Old Fort Bay
Today, Old Fort Bay, one of the three villages in the municipality of Bonne-Esperance, is a tranquil community situated at the western end of a XX kilometre portion of the provincial 138 highway beginning at the Quebec-Labrador border near Blanc-Sablon. Local inhabitants rely on the fishing industry.
The community has a long and intriguing history and lively cultural traditions. Protected by offshore islands and steep surrounding hills, Old Fort provided a perfect port for early European fishing fleets. Jacques Cartier erected a cross west of Old Fort at Baie des Rochers during his first voyage to North America in 1534.
In the 17th century, Old Fort may have been the site of a major battle between the Inuit and the Innu. The village probably takes its name from an early trading fort built in the area by Augustin Le Gardeur de Courtemanche, who acquired extensive fishing and trading rights in 1702.
Early settlement of Old Fort began in the 1800s with the arrival of settlers from England, the Channel Islands (via the Gaspé Peninsula), and Newfoundland. Today, many residents work in the fishery. Others are skilled guides in remote outfitting camps. Some residents still move to summer homes on nearby islands of the Old Fort archipelago.
Many skilled outdorsmen from this town are known to work as guides and cooks during the summer months in remote outfitting camps. Most of the remaining population still practice the transhumance ritual every summer by migrating to the islands of the Old Fort archipelago.
First settling to the area began with the Courtemanche outpost in 1702. After being destroyed during the confrontation with the Inuit and the French later moved to the Bradore Bay area. During the late 1800's, many families first came from the Gaspe peninsula and then from Newfoundland and settled here, such as the MacDonalds, Robins, Fequets, Haywards, Wellmans, Woodlands and Buckles. As early as 1825, Englishman John Goddard was said to have lived here but then moved to nearby Saint-Paul’s River. Landmarks and historical sites
It is said that French explorer Jacques Cartier landed at Port-Saint-Servan, just west of the present day Old Fort community at the mouth of the Old Fort River and planted a cross. This event was said to have taken place a full month before the now famous Gaspe landing.
Also, the location of the 16th century Breton fishing capital of Brest is believed to be at the Old Fort site as well.
Many artifacts such as weapons and bullets have been unearthed around the community and corroborate many of the speculations regarding the Courtemanche settlement and early Inuit and Montagnais confrontation. Attractions
The Dog Island Cultural Centre is situated on the island bearing the same name which emanates from a rock formation resembling a sleeping dog. Tours can be arranged during the summer months. Community Events.
The eastern extension of route 138 begins at Old Fort Bay.
To visit the Old Fort and Dog Islands, contact a local boat owner. Old Fort and Dog Islands are located 4-12 kilometres (2-7 miles) south of the village. These serene islands are perfect for taking in the local lifestyle, fishing at the dockside, digging clams, picking berries, collecting seashells, and observing seabirds, whales and icebergs. A shipwreck is visible from Dog Island, which was named for its resemblance to a sleeping dog.