Fort Lennox National Historic Site Management Plan, 2007

Fort Lennox National Historic Site

In 2018, a management plan review was undertaken of the 2007 Fort Lennox National Historic Site Management Plan, and found to remain applicable for the management of the site with no revisions required. The 2007 Fort Lennox National Historic Site Management Plan will continue to provide strategic management direction for the site until the next management plan review, in ten years’ time or sooner as required.

Table of contents

Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Chief Executive Officer of Parks Canada, 2007.

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Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada Management Plan, 2007.

  • Catalogue No: R64-105/11-2006E
  • ISBN: : 0-662-44360-8

For more information about the management plan or about Fort Lennox National Historic Site:

Mailing address:
   Location: Fort Lennox National Historic Site
     1-61st Avenue, Saint-Paul-de-l'Île-aux-Noix, Quebec, Canada, J0J 1G0

   Phone number: 450-291-5700

   Fax number: 450-291-4389


John Baird, Minister of the Environment

Canada’s national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas offer Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast unique opportunities to experience and understand our wonderful country. They are places of learning, recreation and fun where Canadians can connect with our past and appreciate the natural, cultural and social forces that shaped Canada.

From our smallest national park to our most visited national historic site to our largest national marine conservation area, each of these places offers Canadians and visitors unique opportunities to experience Canada. These places of beauty, wonder and learning are valued by Canadians - they are part of our past, our present and our future.

Our Government’s goal is to ensure that each of these special places is conserved.

We see a future in which these special places will further Canadians’ appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of Canada, the economic well- being of communities, and the vitality of our society.

Our Government’s vision is to build a culture of heritage conservation in Canada by offering Canadians exceptional opportunities to experience our natural and cultural heritage.

These values form the foundation of the new management plan for Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada. I offer my appreciation to the many thoughtful Canadians who helped to develop this plan, particularly to our dedicated team from Parks Canada, and to all those local organizations and individuals who have demonstrated their good will, hard work, spirit of co-operation and extraordinary sense of stewardship.

In this same spirit of partnership and responsibility, I am pleased to approve the Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada Management Plan.

John Baird
Minister of the Environment


Recommended by and original signed by

Alan Latourelle

Chief Executive Officer
Parks Canada Agency

Francine Émond

Superintendent — Western Quebec Field Unit
Parks Canada Agency

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Parks Canada mandate and legislative framework

A federal agency reporting to the Minister of the Environment, Parks Canada’s mission is essentially to fulfill Canada’s national and international mandate regarding the recognition and conservation of heritage. Parks Canada carries out this role by protecting and presenting various significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage. It aims to ensure ecological or commemorative integrity as well as promoting public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment.

One of the most tangible results of the action taken by Parks Canada is the national his- toric sites network, to which Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada belongs. Parks Canada manages 154 national his- toric sites, 28 of which are in Quebec. The national historic sites are managed according to the following objectives:

  • Promote knowledge and appreciation of Canadian history through a national his- toric commemoration program.
  • Ensure their commemorative integrity, protect and present them for the benefit, education and enjoyment of present and future generations while demonstrating the respect that these precious and irre- placeable heritage sites and resources deserve.
  • Encourage and support initiatives aimed at protecting and presenting sites of na- tional historic significance that are not managed by Parks Canada.

By virtue of the Parks Canada Agency Act (1998), the Agency must produce or update the management plan for each national historic site that it manages. The main purpose of the management plan is to establish guidelines for actions aimed at the protection, heritage preservation, use and management of the site. The plan is developed in conformity with the Parks Canada Guiding Principles and Operational Policies, including the National Historic Sites Policy and the Cultural Resources Management Policy. Parks Canada’s strategic objectives are also taken into account in the preparation of a management plan. For a historic site, the plan expresses Parks Canada’s general policies while taking into account the concerns and viewpoints of the public.

The nationwide family of National Historic Sites of Canada comprises sites that embody and demonstrate the various facets of the history of our nation, its character, identity and fiber. Upon the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, the Minister of the Environment has designated our national historic sites so as to provide an enriching view of how history has left its mark on the Canadian landscape. These sites help us see our country from a broader perspective so we can develop a uniquely Canadian identity. They are part of our past and represent the heritage of all our compatriots. The Parks Canada’s commemoration program applies to sites but also to people and events of national historic significance. More than 915 sites, 590 people, and 365 other aspects of our history have been officially recognized as being of national importance.

1.2 Management plan development process

This management plan was prepared according to the provisions of section 32.(1) of the Parks Canada Agency Act, and will be reviewed according to the provisions of section 32.(2) in 2011. The Fort Lennox National Historic Site management plan is the result of the work of a multidisciplinary team at Parks Canada. The team analyzed the situation at the site and identified the primary management challenges. It then developed a vision for the future and proposed management measures to achieve this vision. In September 2006, public consultations were held in Saint-Paul-de-l’Île-aux-Noix to present the vision and management measures to interested groups and members of the public. Through the public consultation strategy, the team was able to hear the opinions of stake- holders with a potential interest in site development and management. In all, the public responded very favourably to the planning team’s proposals. Citizen comments were compiled, analyzed, and taken into consideration in drawing up the management plan. The plan was then submitted to an environmental assessment to ensure that the management measures were environmentally sound. It was then reviewed by the national office and presented to the minis- ter of the environment for approval. Once approved, the document was tabled in Parliament.

1.3 Designated place

The Hudson River/Lake Champlain/Richelieu River system has always been an invasion route, during the Iroquois wars, the conflicts between France and England, and the clashes between Canada and the United States. During the Seven Years’ War, Île aux Noix’s strategic position was recognized and the French fortified it. From that point forward until the British departure in 1870, Île aux Noix’s fortifications played a leading part in a comprehensive defence plan.

