Located in Victoria County, Grand Falls (or Grand-Sault in French) is a town with a population of nearly 6,000, nestled on the Saint John River. The town’s name is derived from a grand waterfall that plunges 23 metres over a sequence of rock ledges.
The first recorded mention of the spectacular falls, from which Grand Falls gets its name, was by Monsignor de Saint-Vallier of Quebec in 1686. His account of the region can be found on a monument at the entrance of Davis Park, erected in 1986. His diary entry of May 16 describes arriving at a site called Grand Sault St-Jean-Baptiste, where the river cascades from a height of 60 feet, forming a great waterfall. He also mentions the presence of French settlers in the area.
The territory between Grand Falls and Médoctec was granted to Sieur Rene D’Amours in 1695. French missionaries visited the falls in 1691, and Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac mentioned a fort in the region in 1693. This fort was used as a supply stop for increasing numbers of travelers during the Seven Years’ War.
However, in 1763, the region fell fully under British control, and its French population diminished due to deportation. With the creation of New Brunswick in 1784, the Loyalists settled in Acadia. In 1785, Acadians in Fredericton and nearby areas were evicted, and a group decided to settle in the Grand Falls region in June of that year, with the consent of the Maliseet people.
In 1791, Thomas Carleton, then the Governor of New Brunswick, constructed a fort at Grand Falls. The region of Madawaska was a subject of dispute between Quebec, New Brunswick, and the United States. Safety concerns during the War of 1812 led to the decision by New Brunswick’s colonial government in 1875 to construct a road from Woodstock to Grand Falls. The territorial disputes culminated in the Aroostook War in 1838, and the Webster–Ashburton Treaty in 1842 awarded Grand Falls to the province of New Brunswick.
Today, the town’s main industries are potato farming, potato processing (including the McCain frozen food plant), and tourism. Grand Falls also serves as a commercial hub for Victoria County, catering to neighboring communities like Plaster Rock, Perth Andover, Blue Bell, and New Denmark.
Tourism revolves around the town’s central feature: the falls and gorge of the Saint John River. The Malabeam Information Centre and La Rochelle are two tourist attractions by the river. The Malabeam Centre overlooks the falls and is opposite the Grand Falls Farmers Market on Madawaska Road. La Rochelle offers camping sites, access to the gorge via a stairwell, and a pontoon-boat ride through the gorge.
The Malabeam Centre, recognized as a Local Historic Place, is associated with the legend of Malobiannah. This legend tells of a young Malecite woman who sacrificed herself to save her people from an Iroquois invasion. Having been captured by the Iroquois, Malobiannah, knowledgeable of the Saint John River, led a war party of approximately 200 Iroquois over the Grand Falls to their deaths. The Malabeam Centre provides interpretation for this legend and information about the falls.
New attractions for both locals and tourists alike are the addition of the Zip Zag; a zip line to traverses the width of the gorge which the falls empty into. Kayak tours and a rock climbing wall also provide additional entertainment.
The falls are also home to the Grand Falls Generating Station which provides electrical power by use of a hydro electric dam completed in 1931, and provides 66 MW of electricity.
Grand Falls stands as the most bilingual town in Canada at 81.5% speaking English and French and is only one of two municipalities in Canada with an official bilingual name.
Click on a thumbnail to see more pictures of Grand Falls.
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