Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area

Close-up of Snow Geese in a field.
Photo: © Environment Canada.
Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, Greater Snow Geese


Two adults on a balcony, staring out to view of the Cap Tourmente NWA.

Photo: © Environment Canada.

Cap Tourmente NWA, landscape.

The Cap Tourmente NWA, made up of marshland, plains and forests, is located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, 50 kilometres (km) east of Québec City. Established in 1978 by Environment Canada, its purpose is to protect the American Bulrush marshes that serve as the primary habitat of the Greater Snow Goose during migration periods. The wildlife area was recognized as a Wetland of International Significance under the Ramsar Convention in 1981, becoming the first site to earn this distinction in North America. Its many historic buildings testify to more than 400 years of human occupation and farming activity, making it one of the founding sites of Canada.

Situated at the junction of the Canadian Shield, the St. Lawrence Lowlands and the Appalachians, the wildlife area also lies at the confluence of the Upper and Fluvial estuaries of the St. Lawrence. The territory offers contrasting landscapes shaped by the meeting of the river, large coastal marshes, plains and mountains, and features a multitude of habitats that are home to a very wide diversity of animal and plant species. The wildlife area is home to more than 325 bird species, 30 mammal species, 22 types of forest stands and 700 plant species. Many of these species are at risk, including the Peregrine Falcon, the Bobolink, and the Butternut.

In spring and fall, migratory birds congregate in the narrow corridor framed by the river and the cape's escarpment and invade the mosaic of habitats in the wildlife area. The area is renowned for the awe-inspiring spectacle of the Greater Snow Geese gathering at the site by the tens of thousands during migration.

In addition to 20 different duck and goose species, some 10 or more species of birds of prey and 30 warbler species have been observed. In the spring Wood Duck, Northern Harrier, Pileated Woodpecker, Ruffed Grouse, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, and American Redstart are frequently observed. In addition to the populations of Red-winged Blackbirds, Swamp Sparrows, and American Black Ducks in the coastal marsh, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow makes the wildlife area one of its rare nesting sites on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, while the presence of the Bobolink is also worthy of mention. Nearly 20 species are observed in the winter, including Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, and Barred Owl.Among the mammals, the most common are the muskrat, the White-tailed Deer and the Red Squirrel. The American Porcupine, the Red Fox, and the American Black Bear are also observed on occasion.

The primary threats and management challenges to the ecological integrity of the Cap TourmenteNWA include neighbouring land development, poaching, invasive alien plants, and the impact of visitors.

More information on Cap Tourmente NWA is provided in the summary table below.

Top of Page


Cap Tourmente NWA « Petite ferme » main building.

Photo: Fabrice Kerleau © Environment Canada.

Cap Tourmente NWA, Petite ferme.

NWAs are protected and managed according to the Wildlife Area Regulations under the Canada Wildlife Act. The primary purpose of NWAs is the protection and conservation of wildlife and their habitat. For this purpose, and according to the legislation, Environment Canada can prohibit all activities in a NWAthat could interfere with the conservation of wildlife. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities are prohibited. Nonetheless, Environment Canada has the ability to authorize some activities, whether through public notice or the issuance of permits, as long as these are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

Access to the Cap TourmenteNWA is restricted to designated areas and times of the year, and subject to payment of an entrance fee. The following activities are permitted: hiking, nature observation and photography. Hunting for the Greater Snow Goose is permitted in the fall within the wildlife area with an Environment Canada permit. Public notices listing the activities permitted within the wildlife area are posted at area access points.

Permits may be issued for research activities in keeping with the priorities set out in the management plan for the wildlife area.  Permits may also be issued for other conservation activities such as surveys, or the enhancement or restoration of habitat.

Priority will be given to collaborative activities with local agencies and organizations to promote the protection and the conservation of wildlife species and their habitat in the NWA. For example, initiatives could be launched or continued with the following entities: universities or research centers to address gaps in scientific knowledge; the province to implement recovery measures for species at risk (particularly those falling under provincial jurisdiction); or non-governmental organizations or municipal authorities to build public awareness of the wildlife area's objectives. 