In 1920, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada presented a list of Canadian military sites no longer required by the Department of Militia and Defence. The list was created for the purpose of recognizing sites of national historic value. In Quebec, the Board identified Île aux Noix as such a site. In May 1923, it recommended installing a plaque on the island to commemorate both the Battle of Île aux Noix and Fort Lennox. In 1925, it reiterated its intention of commemorating Fort Lennox in 1926 and the Battle of Île aux Noix in 1927. In 1927, the Board wanted to post another plaque to honour the service of Royal Navy and Provincial Navy officers and sailors who fought to defend Canada on Lake Champlain. A plaque commemorating the Royal Navy was installed at that time at Fort Lennox’s south entrance. In October 1967 and June 1968, the Board approved the French and English versions of a new plaque for Île aux Noix. The inscription was much more detailed than in 1926, since it related the various periods of the island’s fortification and occupation, from the French Regime until the departure of British troops in 1870. The project was never acted upon and it was not until June 1982 that the Board approved a new inscription to replace the one on the 1926 plaque. The approved text echoed the content of the inscription proposed in 1968. The new plaque was installed to the right of the fort’s entrance, after 1982. In the interim, Île aux Noix had been declared a national historic park in 1940, by virtue of the National Parks Act.

Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada is located on Île aux Noix on the Richelieu River, some 60 km south of Montreal and less than 14 km from the Canadian-American border, in the municipality of Saint-Paul-de- l’Île-aux-Noix. It stands on Lot No. 430 of the Quebec land register. The island occupies an area of roughly 61 hectares. In 1921, when the property was transferred from the Department of Militia and Defence to the Department of the Interior, it was not clear whether adjacent small islands were included in the national historic site. However, the decree creating the national historic park (Privy Council Order 7662, dated December 28, 1940) included them. It should be noted that the archives of the municipality of Saint-Paul- de-l’Île-aux-Noix list the small islands as belonging to private interests.

At the southern tip of Île aux Noix stands Fort Lennox proper. It consists of several buildings and structures, including a gate, officers’ quarters, guardhouse, barracks, ar- tillery and commissariat stores, north and west casemates, powder magazine, and latrines. Outside the fort, in addition to the west pier and cruise boat dock (east), are a comfort station in the centre of the island and, a little farther north, a shed, garage, and workshop. Myriad archaeological relics are scattered all over the island. Most of Île aux Noix is covered by grass, and trees line its periphery. Lastly, Parks Canada also owns a pier on the left bank of the Richelieu River containing a parking lot, visitor centre, ferry dock, and various maintenance facilities. The site is subject to the National Historic Parks Order. Consequently, the National Historic Parks General Regulations of Canada and National Historic Parks Wildlife and Domestic Animals Regulations both apply inside the site’s boundaries.

The public has had uninterrupted access to Île aux Noix since the British troops departed in 1870, using it as a recreation area or campground, often through scouting or Young Catholic Workers groups. When the island became a national historic site in the early 1920s, several visitor facilities were built. The first archaeological search took place in 1958. Digs have since been carried out in over 150 island sectors. The Canadian government did not begin work to conserve and restore this impressive fortification until 1970. In 1978, the visitor centre was inaugurated on the left bank river pier. An initial management plan was published in 1993 and is the plan being revised here. During the 2000 summer season, a study of the profile of individual visitors coming over by ferry was conducted. In August 2002, Fort Lennox’s commemorative integrity statement was approved, and a commemorative integrity evaluation is scheduled for 2009.

Map 1: Location

Map 1: Location
Location of the site — Text version

Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada is located on Île aux Noix on the Richelieu River, some 60 km south of Montreal and less than 14 km from the Canadian-American border, in the municipality of Saint-Paul-de- l’Île-aux-Noix


2.0 Historical background

Île aux Noix has played a significant role in Canada’s military history. Footnote 1 Its site reminds us of the Hudson/Lake Champlain/Richelieu waterway’s long history as an invasion route into Canada from the south. At the time of the British conquest, geography made Île aux Noix an ideal choice as the primary defence point on the Richelieu/Lake Champlain border, less than 14 kilometres away. From the island, Richelieu River could be navigated without obstruction to Saint-Jean, a supply depot about 20 kilometres downstream. The centrepiece of a small archipelago of six islands, Île aux Noix spans more than 1,350 metres north to south. It is nearly 400 metres wide in the south, and a bit more in the north, for a total area of about 61 hectares. Its position in the middle of the river made it a valuable strategic base for controlling navigation on the Richelieu. The narrow channels on both sides of the island provided an artillery firing range close enough to reach the enemy. The island’s southern tip, pointing in the river’s upstream direction and facing the enemy, aligned directly with an outlet within artillery shooting range, called Pointe- à-l’Esturgeon. No craft making its way down the river could avoid it. Another advantage was that the higher terrain of the island’s southern end was well suited to the construction of defence works. However, Île aux Noix’s environment had one major drawback: Rivière du Sud flowed into the Richelieu from its right bank about 875 metres downstream. Since it connected to Missisquoi Bay, the island could be skirted. Military authorities were constantly preoccupied with this problem.

At the dawn of the British conquest, the French recognized the island’s defensive potential. By 1759 they had built fortifications on it to counter any British attack. The fortifications were reportedly dismantled in October 1760, a few weeks after Montreal capitulated. Military action resumed more intensely than ever with the American War of Independence (1775-1782). Following the American occupation of 1775, the British retook possession of the island and decided to fortify it. Between 1778 and 1780, a small fort intended to house a reduced garrison was installed in the area of the old French fortifications. In 1782, the decision was made to build five redoubts, though only three were actually completed.

Thirty years later, the War of 1812 spurred the resumption of military operations in the strategic Richelieu/Lake Champlain corridor. The island’s fortifications were again restored. To counter the American fleet that patrolled Lake Champlain, the British set up a base and a naval shipyard on Île aux Noix. The northern redoubt of the first British fort was totally demolished to make room for the new facilities. Beginning in 1819, it was the first of the British forts to disappear, when Fort Lennox was constructed.

The plans for Fort Lennox were drawn up by an engineer named Gustavus Nicolls in April 1816. Like his colleague Gother Mann 30 years earlier, Nicolls opted for a classic square fort with four bastions. Its layout was broadly inspired by the Vauban model from two centuries earlier, which was part of the conservative tradition passed on in Europe’s different military schools in the late 18th century. Nicolls thus applied a model he learned at the Royal Academy of Woolwich to Île aux Noix. However, he had to modify the Vauban model slightly to fit it to the topography of the island’s southern tip.

