Whether seen from the base or the crest, or from the 1737 m suspension bridge that joins the North Shore of the St Lawrence to Île d'Orléans, the waterfall has captivated visitors since the days of Samuel de CHAMPLAIN. In wintertime the spray from the waterfall creates a "sugarloaf" cone of ice often 30 m or more in height. Tobogganing down the cone was a popular 19th-century pastime.
The waterfall was first noted by Jean Fonteneau dit Alfonse (who served as pilot in the 1542 expedition of Sieur de ROBERVAL) in his ship Cosmographie. In 1608 Champlain named the waterfall after Henri II, duc de Montmorency, governor of Languedoc and admiral of France, who later served as viceroy of New France 1620-25.
In July 1759, during the campaign to take all French possessions in Canada, British forces landed near the base of the waterfall and established a fortified camp on the heights to the east. The ensuing Battle of Montmorency (31 July 1759) saw the British, under General James WOLFE, repulsed and forced to evacuate their positions by French forces sent from Québec City. A plaque at the Montmorency church commemorates this historic event.
An enduring tourist attraction over the years, the waterfall has observation points and picnic areas. New additions to the site in 1993 included a staircase from its base to across its crest. Québec City is provided with power and light from hydroelectric power developments at the waterfall.
Author DAVID EVANS
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