Miscou Island is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at the northeastern tip of Gloucester County and is characterized by white sandy beaches, peat bogs, stunted trees, lakes, salt lagoons and a lighthouse at the northern tip, Miscou Point.
It is separated from neighbouring Lamèque Island to the southwest by the Miscou Channel with both islands forming Miscou Harbour. Lamèque Island and Miscou Island separate Chaleur Bay from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
The Miscou Island area was one of the first areas explored by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and was a fishing base for Basque fishermen in the same period. A Jesuit mission was established at Miscou Harbour in 1634. It was an important, although seasonal, port of commerce in its early years of European exploration of Canada.
Natives were allegedly frightened to go to the island due to their legendary GouGou monster which inhabited Miscou and which they feared greatly. The natives annually overcame their fear of the monster to set up seasonal hunting camps on the island.
The first permanent settler was John Campbell who emigrated from Scotland and moved there around 1817. Soon after came Robert Harper, John Marks, Thomas Cowan and Andrew Wilson, the first 3 of which married Campbell’s daughters. They were followed by fishermen from the Isle of Jersey and then Acadians who settled on arable lands.
On April 28, 1939, Vladimir Kokkinaki, flying a Russian monoplane made an emergency crash landing on the island, while attempting a non-stop flight from Moscow to New York, later known as the “Moscow-Miscou” flight.
The major industry is fishing, primarily lobster and herring. Unlike neighbouring areas the peat moss on the island has not been harvested and is left in its natural state. There are several boardwalks and information areas located on the peat moss and other interesting natural habitats on the island.
The island is also known for the Miscou Island Lighthouse, which was built in 1856 and is located at the northeastern tip of the island. In the summer it is open for guided tours. The lighthouse was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1974.
Miscou Island won a 2010 Phoenix Award honouring conservation efforts in the North American tourism industry. It was described as “one of the single most beautiful spots in the world.” The island’s sand dunes and lagoons host a variety of migratory birds, including the rare piping plover, Charadrius melodus melodus, making the island a favourite location for birding and naturalists. Miscou is a favourite spot for kitesurfing, kayaking, and for sport-fishing of striped-bass.
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