The word Quebec – or Kébec – is of Algonquin origin and means “where the river narrows”. Cape Diamond, which is located at the narrowing point, was quickly established by the French as a way to control the Saint Lawrence River and therefore the entrance to North America. On the north side of the Saint Lawrence, the Laurentian Mountains drain south into the river, and to the south, part of the low Appalachian Mountains drain north. The result of this system are some impressive waterfalls on both sides of the river in the hilly country around Quebec City.
On the south side of the river, the dark waters of the Chaudière River form a 35-meter (115ft) waterfall that drains north into the Saint Lawrence and are accessible from the only bridges to cross the Saint Lawrence in the Quebec City region. The park has a suspension bridge for viewing the falls and walking and bike access.
30 minutes outside of Quebec, on the north shore past Montmorency, the falls in Sainte-Anne Canyon can be thunderous during the spring melt. There is a trail system and three suspension bridges for viewing the 74-meter (243ft) falls. This post-glacial area exposes ancient hard rock, and the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré can be viewed, or visited en route.
Only 16 kilometers (10mi) from Quebec City, the Kabir Kouba falls (the name of which comes from the Inuit language) mark the transition from the fertile Saint Lawrence Lowlands to the Canadian Shield. Much of Quebec – which is home to over a million lakes – is shield country, with some of the oldest exposed rock anywhere on earth.
Close to Montmorency, this more delicate waterfall takes its name from a woman dressed in white, perhaps in a wedding dress, or more evocatively as a ghost. The waterfall appears out of the rock wall as the subterranean water emerges out of the cliff face. The entire fall freezes in the winter, which is quite a sight to behold.
South of Quebec City in the municipality of Saint-Anselme, this rocky park is quiet and easily accessible. The small agricultural communities of the region are entirely French-speaking and friendly, and even some of the communities across the border in Maine are French-speaking.