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Mont Saint-Hilaire

Mont Saint-Hilaire

Mont Saint-Hilaire, seen from the surrounding plains.
Elevation 414 m (1,358 ft)
Location Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada
Range Monteregian Hills
Coordinates 45°33′8″N, 73°9′3″W
Topo map NTS 031H/11
Type Intrusive
Age of rock Cretaceous

Mont Saint-Hilaire (en. Mount Saint-Hilaire), historically known as Wigwomadensis, Mont Fort, Mont Chambly, Mont Rouville and Mont Beloeil is a hill in the Montérégie region of southern Quebec.

The area surrounding the mountain is a biosphere reserve, as one of the last remnant of the primeval forests of the Laurentian valley.




Mont Saint-Hilaire lies in southern Quebec, approximatively thirty kilometers east of Montreal, and immediately east of the Richelieu River. It is one of the Monteregian Hills, a series of isolated hills in southern Quebec, named after Mount Royal on Montreal island. The mountain consist of several summits, such as the Falaise Dieppe (Dieppe Cliff), Colline Brulée (Burnt Hill), the Rocky and the Pain de Sucre (Sugarloaf), surrounding a central lake, Lac Hertel.[1]

The highest elevation is 414 meters above the sea level[2], or 400 meters above the surrounding plains [3]. This led to the mountain being mistaken, until the end of the nineteenth century, for the highest mountain in Québec [3], since most of the high summits of Québec are in remote regions, where they are often surrounded by other mountains.

The lower reaches of the mountain are today occupied by the towns of Mont-Saint-Hilaire and Saint-Jean-Baptiste-de-Rouville. The mountain itself is the property of the McGill University, and is known as the Gault Natural Reserve. The western half of the reserve, including most of the higher and better-known summits, is known as the Milieu Naturel (Natural Area), and is open to visitors (at a fee) for hiking, as well as cross-country skiing in the winter. The eastern half, known as the secteur de conservation (Preservation Area) is closed to the general public.


Mont Saint-Hilaire is a famous mineral locality because of its great number of rare and exotic mineral species. Annite (iron rich biotite) from Mont Saint-Hilaire is among the most iron-rich found in nature. In the gabbro, biotite is less iron-rich, has lower manganese content, but is titanium-rich. Phlogopite is found as small metamorphic crystals in marble xenoliths within the syenite. Siderophyllite, a relatively rare mineral, occurs as large crystals in a metasomatized albite rich albitite dike.

Mount Saint-Hilaire is one of the Monteregian Hills, a group of erosional remnants of intrusive mountains spreading across southern Quebec. The "mountain" is composed of three distinct plutonic intrusions that formed during the Cretaceous Period between 133 and 120 million years ago.[4] The oldest included gabbro and pyroxenite. The second intrusive suite included gabbro, nepheline syenite, diorite and monzonite. The third intrusive occupies the eastern side and is mainly peralkaline nepheline syenites and porphyrites. The most mineralogically interesting are the associated agpaitic (alkali rich, low aluminium and silicon) pegmatites, the intrusive breccias, and the hornfels derived from the metasomatized sedimentary wall rocks.[5][4][6] There have been over 366 distinct species of minerals collected at Mount Saint-Hilaire, 50 of which have this site as type locality.[7]

Mont Saint-Hilaire, like the other Monteregian Hills, was created when the North American Plate slid over the New England hotspot. During this time, melting occurred, creating subsurface magma intrusions. While some of these intrusions may have been feeders for surface volcanism,[8] the ones at Mont-Saint-Hilaire show no evidence of eruptive activity.[9] Erosion of the surrounding softer sedimentary rocks revealed the more resistant rocks of Mont Saint-Hilaire.


As the last remnant of the ancient Gulf of St. Lawrence lowland forests, the area has been a biosphere reserve since 1978 and a federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary since 1960 and a provincial. The area hosts 21 at risk and two endangered species of plant under current statutes.


The mountain, particularly the Pain-de-Sucre summit, was well-known by the Algonquin natives who used it as a vantage point to survey the valley of the Richelieu river below. [10] The first European to explore the region was Samuel de Champlain, who explored the Richelieu river in two expeditions in 1603 and 1609. It was during the later expedition that he discovered the mountain.

Development of the region

Settlement around the mountain began in 1694 when a seigneury was granted to Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville. A village slowly grew on the slopes of the mountain, near the streams emptying out of Lake Hertel.[11]. The combination of sugar bushes, the orchards alongside the mountain slopes, and the stream flowing from Lake Hertel (which facilitated the construction of watermills provided for the village grown in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.[12].

