The town of Val-Jalbert lies forsaken in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. From the town of Chambord, Val-Jalbert is just 8 kilometres away. The Ouiatchouan Falls are the background of the town and the Ouiatchouan River cuts through it. At the time of its establishment in 1901 by Damase Jalbert, it was known as Saint-Georges-de-Ouiatchouan. The name of the town was changed in 1913 to honour its founder. Of all deserted towns in Canada, Val Jalbert is said to be the best preserved.
The Rise of the Town
The town was founded in 1901. The establishment of a pulp mill at the bottom of the Ouiatchouan Falls was the catalyst of its growth. The business, which was named Ouiatchouan Pulp Company, was founded due to a growing demand for pulp which was used to make newsprint. The main markets of the product were America and Britain. The site was strategically chosen by Jalbert who intended to use the river’s two waterfalls as a source of energy for his machinery.
Jalbert died in 1904 and the company was sold to investors from America and its name was changed to Ouiatchouan Falls Paper Company. The investors decided to urbanize the locality and the first plan of action was separating the company from a new dwelling for the community. Housing units for workers were constructed uphill and the company downhill. The community was also equipped with great infrastructure such as piped water, electricity, telephone lines and sewer. In 1909, the company was bought by Chicoutimi Pulp Company and the community was developed even further.
Why it Became a Ghost Town
The first catastrophe befell the town in 1918 when the deadly Spanish Flu that spread across the world struck its small population. The company was bought by Quebec Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd in 1926, and one year later it closed down due to low demand for pulp. However, many of the employees did not leave the town until the company instructed that all homes be boarded up in 1929. The community’s priest and nuns who had come from Chicoutimi to work as teachers in the village left in September that year. In 1949, the paper company was declared bankrupt and all its land, buildings, and machinery were acquired by the government of Quebec.
In the region of Lac-Saint-Jean, the ghost town is the second largest attraction. Most of the tourists are drawn to its breathtaking waterfall. Tourists can take a lift in sky cabins to ascend the falls. The site was opened to visitors in the 1960s under the tourism office. In 1987, it was placed under SEPAQ which operates parks so that it could be developed to attract more visitors. It was declared a heritage site by the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications in 1996. In 2009, the Canadian federal government and the government of Quebec granted the site’s administration $17 million to develop the facility to boost tourism. Currently, it is administered by the local government of Chambord.