Nicolls put a dry ditch with a palisade rising from its centre next to the conventional rampart with a terreplein and parapet. On the southern front, which was more exposed to enemy fire, Nicolls sketched a ravelin protected by a ditch and palisade. The northern front had a crowstep and a postern. The remainder of the land surrounding the fort was sloped down. In the compound, along the curtain walls, Nicolls planned the barracks and stores buildings needed to support the garrison, including the guardhouse, officers’ quarters, barracks for 576 soldiers, and two stores, one assigned to Ordinance and the other to the commissary. The engineer planned an arched, bomb-proof ground floor, as was the custom for small fortifications. The only exception was the officers’ quarters, because of their ceilings. He also proposed building a powder magazine in the junction groove of the northwest–and least exposed– bastion, surrounding the entire area with a stake palisade and enclosing it within a masonry wall. Small bomb-proof casemates, for provisions storage, were included under the ramparts, specifically 11 under the western and 6 under the northern rampart. At the fort’s centre was a huge parade ground for military exercises and manoeuvres, with a sundial in the middle. Nicolls planned a drawbridge for the fort’s entrance, operated by a counterweight bascule. The same mechanism lifted and lowered the drawbridge at the ravelin entrance on the southern front. Construction work on the new fort, called Lennox in memory of Charles Lennox, fourth Duke of Richmond and the chief governor of British North America in 1818 and 1819, continued from 1819 until 1829.

Several other major events, such as the Lower Canada Patriot Insurrection in 1837-1838, the Fenian Threat, Footnote 2 and the American Civil War from 1860 to 1869, revived military activity in Île aux Noix; however, these conflicts did little to alter its physical aspect. Since no further chance of conflict existed after the Treaty of Washington was signed, the British left Île aux Noix for good in 1870. In the interim, Fort Lennox had housed Canada’s first reformatory school between 1857 and 1861.

Following the departure of the British garrison, the Canadian militia occupied the border post of Île aux Noix, usually during the summer, through 1921. During that period, and until 1947, the island was also leased to neighbouring farmers who grazed their livestock and harvested fodder there. Starting in 1920 when Île aux Noix became a national historic site, several types of visitor infrastructures were built. In addition, a campground and scout camp were located outside the fort’s enclosure as far back as 1888. During World War II, the federal government selected Fort Lennox to house German Jewish refugees who had originally been exiled in Great Britain. So in 1940, several temporary facilities modeled after internment camps were built there. Additional facilities not directly connected with the refugees were built on island land outside the fort. After the camp closed in 1943, Île aux Noix went back to being a recreational spot. Between 1945 and 1948, the youth organization Young Catholic Workers occupied the island’s facilities on a seasonal basis. Until the 1960s, visitors could camp in the northern part of the island.

The first archaeological dig on Île aux Noix took place in 1958. Since then over 150 sectors of the island have been excavated. Although Île aux Noix was added to the system of national historic sites in 1940, it was not until 1970 that the Canadian government began conserving and restoring this impressive fortification. In 1978, a visitor centre was inaugurated on the west bank of the Richelieu River. It subsequently served as the departure point for visitors travelling to the island by boat.

3.0 A fundamental concept: Commemorative integrity

The concept of commemorative integrity is used by Parks Canada to describe, plan and monitor the condition of national historic sites. Footnote 3 When the commemorative integrity of a place is evaluated, each of the following three aspects is examined separately: the condition of its resources, the effectiveness of communication of heritage messages, and the management methods implemented at the site. A national historic site possesses commemorative integrity when:

  • the resources directly related to the reasons for designation as a national historic site are not impaired or under threat,
  • the reasons for designation as a national historic site are effectively communicated to the public, and
  • the site’s heritage values (including those not related to the reasons for designation as a national historic site) are respected in all decisions and actions affecting the site. Footnote 4

To guarantee the satisfactory protection and presentation of national historic sites, Parks Canada has developed a Cultural Resource Management Policy. This policy is based on five major management principles: value, public benefit, understanding, respect, and integrity. As a rule, fulfilling the requirements of these principles is sufficient for assuring the commemorative integrity of a national historic site. In practice, the application of this policy signifies that the cultural resources have been identified and evaluated and their historic value has been taken into consideration each time that measures are readied for implementation.

The commemorative integrity statement for Fort Lennox National Historic Site was approved in 2002. It sets forth the site’s commemorative objective and describes and assigns a value to the cultural resources that embody or typify its national importance. It also presents to the public the reasons for its designation as a national historic site. Finally, the statement describes the other heritage values, that is, the ones unrelated to the reasons for designation as an historic site. The statement also set objectives for preserving historic values and communicating them to the public. It thus describes the overall desired state of the site. The statement provides a frame of reference for planning, management, utilization, and site evaluation reporting, as well as the implementation of corrective measures. It is used by all those involved in the site’s protection, presentation, and management. Comparing the desired state and current situation helps define the management measures needed to conserve and present the site.

The reason for designating Fort Lennox a national historic site was stated in the 2002 commemorative integrity statement as follows:

  • To prevent invasions via the Richelieu River, one means of entry into Canada, Île aux Noix was fortified several times beginning in 1759, and a garrison was stationed there until 1870.

4.0 Cultural resources and messages

A cultural resource’s value is determined by its connection with the reasons for designation as a national historic site: a cultural resource can be directly related (level 1) or unrelated (level 2) to those reasons. To ensure a site’s commemorative integrity, all cultural resources, whatever their level, must be protected, conserved, and presented and the reasons for designation as a national historic site must be effectively communicated to the public. The resources directly related to the reasons for designation at Fort Lennox include the following:

  • The designated place
  • The landscape and landscape features
  • On-site cultural resources
  • Objects and artefacts

Resources unrelated to the reasons for designation as a national historic site include on-site cultural resources, artefacts from archaeological and ethnological collections, and a very rich natural environment.

4.1 Resources directly related to the reasons for designation as a national historic site

Designated place

The designated place encompasses the entirety of Île aux Noix located in the Richelieu River bed parallel to the municipality of Saint- Paul-de-l’Île-aux-Noix. Elongated in shape and running north to south, the island covers roughly 61 hectares and consists of the former military reserve of Fort Lennox. The island is bordered on the east and west by two narrow channels. Fort Lennox is located on the island’s southern tip.

The historic values associated with the designated place are as follows:

  • Île aux Noix is a major historical landmark of Canada’s geopolitical development and military past.
  • The site reflects the strategy and defensive tactics adopted first by the French and then by the British during three major conflicts: the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, and the War of 1812-1814.
  • Fort Lennox’s presence on Île aux Noix dovetails nicely with the “Vallée des forts“ tourist concept attributed to the Richelieu River/Lake Champlain corridor.

