmers in business, forcing the region to move towards tourism and the services industry.
The peninsula is one of Quebec's most popular tourism regions. The Gaspé National Park (Parc national de la Gaspésie) is located in the Chic-Chocs, and Forillon National Park is at the peninsula's northeastern tip. A section of the International Appalachian Trail travels through the peninsula's mountains. Bonaventure National Park is located here.
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