More information on access and permitting for Cap Tourmente NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment Canada regional office.



Notice from Environment Canada

Download PDF version – Notice from Environment Canada [Cap Tourmente] (PDF; 65 KB)

Environment Canada would like to inform the public that the Cap Tourmente NWA, located in the Municipality of Saint-Joachim, is a protected area. Established in 1978, the purpose of the NWA is to protect migratory birds, wildlife and their habitats, as well as several species at risk.

To protect this area, the Department would also like to inform people circulating in the NWA of their obligation to comply with the rules of the Canada Wildlife Act and the Wildlife Area Regulations. Failure to comply with the regulations may result in a fine or prosecution.

Activities allowed without a permit but with a right of access in designated developed areas (trails, observation areas, as well as resting and picnic areas) are: hiking, nature observation, photography and picnics. Picnics are permitted only on benches, tables and in observation areas. During winter, snowshoeing is permitted only on open marked trails.

Without a permit issued by the Minister specifying the authorized activities, the following are prohibited in the NWA:

  • Walking off developed trails and access roads;
  • Using any means of transportation; for example, snowmobiling is prohibited across the NWA;
  • Damaging, destroying or removing a plant;
  • Having a domestic animal without a leash;
  • Dumping or depositing any garbage or substance that would degrade or alter the quality of the environment;
  • Engaging in recreational activities;
  • Camping, or starting or maintaining a fire.

For complete information about the applicable regulations, please consult the Wildlife Area Regulations or the Environment canada Web Site.

To file a complaint or report illegal activities, please contact Environment Canada by phone at 1-800-668-6767 or by email.

Nothing in this notice infringes on ancestral rights or Aboriginal treaty rights.

Top of Page

Public Services

Activities and interpretation services are currently offered at Cap Tourmente NWA. Services offered to the public include outreach activities to build awareness of wildlife habitat conservation. The recommended visit duration is 2 to 4 hours.



Photo: © Environment Canada.

Cap Tourmente NWA, naturalist.

cabin in the snow

Photo: © Environment Canada.

Cap Tourmente NWA, cabin.


Photo: © Environment Canada.

Cap Tourmente, hiking.


2015-2016 Outreach activities schedule - Individual clienteleFootnote *
From April 25 to May 17WeekendsFocus on the geese
From May 23 to June 28WeekendA pilgrim coming from afar
From September 26 to October 25DailyFocus on the geese
From January 4 to March 13DailyBird feeder network


Footnote 1

Group services (schools, tour operators, et cetera) are also offered. Contact the reservation service for more information: 418 827-3776 or

Return to footnote *referrer

Activities and Services

The following services are offered to the general public from May to October:

  • 20 kilometres (km)of hiking trails through a mosaic of habitats
  • Interpretation centre: Information, exhibits and audiovisual presentations
  • Discovery tools (BioKit, On the Fox's Trail nature rally with GPS, geocaches, historical trail)
  • Outdoor organized activities (for the general public, school groups and other groups)
  • Picnic areas

Bird feeder.

Photo: © Environment Canada.

Cap Tourmente, Quebec, Bird feeder.

From January to March:

  • 6 km of winter hiking trails
  • Network of bird feeders
  • Welcome area and information in a heated building

Map of Hiking Trails (spring-summer-fall)

Map of Hiking Trails (winter)

Cap Tourmente Pamphlet- Nature as far as the eye can see!

Controlled Fall Hunt Program for the Greater Snow Goose

2015 Entry Form - (PDF; 293 KB)

In October, hunters may take part in controlled hunting of the Greater Snow Goose. Registration is mandatory between January and April, and the hunting permits are issued through a random draw in May.