Landscapes and landscape features

Île aux Noix offers visitors a general morphology that has remained practically unchanged since Fort Lennox was built in 1819. Only the vegetation cover has evolved. The main features of the landscape are the Richelieu River, including the east and west channels, and Île aux Noix itself. Fort Lennox proper, its buildings, and other defence-related structures have been handed down to us in a remarkable state of preservation. It is important to note that the island’s landscape still affords a commanding view of the fort’s surroundings, as it did in the 19th century. In addition, the old road that ran nearly the entire length of the island still exists. Finally, several remains of the French fortifications, the first British fort, and the naval shipyard can still be seen in the site’s topography.

The historic values related to the landscapes and landscape features are as follows:

  • The presence of Fort Lennox on Île aux Noix constitutes an early 19th century cultural landscape, a testimony to the the period’s military landscape
  • The site’s topography reflects the presence of archaeological remains that remind us of the existence of the French fortifications, the first British fort, the naval shipyard, and human occupation, especially the cemetery
  • The concentration of defence works on the south end of the island and the ability to see all the way to the channels, on both sides and to the south, remind visitors of one of the main functions of the Île aux Noix fortifications, namely to control navigation coming from Lake Champlain
  • The landscape formed by the island’s shape and the profile of Fort Lennox’s works call to mind the main principles of bastion fortification: flanking and defilade

On-site cultural resources

Level 1 on-site cultural resources consist mainly of the military infrastructure components added over more than a century of change, from the final years of the French Regime in 1759-1760 to the end of the colonial period, when the British troops departed in 1870. Besides the defence works themselves, there are various infrastructures (buildings, piers, roads, fences, structures, etc.) connected with the operation of the defence works and with garrison housing and all kinds of storage functions. In addition, many buildings were grafted on to these facilities during major construction periods, to meet the various needs of the worksites (windmill, brick kiln, lime kiln, canteens) or house the civilian employees (joiners, carpenters, butchers) hired for the occasion.

With its rampart, advanced works, and buildings, Fort Lennox still dominates the Île aux Noix landscape and is an outstanding witness to the commemorative objective. All other buildings and successive occupations related to the island’s military vocation are now presumed to be or actually identified as archaeological resources of equal importance to the national historic site’s commemorative objective . They include, in chronological order:

  • the remains of the French fortifications (1759-1760);
  • the remains of United States troop occupations (1775-1778);
  • the remains of the first British fortifications (1778-1812);
  • the remains of the works associated with the War of 1812-1814 (work to rebuild the first British fortifications and naval establishment of 1814-1834);
  • Fort Lennox, its related remains, and the buildings still in place (1819-1870).

Moreover, the Richelieu River contains many submerged archaeological remains relevant to the commemorative objective. However, Parks Canada has no authority to manage them.

Map 2: Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada

Map 2: Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada
Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada — Text version

Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada is located on Île aux Noix on the Richelieu River, some 60 km south of Montreal and less than 14 km from the Canadian-American border, in the municipality of Saint-Paul-de- l’Île-aux-Noix


Map 3: Structures location

Map 3: Structures location
Structures location — Text version

Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada is located on Île aux Noix on the Richelieu River, some 60 km south of Montreal and less than 14 km from the Canadian-American border, in the municipality of Saint-Paul-de- l’Île-aux-Noix


The historic values related to the on-site cultural resources are as follows:

  • Île aux Noix’s diverse on-site resources reflect the island’s changing strategic importance in Canada’s defence system. They also bear witness to the tactical reality of defending the Richelieu/Lake Champlain border, a major navigable route throughout the colonial period.
  • The many archaeological remains associated with the various defensive lines built on Île aux Noix eloquently illustrate the different techniques for constructing fortification revetment walls in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • Many remains also teach visitors more about drainage techniques in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • The remains of French fortifications from 1759-1760 and the structures and/or buildings constructed at the same time are directly related to the military operations of the British Conquest. Specifically, they reflect the final efforts of French officers to save New France. Given the weak defensive resources at their disposal, French strategists were forced to move the colony’s defended border closer to their supply centres, hence the decision to build the Île aux Noix entrenchments.
  • Several of these remains are also associated with the military operations conducted by French and English belligerents during the siege of Île aux Noix, which took place from August 16 to 27, 1760.
  • The remains of United States troop occupations (1775-1778) are related to the Americans’ efforts, during the War of Independence, to conquer Canada via Richelieu/Lake Champlain in the summer and autumn of 1775. Some remains bear witness to the American withdrawal in 1776 as the troops fled the British counterattack by Burgoyne.
  • Still in connection with the United States War of Independence, several remains of the first British military installations from the pre-1778 period, in particular the barracks and camp in the north of the island, serve as a reminder of the counteroffensive in 1776 by Burgoyne, whose attack stopped at Saratoga at Lake Champlain’s head, and who used Île aux Noix as a naval base and ration depot.
  • Several Île aux Noix cultural resources are related to the American War of Independence and the British colonial defence in the late 18th century.
  • Most of the cultural resources dating from the 1778-1812 period chiefly reflect the major changes in the defensive strategy of the British on the Richelieu/Lake Champlain border. The construction of an initial fort in 1778 beginning in a sector containing former French works relates to Île aux Noix’s role as a border outpost for Saint-Jean, at that time the defensive stronghold for that border. The addition of redoubts starting in 1782 confirmed Île aux Noix’s increased role in colonial defence, while the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 confirmed the 45th parallel border.
  • Île aux Noix was the southernmost defensive position on this front. The island’s greater role was spurred by British political and military pressures on Vermont settlements intended to ensure their loyalty to the British crown.
  • The remains associated with the naval base reflect the navy’s importance in controlling navigation on Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River.
  • The cultural resources built during this period (1814-1834), especially those associated with the base and naval shipyard, reflect the strategic importance of controlling navigation in the border region during the 1812-1814 conflict.
  • The construction of many structures that cluttered the vicinity of the defence works or surrounded them, in some cases undermining their effectiveness, shows the desire of authorities to make it a premier border defence depot rather than an impregnable stronghold.
  • All these resources (1814-1834) underscore Île aux Noix’s new defensive vocation: to provide the needed support for troop movements and naval operations on the Richelieu River/Lake Champlain border.
  • The state of integrity of Fort Lennox and its main components is a fundamental value to be preserved and presented. The placement and exterior décor of their façades are neo-classical and Palladian- inspired in design, a reminder of the widespread popularity of this architectural style in the early 19th century, especially among British military engineers.
  • Fort Lennox and its components, whether still standing or reduced to remains, are associated with the sweeping strategic analysis initiated after the War of 1812-1814. A new defence plan also prompted the construction of Île Sainte- Hélène Fort in Montreal, the Quebec Citadel, Fort Henry in Kingston, and the Ottawa and Rideau River canals.
  • The decision to build a new fortification on Île aux Noix rather than Saint-Jean reflects the heated tactical debate between navy officers and engineering officers concerning the Richelieu/Lake Champlain border’s defence.
  • Fort Lennox and its many associated remains are tangible evidence of British military engineering in the 19th century and the competence of the skilled labourers who built it.
  • Several remains provide evidence of the means used to build major masonry works on unstable ground such as the kind found on Île aux Noix, where the depth of the rock and high level of the ground table present additional challenges for builders.