In the nineteenth century, the mountain became a tourist destination, particularly after Tomas Edmond Campbell bought the seigneury from the Hertel de Rouville in 1844. A café, the Campbell Café, was established in 1851, and in 1874, a 150 rooms hotel, the Iroquois Hotel.[12] Both burned down, the café in 1861 and the hotel in 1895. The tourist value of the mountain dwindled as development of the Eastern Townships made the northern Appalachians more accessible.[11]

The Gault reserve

The Campbell sold the mountain in 1913 to Alexander Hamilton Gault. While he saw to the development of the region, Gault also insisted on protecting the wild nature of Mont Saint-Hilaire, where he planned to build a mansion home for his retirement. Construction of the mansion began in 1957, but Gault lived there a mere three weeks before he died . He bequeathed the property to McGill University, which made it into the Gault Reserve[12].

The natural value of the mountain led to it being proclaimed a migratory bird sanctuary in 1960. In 1970, the mountain was divided in a preservation area, closed to the public, and an area open to the public, which became the responsibility of the Centre de Conservation de la Nature (Nature Conservation Center) in 1972. In 1978, the mountain was made the first world biosphere reserve of Canada as a result of it being the last remnants of the primeval forests of the Saint-Lawrence Valley. [12]

Although initial documents indicate the biosphere reserve covered large areas surrounding the mountains, it appears that today, the effective definition of the biosphere reserve correspond to that of the Gault Reserve.[13]

Names of Mont Saint-Hilaire

The mountain was known to the natives as Wigwomadensis (Wigwam-shaped mountain)[11]. When Samuel de Champlain discovered the mountain, he named it Mont Fort (Which translates either to "Fort Mountain" or "Strong Mountain"). [14].

The establishment of the town and parish of Chambly to the south led to the mountain temporarily becoming the Mont Chambly in the later seventeenth century (although the name persisted in English until at least 1830 [15]). After 1697, the mountain became known as the Mont Rouville, after the newly established seigneury of the Hertel de Rouville family.

When the Campbell family replaced the Hertel de Rouville, the mountain took up the name Mont Beloeil, after the nearby municipality of Beloeil, on the other side of the Richelieu river[12]. However, the name Mont Saint-Hilaire, after the parish established at the foot of the mountain, became prevalent by the early twentieth century [14].

Religious significance

Some evidence suggests that Mont Saint-Hilaire, particularly the Pain de Sucre summit, was a sacred site of the Algonquin natives, who conducted rituals there. [16].

Despite a slow establishment in the region (the first two parishes at the foot of the mountain, Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Saint-Hilaire, were only established in 1796 and 1798 [11]), the Catholic Church soon established itself on the mountain . In 1841, a great wooden cross was built atop the mountain, more than thirty meters high and nine meters across, with a chapel at its base. The cross was hollow, allowing visitors to climb to the top. A winding trail was established leading up to the mountain, with stations of the cross along the way. The cross was destroyed in a storm in 1846[11]. It was replaced by a stone chapel in 1871, which burned in 1876.[12]

Today, the mountain is still sometime used for civil marriages. In addition, a white cross, much smaller than the previous one, can be found on the Falaise Dieppe, in remembrance of a young boy scout who died in the mountain in 1941.[3]

See also

  • Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec


  1. ^ Trail maps of Mont Saint-Hilaire
  2. ^ McGill University : Mont St-Hilaire
  3. ^ a b c Le Mont Saint-Hilaire
  4. ^ a b McGill University
  5. ^ Alkali Nuts - Mineral Environments
  6. ^ Mineral galleries
  7. ^ Mindat location data
  8. ^ A Hundred-Million Year History of the Corner Rise and New England Seamounts Retrieved on 2007-08-01
  9. ^ Geology of Mont-Saint-Hilaire retrieved on 2007-12-29
  10. ^ Maison des Cultures Amérindiennes (in french)
  11. ^ a b c d e Human history of Mont-Saint-Hilaire retrieved on 2007-12-29
  12. ^ a b c d e f The History of Mont-Saint-Hilaire
  13. ^ Status of the reserve
  14. ^ a b Centres de la nature du Mont-Saint-Hilaire - Cartes des Sentiers du Mont Saint Hilaire (in french)
  15. ^ [1] Partial map of lower Canada in 1830
  16. ^ Maison des Cultures Amérindiennes de Mont Saint-Hilaire (in french)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Mont_Saint-Hilaire". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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