The massive structure of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge looms ahead as one cycles along the edge of the Seaway Channel. To the right is the freeway, and beyond the open green space of the Saint-Lambert campus of Champlain College. To the left, beyond the Seaway Levee, looms Ile Sainte-Hélène and the buildings remaining from the Expo era: The Monteal Casino and the Geodesic Dome.
|Longeueil Trail Approaches Jacques Cartier Bridge|
|Jacques Cartier Bridge: West Side||Jacques Cartier Bridge: East Side|
|South Shore Bike Path|
The foot of the massive bridge pillar is surrounded by a concrete lip, around which one can walk, high above the water and unprotected by any sort of guard rail. Many are there with their fishing poles. The Saint-Lambert locks are now a distant icon to the west, but the opening of the Seaway channel into the Saint Lawrence looms quite closely to the east. Beyond one can see the harbour front of Montreal.
|Channel West from Jacques Cartier Pier||Mouth of the Seaway from Jacques Cartier Pier|
The trail continues eastward from the Bridge, through the green spaces and by trees that line the shoreline. The freeway angles away from the trail and the low warehouses of a small industrial park soon block any view of it. Rounding the end of a small point, the protected right-of-way of the bike trail ends at the edge of a freeway interchange. The way eastward runs along the quiet road called Chemin de la rive, which runs along the freeway's shoreline side. One must share the road with a fair amount of car traffic, as people drive to and from the two marinas and a city park at the road's end.
|Jacques Cartier East: Longueuil Bike Trail|
|Jacques Cartier East: Longueuil Shore|
|Montreal Harbourfront from Seaway Entrance|
After passing a large, private marina, one comes upon Longueuil's Port de Plaisance. It is here that the ferry from Old Montreal docks and it was from here eastward that my knowledge of the South Shore Littoral Trail was limited during the Nineties. One can ride out to the ferry dock, at the river's edge, to get a spectacular view of the Port of Montreal and downriver. The marina sports a trendy clubhouse, where one can stop for facilities and refreshment. A footbridge, with an elevator on the marina side (only, the far side sports a steep 'stair-ramp' for bikes), provides access to the town of Longueuil proper, on the far side of the freeway. East of the marina, Chemin de la rive comes to an end in a vast parking lot, and the trail re-enters its own right of way across Park Marie Victorin.
|Longueuil: Port de Plaisance - Ferry Dock & Entrance|
|Longueuil: Port de Plaisance||Longueuil: Port de Plaisance - Ferry Ticket Office|
|Montreal Harbourfront from Port de Plaisance|
|Longueuil: Port de Plaisance - Clubhouse|
At the far side of the park is yet another footbridge. This is the sole level-crossing over Route 132, not requiring stairs or elevators at either end. Eastward, the trail hugs the tiny bit of shoreline left over by the highway. As one is riding lower than the level of the freeway, its noises do not disturb one much. Eyes are focussed out onto the beautiful vistas of the river.
The narrowness of the ribbon of land is relieved a couple of places by points that jut out into the river. At one point the rail must hug the outer edge of a freeway ramp. Along the way are plentiful benches and other stops. The way is apparently well-lit, but I have never travelled it after dark.
|Looking Ahead at Longueuil Shoreline & Bike Path (1999)|
|Longeuil Bike Path below Highway 132 (1999)|
|Longeueuil: Bike Trail alongside Rte 132 (2003)|
|Approaching the End of Longueuil Bike Path (1999)|
|The Ferry Dock (1999)||The Iles Boucherville Ferry Approaches (1999)|
|Longeueuil: Montreal shore from End of Trail (2003)|
The Promenade ends abruptly underneath the bridge approach to the Lafontaine Tunnel. From the trail's end, one can look across to the trail's resumption in Boucherville, tantalizingly close, but separated by the freeway interchange. The only way to continue eastward is to hike ones bike up the steep 'stair-ramps' to the overhead footbridge. These ramps rise at a 45-degree angle alongside several flights of stairs, and it is quite a chore pushing up a loaded bike.
Also at the terminus of the Promenade is the ferry dock for Ile-Charron and the regional park on the Boucherville Islands. It is unfortunate that the two ferries at either end of the Promenade are timed in such a way that it is impossible not to just miss one or the other, depending on one's direction. Any attempt to cross to Longueuil and then to the Boucherville Islands always involves a couple of long 30 to 45-minute waits.
|Longeueuil: Bikepath west from Crossing (2003)||Longeueuil: End of Trail & Crossing (2003)|
I have only just recently learned the trick of the trail as it resumes on the inland side of the footbridge. The bridge comes out into a small park, nestled in at the corner of the service road and the freeway entrance. Luckily, there are no stairs at the inland side of the bridge. Nor is there any really good indication of how the trail proceeds from that point.
Each time, heretofore, I have proceeded further inland along various city streets and have made wide detours to finally get across the Highway 20 freeway to the Boucherville side (See 2003 trace at right). now realize that the 'freeway entrance' right next to the park is not just a freeway entrance: The service road runs up alonside the freeway, as if to only be an onramp, but then swings rapidly around and underneath, by some railroad tracks. One comes out on the far side, passing by a cemetery. Then the bike path runs alongside the highway, in a marked lane of Marie Victorin, until one crosses over the highway as it curves inland to go around the old part of Boucherville.
For the entire length that Boucherville stretches along the river, quite a distance, the bike trail is a marked lane along the river side of Boulevard Marie Victorin. For most of the way, the route is shady and lined by trees. The river channel is only a few hundred feet wide, bounded on the opposite side by the Boucherville Islands. At one point, one passes the ferry connecting Boucherville with the Islands.
|Boucherville: Bike path alonside highway|
|Boucherville: Looking back from Crossing|
|Boucherville: Alongside Rte 132|
|Boucherville: Route 132 Crossing looking west to Montreal|
At the far eastern end of town, there is a small park and shaded gazebo where one may stop and look out on the river. It is near the eastern end of the Boucherville Islands, where one can begin to look across once more to the Montreal side.
|Downriver along channel from Route 132 Crossing
(West End of Town)
|Downriver along channel from Gazebo Stop
(East End of Town)
|Boucherville: End of 'Iles' Park and Montreal Shore|
|Boucherville: Montreal shore at Powerlines|
All of a sudden, Marie Victorin curves inland and the trail leaves its marked lane alongside the road, to enter a dedicated right-of-way through a small park: Parc de la Frayère at the mouth of the tiny Rivière des pins. There is a small footbridge, after which the trail follows what was the old road, now closed to cars.
|Old Road - Bike Path - New Bike Bridge||Old Road - now Bike Path|
It is amidst the vast, open fields that the trail passes from Boucherville into Varennes. The new road is well inland. To the right, the view opens up to the full expanse of the St. Lawrence. In the distance are the first houses of the town.
|Varennes: Town Line along Bike Path|
|Varennes: Church on the Hill|
The bicycle trail comes in along the quiet, residential streets of Varennes. At one point it passes to within a block on the new road, which is also the town's principale commercial artery. A major rail line runs along the far side of this main street.
Eventually, the official trail comes to an end at Parc de la commune, which occupies the floodplain below the older section of Varennes.
Although the bike trail ends here, there is an old, little used road that one can take eastward, out of town, which avoids the main highway for several more kilometres. While on this road, one comes even witht the eastern tip of Montreal Island.
|Varennes: View from River in 2002|
|Looking back on Montreal from Varennes|