Visiting Kabir-Kouba, Vieux-Wendake, Quebec City, Quebec: A Waterfall Intermingling History and Legend
Multiple streams of memory and ambiguity
[This hub relates to visits made to this locality in 2019.]
These highly photogenic falls are located at Vieux-Wendake, a First Nations enclave located within Ville de Québec / Quebec City.
Formerly known as les Chutes de Lorette, the falls are today usually known by their Huron-Wendake name: Kabir-Kouba. The falls are fed by the Saint-Charles river (for which a local administrative arrondissement is also named).
The area surrounding the falls have been incorporated into a park; there are various vantage points from which the falls may be viewed.
Historically the vicinity of the falls have been noted for their milling and hydroelectric potential. The ruins of an old mill may be seen close to the falls.
The Chutes de Lorette / Lorette Falls — as they were previously known — were notably the subject of a 19th century painting in oils by Zacharie Vincent now in the Musée de la civilisation, Ville de Québec / Quebec City (see above).
The name Kabir-Kouba means Snake River. In the first instance, the term 'snake' clearly refers to the winding nature of the many revulets and water streams which tumble down the rocky area of the falls.
But then it also refers to a Huron-Wendat legend. There was a spirit, and this spirit was hunted. As a result, its body lay winding along these rocks in the shape of a snake: a shape suggested by the waters of the falls (1).
These hubs that I write are simply personal impressions of places visited and I am here reminded of Uruguay where I lived several decades ago. In Uruguay, rivers were known to be the conduits for snakes which were washed downstream into the country from Brazil. The Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga was noted for his reflective studies on the nature and symbolism of the sometimes fierce fauna associated with harsh, semi-tropical environments. The hidden dangers from fauna originating in Brazil could thus sometimes be seen as extended symbols of the history of Uruguayan-Brazilian relations (which, today, are excellent) which involved periodic armed interventions and coups-d'état sponsored from beyond Uruguay's north-eastern borders. Thus also, in the manner of Horacio Quiroga's writings, human vigilance against fauna such as snakes could be taken to be a symbolic extension of Uruguayan vigilance against hidden, intervening influences from beyond the country's borders. Facts about some of these periodic interventions by Brazil sometimes took decades to emerge against a coalescing background of history, myth and symbolism.
Or stated differently, what was there may not be noticed for a long while, or what seemed to be there may not actually be there at all. Either in the snake-populated rivers of Uruguay or here at Vieux-Wendat.
March 31, 2020
(1) See also: http://www.wendake.com/einformation.html
(2) See also: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/quiroga-horacio-sylvestre
Also worth seeing
At Vieux-Wendake is a church building dating from 1722 and rebuilt in 1865, historically associated with the Jesuit order.
Within walking distance of Vieux-Wendake is Loretteville, where the striking Pavillon de Saint-Louis, executed in stone, dates from 1911.
Outstanding historical and cultural sites worth visiting in Quebec City — too many to mention in detail here — include: the Citadelle (Citadel); the 1886 Hôtel du Parlement (Parliament Building), which houses the Assemblée National du Québec (National Assembly of Quebec); Château Frontenac sometimes known as the most photographed hotel in the world, overlooks le Vieux-Québec (Basse-Ville) (Old Quebec - Lower Town) - ; la Chute Montmorency (Montmorency Falls), a spectacular sight, on a scale which is higher than Ontario's and New York's Niagara Falls; Maison patrimoniale Louis-S.-St.-Laurent (Louis S. St.-Laurent Heritage House); and many others
How to get there: Air Canada flies to Quebec City (Aéroport international Jean-Lesage de Québec ) from Montreal and Toronto, with wide connections. VIA Rail maintains regular services with Montreal, Toronto and Windsor. A number of car rental companies offer service at Quebec City airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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