|Barre à Boulard Range, PQ|
Description: Abreast Île Richelieu, the St. Lawrence River narrows to roughly a quarter of a mile at low tide, and the current here flows at a rate of five-and-a-half knots at ebb tide. This constriction in the river is known as Richelieu Rapids, and in 1816, it became one of the first spots on the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec City to be marked by a light –Île Richelieu (L’Islet Richelieu) Lighthouse.
[The front lighthouse] is an octagonal, wooden, pyramidal tower 37 feet high, surmounted by a 7 ½ feet iron lantern, standing upon a pier built of 3/8-inch steel plate casing, 24 feet in diameter at the base, 24 feet in diameter at top and 20 feet high, with a projecting nose of steel plate up stream forming an ice breaker, the whole filled with stone and concrete. The pier is painted red brown, and the tower is painted white, with the iron lantern and the lantern base red. The top of the pier is 10 feet above high water mark. The building of the foundation was a difficult piece of work, as the tides covered the site from 5 to 6 feet deep at high water springs. This made the work of preparing the foundation slow and difficult and added to its cost.
On July 1, 1903, the range lights were changed from fixed red to fixed white to increase their visibility. At this time, the four-year-old rear tower was replaced with a square, steel, skeletal tower with sloping side and surmounted by an enclosed wooden watchroom and a square wooden lantern room. The side of the tower facing the channel was covered in wooden slatwork, painted white, to render the structure more conspicuous during the day. This new tower stood sixty-one feet tall and exhibited a light at a height of 160 feet above high water mark.
With this improvement in Barre à Boulard Range, the Department of Marine believed that Île Richelieu Lighthouse and Planton Range could be discontinued, but when it deactivated theses lights on July 1, 1903, mariners were quick to complain. At the solicitation of river pilots, these three lights were relit on October 22, 1903, though mariners were warned to not be guided by them as they did not correctly mark the improved shipping channel.
The keeper of the front range light was paid significantly more than the keeper of the back range light due to the difficulty in accessing the tower on Richelieu Island Reef. In 1923, L. Bernier earned an annual salary of $420 for looking after the front light, while O. Lemay was paid just $150 for keeping the rear light.
Île Richelieu Lighthouse and Planton Range were discontinued in 1916, leaving Barre a Boulard Range to mark the channel downstream from Richelieu Rapids. In 1968, the rear light of Barre a Boulard Range was made the range’s front light and a new tower was erected 3,425 feet northeast of the repurposed rear tower to house the rear light. The old front light on Richelieu Island Reef remained active and was afterward referred to as Rapides Richelieu Lighthouse or Île Richelieu Lighthouse.
The wooden octagonal tower that originally housed the front light of Barre à Boulard Range before becoming Île Richelieu Lighthouse was reportedly torn down in 1971. Today, two lights are shown from a white and fluorescent orange box mounted atop the circular stone base built for the Barre a Boulard front range light: a fixed yellow light visible on a bearing of 54° and a fixed green light between 160° and 250°. The green light appears to mark Île Richelieu and the rocky reef that extends north of it.
In 1992, a square, skeletal tower replaced the square pyramidal tower with an enclosed upper portion that had housed the rear light of Barre à Boulard Range from 1903 to 1968 before being repurposed as the front light.
Located on a high bluff on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, opposite Portneuf. The range lights are owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds/towers closed.
The range lights are owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds/towers closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Michael Boucher, used by permission.