Parks Canada’s Fort Lennox archaeological collection consists of over a million artefacts and ecofacts collected on Île aux Noix since 1958. The exact form or material of two-thirds of these physical relics has not yet been inventoried, which is the minimum information needed to determine their functional, chronological, or cultural connection to the military activities on Île aux Noix between 1759 and 1870. The artefacts are stored in Quebec City warehouses. Another set of 612 artefacts is conserved in Ottawa as part of the national reference collection of material cultural artefacts. In addition, other collections of objects of archaeological provenance are in the hands of private collectors. The artefacts in these collections have been gathered over the years on Île aux Noix or from the banks or waters of the Richelieu River.

The historic values associated with objects in the archaeological collection are as follows:

Collections predating the first British fortifications
Very few archaeological artefacts from Île aux Noix’s first military occupations have been discovered in the island’s soil. A few bomb fragments remain from the siege of 1760, an American bayonet testifies to the quartering of Congressional troops on the island, a 62nd regiment button provides a souvenir of the Burgoyne counteroffensive in 1776, and pieces of wood are left from one of the blockhouses built in 1776. On the other hand, many artefacts from the 1760 Île aux Noix siege have been dredged up from the Richelieu’s waters, including canisters, case shots, cannon balls, and others.
Collections from the first British fortifications
Most of the objects dating from the 1778-1812 occupation of the first British fortifications come from the digs conducted in fortification sections abandoned when the works were rebuilt in 1812-1814. Most consist of ceramic or glass household objects, architectural hardware, military equipment parts, and weapons parts.
Collections from the period of reconstruction of the first British fortifications
Three dig sectors yielded collections from this occupation period. Few artefacts provide direct evidence of work to overhaul the defence works, but they are excellent time markers (currency, regiment button, dendrochronological evidence). The objects from the buildings excavated within the main fort–weaponry pieces, a dish inscribed with the number of the 13th regiment–primarily testify to their use by military personnel. The latter artefacts, which provide clues to the living standards of the regiment’s officers, also illustrate their social status, which even in wartime contrasted sharply with that of ordinary soldiers. Finally, the artefacts found outside the defence works identify the functions of the utility buildings there. Examples include a container to store the garrison hospital’s medications, eating utensils found in adjoining kitchens, and sundry household objects discovered under the large barracks near the west bank.
Collections from the naval shipyard
  • The archaeological collections culled from the Confiance and Linnet war spoils and wrecks provide historical evidence of the shipyard activities on Île aux Noix, the daily life of Royal Navy sailors, the weaponry of a warship outfitted for combat on a lake, and the battle of Plattsburgh Bay (September 11, 1814). They all illustrate what was at stake in the War of 1812-1814: control of navigable waterways. These collections, now housed in the United States, also contain items associated with spoils, such as flags, anchors, etc.
  • Some collections featuring objects from the old naval shipyard sector consist mainly of architectural hardware from the ships built for the Royal Navy and provide clues to the living standards of British sailors. Other collections, from areas occupied by the shipyard workers, reflect the tools used (axe), the brief time period during which the places were used (artefacts from the second decade of the 19th century), and the living standard of their users (common pottery). The existence of locally produced objects and the lack of military artefacts also indicate that the workers were civilians. The wealth of pottery in a small collection found in an annex lean-to of the barracks supervisor’s house illustrates the supervisor’s ties to navy officers. Of the three collections from the shipyard shops, only the one from the forge provides significant information about the blacksmith’s work: specifically, over 50 iron bars or blocks and more than 200 fabricated tools and objects, including some of cuprous metal.
Collections from Fort Lennox
  • The ubiquity of military artefacts in most of these collections testifies to the use of Île aux Noix to defend Lower Canada’s (and eastern Canada’s) southern border between 1819 and 1870. Overall, the Fort Lennox collections illustrate the daily life of British soldiers in a field post in the 19th century, during peacetime. The fluctuating number of soldiers barracked on the island is reflected in the archaeological collections, which mirror the two peak periods of Fort Lennox’s use: to put down the rebellions of 1837-1838 and to defend the border against the Fenian raids and during the American Civil War.
  • Tens of thousands of artefacts from the 1838-1843 period provide evidence of the British army’s extraordinary supply network. They show how efficiently this army posted at the fort to counter the Haut- Richelieu Patriots was organized. The wide variety of regimental buttons testifies to the different military detachments that took part in the police action. The thousands of bone remains offer clues about much of the food supplied by Her Majesty’s army. An abundance of equipment and weaponry parts document some of the military logistics of the era. And many personal or army-supplied items are marked with the soldiers’ name or initials, revealing a need for personalization in a uniform world.
  • The two collections from the latrine holes used in the 1860s share several characteristics of the previous collection. They also include a large collection of plant macro-remains providing a record of some of the wild or cultivated fruit eaten. The materials and shapes of the household items found in the holes can be compared to those of objects from the neighbouring dump, for two periods that are a quarter century apart.
  • The household artefacts of the civilian garrison workers show their standard of living and supply network, which differ from those observed for the British military collections. The objects found in the storage areas and the service equipment illustrate the basic function of the places: timber yard, forge, bakery, hospital, gun shed, firing platform, etc. These various functions show the complex organization of the British army, which is reflected in Île aux Noix’s features.