Periods and business hours for the 2015-2016 season
April 1st, 2nd and from April 7 to 24
From October 26 to December 18
From March 14 to 31
From Monday to Friday,
from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.;
 closed on weekends, April 3,6  and November 11
From April 25 to October 25Daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m
Du 19 décembre au 3 janvierClosed
From January 4 to March 13Daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m

Access to Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area is forbidden outside of these opening times. The National Wildlife Area can be closed without notice.

Men hunting snow Geese

Photo: © Environment Canada.


Entrance fee

Adults: $6
Students: $5
Free for a child under 12 years old accompanied by a parent
Winter: $4
Passes and group rates available

Special warnings

Biting insects in summer; camping prohibited; waterfowl hunting in the fall.

Coordinate and location of wildlife area (access)

Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area
570 chemin du Cap-Tourmente
Saint-Joachim, Québec
G0A 3X0
Administration: 418-827-3776
Interpretation center: 418-827-4591
Fax number: 418-827-6225
NWA entrance geographic coordinates : N 47 03.860 - W 70 47. 774

From Québec City, follow Route 138 toward Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. At Beaupré, follow the posted signs for the national wildlife area. (See map.)

More information on services offered to public can be obtained by contacting the Environment Canada regional office.

Top of Page

Map of the Area

Map showing the Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area boundaries.

Map showing the Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area boundaries.

Long description for the Map

Map showing south-eastern Quebec and a section of the St. Lawrence River. The boundaries of the Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area are indicated. The wildlife area overlaps a portion of the St. Lawrence River shoreline roughly following the intertidal water line to the east of Beaupre and Saint-Joachim and to the south of the Rivière Sainte-Anne and highway 138. The wildlife area extends inland in several irregularly shaped pieces all located very closely together. The scale on the map is in kilometers and the north arrow is shown. A small inset national map situates the National Wildlife Area in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Top of Page

Summary Table

This table provides summary information for the Cap Tourmente NWA.
Protected Area designationNational Wildlife Area
Latitude/longitude47°05' North / 70°47' West
Size in hectares (ha)2,399 ha
Reason for Creation of protected areaProtecting the bulrush marsh, the main habitat of the Greater Snow Goose during migration
Date created (Gazetted) 1978 – Legal description
International Union for Conservation (IUCN) Management CategoryIV – Habitat/Species Management Area: protected area aim to protect particular species or habitats and management reflects this priority.
Additional designations
Keystone or flagship species Greater Snow Goose, Peregrine Falcon, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Warblers in spring.
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)Many species at risk under the Species At Risk Act, including the Peregrine Falcon, Bobolink and the Butternut. Numerous other species are classified as at risk under provincial legislation.
Main habitat typeIntertidal marsh and broad expanses of American Bulrush.
Faunistic and floristic importancePresence of wetlands, agricultural fields and forest providing a popular staging area for migratory birds and important breeding grounds. Wide diversity of plant and animal species and habitats within a relatively limited area. Presence of wildlife and plant species at risk.
Invasive speciesPurple Loosestrife, Common Reed, Japanese Knotweed, Flowering Rush.
Additional links

Birds: Wood Duck, Northern Harrier, Pileated Woodpecker, Ruffed Grouse, Indigo Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, American Black Duck, Black-capped Chickadee, and Blue Jay.

Mammals: Muskrat, White-tailed Deer, Red Squirrel, American Porcupine, Red Fox, and American Black Bear.

Main threats and challengesNeighbouring land development, poaching, invasive alien plants, impact of visitors.
Management AgencyEnvironment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usageAccess restricted to designated areas and at certain times of the year. Activities permitted: hiking (20 km of trails), nature observation, photography, interpretation centre with exhibition hall and audiovisual presentations, outreach activities. Hunting for the Greater Snow Goose is permitted in the fall within the wildlife area with an Environment Canada permit. 

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact Information

Environment Canada – Quebec Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Ecosystem Conservation
801-1550, avenue d'Estimauville
Québec, Québec
G1J 0C3
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

Top of Page