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The majority of photos used in this website were taken in June and July of 2007. We endeavour to replace and update photos as formations change, but cannot always do so. Note that the formations may have changed since these images were taken.

Putting the Arch in Archipelago

fishing boat harbor at Iles-aux-loups

The Magdalen Islands are primarily an ancient petrified seabed (sandstone), volcanic rock, and argillaceous rock that has been thrust upward by a combination of tectonic movement and a massive dome of salt below the crust. The salt deposits were heated by pressure, and more or less "boiled" upward, lifting the These forces produced a series of islands, and where the earth cracked at the edge of the salt domes, massive cliffs plunge toward the sea.

These cliffs fall prey to a number of forces that act upon them: The pounding sea, wind, and extreme temperatures. Other forces, such as plant roots, rain, and streams also affect the the cliffs to a lesser degree.

Together these forces create some incredible natural wonders: Sea Caves, odd cliff shapes, deep crevices. But most notable and prominent are the natural arches of the Îles de la Madeleine.

The Madelinots themselves pay little mind to the hundreds of incredible sea arches near their homes. They even joke about mainland Quebec's Percé Rock, something along the lines that they have so many natural arches on the Îles de la Madeleine that they can't understand what all the fuss is about.

Perhaps the Madelinots have learned that if they become too attached to their rock formations, they will eventually be heartbroken. Because of the relentless sea, most of the natural arches are temporary. In the grand scope of time, ALL of the natural arches on Îles de la Madeleine are temporary. Many a Madelinot will boat near the shoreline, and recall beaches and bluffs that stood on what is now open sea.

As you use this guide to the natural arches and rock formation of les Îles, keep in mind that some of the scenes may have changed drastically since the photos were taken. Arches described on this website may be standing today, but washed away tomorrow by the pounding of a Nor'easter.

By the same token, new and exciting arches are appearing all the time at Îles de la Madeleine...discovery awaits!

descending from Point-aux-Loups and heading south toward Havre-Maisons

Visiting the Quebec Maritimes

Although the Madeleine Islands are fascinating at any time of the year, this website is focused mainly on exploring the scenic wonders and activities of summer. Temperatures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are bitterly cold until mid-July, and sometimes that is optimistic. Unfortunately the warm weather brings the majority of tourist travel, and lodging becomes scarce. If you can manage to visit les iles during September, you will enjoy the lingering summer warmth and have dozens of vacation properties to choose from. June is also excellent as the islands are geared up for tourist trade and not yet crowded, but it can be quite chilly and certainly not suitable for swimming. That leaves August, for which the relatively small numbers of high quality lodging options means that if you want to visit during this time, you ought to reserve accommodations many months in advance.

Quebec's Magdalene Islands are not for everyone. It is a get-away-from-it-all destination, quite unlike anywhere else in the Maritimes -- or all of North America for that matter. The writer, the artist, the photographer, the kayaker...these are the tourists who will enjoy les Îles the most. And the armchair geologist, for whom we've designed this website.