Parks Canada’s ethnological collection for Île aux Noix includes 15 original artefacts stored in reserve. They consist of a limestone sundial, a chimney flue door, an artillery lantern, six grave markers, two 32-calibre carronades on wooden mounts, two hot shot stoves from 1846, and two old Fort Lennox plans. Finally, the Glasgow Museum of Transport has a model of the Confiance and a half-model of the Linnet, two ships built at the Île aux Noix shipyard during the War of 1812-1814.

The historic values associated with the ethnological collection artefacts are as follows:

  • One of the grave markers attests to the presence of the 76th regiment (Hindoostan) at Fort Lennox in 1815. Another reflects the temporary stationing of the Royal Sapers and Miners in 1835, a British regiment of labourers that specialized in building fortifications and other defence works, which stayed at Île aux Noix several times. Others show the Irish or Welsh origin of some Fort Lennox soldiers or the fact than an individual belonged to a high-ranking British military line.
  • The two plans testify to Fort Lennox’s fortification work and the construction of the naval shipyard in Île aux Noix, both carried out during the British Army’s occupation of the site.
  • The ship half-model provides historical evidence of the shipyard activities at Île aux Noix.

4.2 Effective communication of the reasons for designation as a national historic site

The reason for the designation of Fort Lennox as a national historic site is directly related to the commemorative objective:

  • To prevent invasions by way of the Richelieu River, one entry point into Canada, Île aux Noix was fortified several times after 1759 and was occupied by a garrison until 1870.

For a better understanding of the reasons for designating Île aux Noix (Fort Lennox) a national historic site, it would be helpful to stress the following facts:

  • During colonial times, from 1759 to 1871, Île aux Noix played an important defence role in three major conflicts: the War of the Conquest, the American War of Independence, and the 1812-1814 war.
  • The navy was a vital component in the defence of the Richelieu–Lake Champlain border during the colonial period.
  • During the War of the Conquest, French authorities considered the island’s advantageous geographical position and, in 1759, turned it into a border defence post by building a fortification to counter British advances by way of Richelieu–Lake Champlain.
  • About 1,500 French and colonial troops worked at the fortifications and occupied Île aux Noix in 1759 and 1760.
  • The siege of Île aux Noix took place from August 16 to 27, 1760.
  • The American War of Independence revived military activity on Île aux Noix.
  • During the American War of Independence, American troops occupied Île aux Noix, first in the summer of 1775 as an operating base for the Saint-Jean headquarters, then in the spring of 1776 as they fled Burgoyne’s troops.
  • In the autumn of 1776, the British occupied Île aux Noix, which became the headquarters for Burgoyne’s troops and a base for the military operations on Lake Champlain.
  • From 1778 to 1784, the British built new fortifications on Île aux Noix. After first being used as a border outpost for Fort Saint-Jean, the island quickly regained its status as a defensive seat on the Richelieu–Lake Champlain border.
  • German mercenaries and Royal Highland Emigrant troops were garrisoned on Île aux Noix and helped build the fortifications during the American War of Independence.
  • Detachments of several British infantry regiments lived in the garrisons of various Île aux Noix defence works from 1776 to 1842.
  • Fifteen Royal Artillery men gave that regiment a continuous presence on Île aux Noix from 1776 to 1783, then 1819 to 1870.
  • The War of 1812-1814 forced the British to repair and expand the old fortifications to provide support for the troop movements and naval operations on the Richelieu–Lake Champlain border.
  • To counter the American presence on Lake Champlain, the British developed a base and a naval shipyard on Île aux Noix that operated from 1812 until 1834.
  • Activity at the Île aux Noix shipyard peaked in the summer of 1814 with the launch of the brigantine Confiance, which would take part in the Battle of Plattsburgh in September of the same year.
  • Royal Navy personnel were garrisoned on Île aux Noix from 1778 to 1783, then again from 1813 to 1834.
  • The engineer Gustavus Nicolls based the fort’s plans on Vauban’s principles. It was a classic, four-bastion fortification built in the south of the island, to stop enemy advances by navigable waterway.
  • The construction of Fort Lennox between 1819 and 1829 was a major milestone in the new colonial defence plan mapped out by Governor Richmond in 1818.
  • Both civilian and military labour was used to build Fort Lennox.
  • The Fort Lennox site is a fine example of the work of royal engineers in Canada in the 19th century.
  • Fort Lennox was involved in other conflicts, such as the 1837-1838 Patriot Insurrection, the Fenian Threat, and the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865.
  • The Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment, an elite colonial regiment created to alleviate the desertion problem, provided Fort Lennox’s garrison personnel from 1842 to 1870.
  • The last British garrisons left Île aux Noix permanently in 1870.
  • Fort Lennox is a national historic site, or a site designated by the Canadian government for its national historic importance.

4.3 Resources unrelated to the reasons for designation as a national historic site

This section deals with cultural resources and messages not directly related to the reasons for the site’s designation, yet still of historic importance to it.

On-site cultural resources

Because of its geographical location in the middle of the Richelieu River and its proximity to Lake Champlain, Île aux Noix has been occupied continuously by humans for almost 5,000 years. In addition to its paleohistoric settlements, it was farmed by Pierre Jourdanet (pre-1759) and Peter Stanley (pre-1776), then by various farmers in the vicinity (post-1871/post-1947). The Canadian militia also occupied it from 1871 to 1921, and it was used as a refugee camp for German Jews during World War II. The island also served as a very popular recreation spot. In addition to these successive uses, Île aux Noix, especially Fort Lennox, is one of the oldest national historic sites in Canada, having been designated in 1920.

The cultural resources associated with these different island settlements are not directly related to the site’s commemoration, yet they have undeniable cultural value.

The historic values associated with the on-site cultural resources are as follows:

  • The remains of paleohistoric settlements provide evidence of human occupation of the region, which emerged from the waters of the Champlain Sea 6,000 to 7,000 years ago.
  • The remains associated with Pierre Jourdanet and Peter Stanley attest to the settlement of Seigneuries du Haut- Richelieu and Lake Champlain under the French Regime and the military authorities’ temporary loss of interest in Île aux Noix’s strategic role.
  • The presumed remains of the Canadian militia’s occupation demonstrate the federal government’s willingness to reuse British military sites.
  • The presumed remains of farming activities (post-1871 and post-1947) provide evidence of the tremendous agricultural development of the Haut-Richelieu region over the same period.
  • The national historic site’s remains underscore its status as a public park following its designation as a Canadian historic site.
  • The remains of the German Jewish refugee camp (1940-1943) remind visitors of Canada’s war effort as a principal ally of Great Britain. They also serve as a reminder of the tragedy suffered by the Jews during the Second World War.
  • The Young Catholic Workers vestiges (1945-1948) reflect the site’s status as a public park after its designation as a Canadian historic site.


