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Les Isles
Image courtesy of the
Image Science & Analysis Laboratory,
NASA Johnson Space Center.

Sand, winds and sea

The Isles-de-la-Madeleine are a group of islands in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Several are joined by extensive dunes. The landscape is a blend of red sandstone cliffs, beaches, green hillsides, stunted fir trees, salt marshes and lagoons. The Pointe de l'Est National Wildlife Area provides nesting habitat and is also an important stopover location for migrating birds. The endangered Piping Plover nests on the sandy beaches of the islands; this is the only known nesting site for this bird in Québec.

The islands formed over large domes of accumulated salt deposited millions of years ago. Volcanic rocks and sandstone form the cores of the islands with sand spits and dunes connecting these cores.

The climate of the islands is moderated by their maritime location. Seals can be found near the islands, especially during the spring. Up until the end of the 18th century, walruses were abundant in the area but they were killed off by overhunting. Whales were also much more common than they are today. Large land mammals are not commonly seen on the islands; mice, voles, foxes and squirrels are present.

Like Prince Edward Island, the Isles-de-la-Madeleine have been the site of many shipwrecks over the years.

The Magdalen Shallows, the southern part of the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence, is an important habitat used by fish species for spawning and feeding. Fishing, especially for shellfish, is still important in the islands. Now, tourism is also an important contributor to the economy.

Images of the Isles

Red rocks

Red sandstone cliffs

Sandy beaches

Sandy beach and rocky shore: Click on image to expand

Beach and dune

Beach and dunes

More Images of the Isles