Dispatch: What It’s Like to Sleep in a Ghost Town
PHOTO: The Ouiatchouan Falls at Val Jalbert. (All photos by Janeen Christoff)
Journey into the heart of the early part of the 20th century to the town of Val Jalbert, which sprung up around the founding of the Ouiatchouan Pulp Mill in 1901. The mill began pulp production in 1902 but, when its founder passed away around 1905, the mill idled. However, once the town was purchased by the Chicoutimi Pulp Mill in 1909, the town began to thrive and modernize, becoming a shining example of urban planning, known for its modern conveniences.
However, it didn’t last long. Administrative setbacks led to layoffs in 1924 and then it closed for a time. It made a brief comeback in 1926 but operations were permanently suspended in 1927 and was abandoned in just a few years with no other source of revenue – it became a ghost town of abandoned structures.
PHOTO: Visitors are met by the Mayor of Val Jalbert.
Today, however, the Quebec government has invested $19.7 million into transforming the village into a tourist experience that brings the town roaring back to life. The experience includes gorgeous views of the Ouiatchouan Falls, interpretive activities and character interactions as well as dining in the old mill and hotel stays in the houses that were once filled with some of the lucky families who resided in Val Jalbert.
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PHOTO: The cottages have a rustic yet modern feel.
Sleeping in a Ghost Town
Staying in these period houses is one of the best parts of experience. There are several options for accommodations, including restored houses in the middle of town that are spacious and modern, blending old with new seamlessly. Guests can also choose to camp in the ghost town, with 172 sites available. Or stay in mini cottages that are halfway between camping and a fully accommodated hotel stay. The cottages offer cooking facilities and some have sinks, showers and toilets.
There is also a heated swimming pool and new water games for children available for guests of both the campground and the village.
Taking in the town is only part of what visitors to Val Jalbert can do. There are several viewpoints to the falls, a cable car ride, nature hikes, tours of the mill and more.
Not to Be Missed
Within the mill, there is an interpretive video that details the history of Val Jalbert in a humorous and interactive presentation. It’s a not-to-be-missed experience in the town.
Also a must is dining at the Restaurant du Moulin, which offers a taste of some of the regional cuisine and highlights regional produce and food sourced from local businesses headed by Chef Carl Murray.
More by Janeen Christoff
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