The level 2 archaeological collection includes several thousand artefacts, most of them linked to the paleohistoric period. However, collection artefacts related to the site’s other occupations, before or after the military presence, still convey important messages. Generally speaking, we know quite a bit about the ones discovered in the last 10 years. The artefacts found during digs prior to 1989 have not yet been inventoried. A large collection of paleohistoric objects from Île aux Noix has also been incorporated into the collection of the Carillon Barracks National Historic Site.

The historic values associated with the artefacts in the archaeological collection are as follows:

  • All the collections, which vary in size depending on the occupation period, reflect Île aux Noix’s different settlements over period of nearly 5,000 years.

The level 2 ethnological collection contains 41 artefacts. They include an Officer Commission Script dated October 17, 1848 in Montreal and a few weapons, which do not come from Fort Lennox. There are also two sets of 34 objects that were used by British officers in the early 19th century. The collection is rounded out by two former Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada commemorative plaques for Fort Lennox.

The historic values associated with the artefacts in the ethnological collection are as follows:

  • The Officer Commission Script provides insight into the functioning of the British Army, specifically the procedure for conferring the rank of officer.
  • The weapons provide a sampling of the arms used by British soldiers and remind visitors of the era’s combat techniques, namely hand-to-hand battle.
  • The two sets of artefacts reflect the higher social status of officers, their daily life at the garrison, and the British Army’s special supply source at the time: Great Britain.
  • The two commemorative plaques show the Canadian government’s attempts during the 1920s to commemorate the new national historic site of Fort Lennox.

Natural environment

Île aux Noix is located in a very rich natural environment. It sits at the mouth of the protected Rivière du Sud, near a designated ecological land reserve. The island therefore contains a wealth of ecological specimens, both fauna and flora. Of particular interest is the wet ditch encircling Fort Lennox, which is home to a complete, typical pond ecosystem.

The historic values associated with the natural environment are as follows:

  • Île aux Noix’s fauna and flora are typical of a flood plain environment such as the one upstream of Lake Champlain. Moreover, certain ecosystems attributable to human activities and developments over the centuries (for example, a flood ditch) are of particular interest.

Other heritage values

The historic site is also rich in other heritage values. Besides the historic site itself, two other events are commemorated there: the 1813 Battle of Île aux Noix, designated in 1923, and the Royal Navy on Lake Champlain, designated in 1927. The site is also a part of several regional, national, and even international networks: the informal regional tourist network of Vallée des forts; the national networks of Richelieu Valley historic sites, sites commemorating Canada’s defence, and sites commemorating the War of 1812-1814; and the international Champlain- Richelieu Heritage Corridor.

Additional messages

Parks Canada proposes presenting the following messages about resources and components unrelated to the reasons for designation as a national historic site:

  • Île aux Noix has been occupied for approximately the last 5,000 years, from the time indigenous peoples settled on the island and its vicinity on a seasonal basis until the first contact period.
  • A first copyholder, Pierre Jourdanet, lived on the island starting in 1753. After 1760, the island was leased to a farmer, Peter Stanley. Farming activities resumed after the British garrison departed in 1870 and were continued by tenant farmers through 1947.
  • Between 1857 and 1861, Fort Lennox housed the first reformatory school in Canada.
  • Between 1870 and 1921, Fort Lennox was used sporadically by the Canadian militia.
  • By the late 19th century, Île aux Noix was a recreational spot.
  • During World War II, Fort Lennox served temporarily as a refugee camp for Jews, mostly of German origin.
  • After World War II, Young Catholic Workers and Scouts used Île aux Noix as a site for their summer camps.
  • The many archaeological digs carried out on Île aux Noix since 1958 have allowed Parks Canada to acquire expertise in excavation.
  • Since 1986, Fort Lennox National Historic Site managers have enjoyed the support of a cooperating association, Les Amis du Fort Lennox.
  • Besides Fort Lennox, Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada commemorates the Battle of Île aux Noix (1813) and the Royal Navy on Lake Champlain (War of 1812) on Île aux Noix.
  • The Fort Lennox National Historic Site is part of several tourist and heritage routes.
  • The national historic sites administered by Parks Canada belong to all Canadians.

5.0 Current operation

5.1 Visiting the national historic site

Fort Lennox National Historic Site commemorates the defence systems built on Île aux Noix for more than a century, from the French fortification of 1759 to the departure of the British garrison in 1870. The historic site is notable for the authenticity of its cultural resources. Visitors landing on the island are thrust back in time to the 19th century. The fort proper, its buildings, and its structures have been passed down to us in remarkably well-preserved condition. In addition, the period’s military landscape has remained virtually unchanged. It affords the same commanding view of the fort’s surroundings it did in the 19th century, despite the thicker growth of vegetation on the rampart. Yet the spirit of the place is particularly powerful and visitors enjoy a pleasant experience, not least because of the boat trip to the island. In addition to its commemorative vocation, the island is a recreation spot. Indeed, visible military installations are all concentrated on the island’s southern tip, and visitors can enjoy nature by strolling the grassy plain covering the rest of the area. A picnic area has been set aside in the island’s centre. Finally, outside the designated place, Parks Canada also owns a pier with visitor reception facilities, including a parking lot, picnic spots, the visitor centre, and the ferry boarding dock. The historic site is open to the public seven days a work from mid-May until Labour Day, and on weekends through mid-October. During this last period, organized groups can visit the island by appointment during the week. All activities are priced by type of visitor. Services are offered in the two official languages and the buildings and ferryboat all meet universal access standards.

Site tours begin on the pier, where a third of all visitors (36%) spend their entire stay, never crossing over to Île aux Noix. They walk up and down and watch the boats of the neighbouring marina come and go; many picnic on the pier. The rest are welcomed to the visitor centre by staff of the cooperating association Les Amis du Fort Lennox. There they pay their admission fee, are told about visit options, and are directed to the ferry dock. Once on Île aux Noix, visitors are met by Parks Canada personnel, who explain to them why the island is a designated historic site.

Visitors explore the site on their own. They can view two exhibits: one about the officers, on display in the officers’ quarters, and another dealing with the Royal Engineers, presented in the Commissariat Store Building. They can also enter the guardhouse prison and the powder magazine. Interested visitors can join one of the guided tours offered hourly. For 60 minutes an interpretive guide talks about Île aux Noix’s military history and the life of Fort Lennox garrison soldiers, answering any questions visitors may have. This is the point at which visitors can tour refurnished rooms, the guard room, and the quarter-guard duty officer’s room, as well as the barracks floor. School groups and other organized groups are escorted by an interpretive guide and can enrich their experience by taking part in several additional activities, including “stone-cutting” and a “historic treasure hunt.”

On July and August weekends, special events present 19th century daily life at Fort Lennox, the British uniform, and the handling of Brown Bess pistols. Special interest activities are also held at various times throughout the season. Examples include presentations about the Jewish camp on Île aux Noix, the French period, the shipyard, and archaeology. These activities expand the range of services offered, reach a more diverse audience, and give visitors a reason to spend more time at the historic site.

Lastly, the national historic site is one stop on a cruise of the Richelieu that leaves from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Site managers are also supported by a cooperating association, Les Amis du Fort Lennox, which manages the visitor reception centre, the souvenir shop, and the snackbar. Les Amis also help present Fort Lennox by organizing special activities. The ferryboat is operated by a contractor.

5.2 Communicating commemoration messages

Messages concerning national historic importance are now primarily communicated inside the fort, mainly through interpretation activities offered by interpretive guides, including guided tours and various special event activities held on the parade ground. Visitors are also exposed to commemoration messages through the various exhibits. The officers exhibit under development explores, among other facets, the class origins of these high-ranking soldiers along with their role, recreational activities, and lifestyles, while the royal engineers exhibit covers the basic principles of military architecture and the materials and engineering techniques used to build Fort Lennox. It also discusses the latest restorations to the fort. The reconstituted guardhouse, officers’ quarters, barracks floor, and powder magazine enable visitors to imagine themselves for a time living in the military atmosphere of yesteryear. Finally, a few panels identify the buildings.

The fort offers organized groups a theme- based educational program tailored to their needs. A teaching program has been designed specifically for primary school groups, with activities tailored to the Quebec Ministry of Education’s social studies curriculum. The activities familiarize students with the history of Île aux Noix’s fortifications from 1759 to 1870. A teaching guide available on request suggests activities teachers can use to prepare students for their visit or assign when they return to the classroom. The main activities offered are as follows:

  • La ronde autour du fort (90 min/primary school): The history of Île aux Noix’s fortifications – The military role of the British in the colony – The American threat – The life of soldiers in the 19th century
  • La taille de pierre (30-45 min/primary grades three through six): Fort Lennox’s construction – The occupation of mason in the 19th century
  • Petit espion (30-45 min/preschool, first, and second-graders): Historic treasure hunt
  • L’informateur (45 min/primary grades three and four): Historic treasure hunt
  • Mission secrete à l’île aux Noix (60 min/ primary grades five and six): Historic treasure hunt
  • La carte géante (30 min/primary grades three and four): geographical exploration

After completing the interpretation activities, some visitors picnic in the area set aside outside the fort, at the island’s centre.

To reach clienteles unable to travel to the historic site, Fort Lennox has created a website. Its content includes the reasons for designation and related historical information, a description of the educational programs offered, and practical information for people interested in travelling to the site.

5.3 Attendance, visitor satisfaction, and economic impact

Since the introduction in 1994 of a new and still-used method for gauging attendance, visits to Fort Lennox National Historic Site have fluctuated between a peak of 50,745 in 2000 and a floor of 38,448 in 2003. Footnote 5

Between 1994 and 2000, site attendance was relatively stable, averaging 48,548 visits annually. Business was especially strong in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000, with an average of 49,664 visitors. But the string of good performances was broken between 2001 and 2003 by three straight years of declining numbers. The downturn was actually observed throughout Quebec’s network of national historic sites of Canada. Attendance then picked up again, rising 13% in 2004 and 8% in 2005. One factor explaining the increase is the special funding made available to Fort Lennox in the last two years under a national pilot project to improve marketing and the products offered to the public. This special funding helped the Fort intensify its promotional efforts and upgrade activities while fostering the development of new partnerships. A new collaboration agreement with Croisières Richelieu was a major factor in the success of the 2005 season.

The historic site logged 47,108 visits in 2005. About 15,600 of the 2005 visitors Footnote 6 (33%) did not take the ferry to the island, making use only of the pier facilities. That means 31,500 visitors came to the island, about 6,800 as part of a cruise tour. An estimated 6,500 users did not go inside the fort, making use only of the picnic facilities and site’s recreational area. Of the visitors who entered the fort, 91% went on a guided tour with an interpretive guide. In addition, 76% of visitors stopped at the island between the Fête Nationale du Québec and Labour Day. Finally, 14% of clients visited the site as part of an organized group.

During the summer of 2000, a study was conducted on the profile of individual visitors arriving by ferryboat. The main findings concerning visitors age 16 and over are as follows:

  • Ninety-four percent of visitors to Fort Lennox National Historic Site come from Quebec, 34% of them from the same region as the site (within 50 km of Fort Lennox).
  • They speak French 91% of the time.
  • Most visitors–79% to be exact–are visiting the site for the first time. This means that the clientele of the historic site is always changing. Thirty-eight percent of regulars say they have visited the site at least once in the last two years.
  • The average size of groups touring the site on their own is 3.3 people and the average visit length indicates that they spend about 2 hours and 13 minutes at the site.
  • The clientele consists mainly of groups of adults, 51% of them with children or teenagers in tow. Adults without children make up 48%.
  • Those between the ages of 35 and 54 make up 39% of visitors, the largest share of any age group. Children under 17 account for 29%. Visitors age 55 and over account for only 12% of attendance.
  • Seventy percent of visitors are excursionists, meaning that they do not spend a night away from home to travel to the site.
  • Fifty-five percent of visitors said that visiting the site was their main reason for travelling to island. For 31%, it was one of several planned stops. Only 14% had not planned to stop at Île aux Noix.
  • About 7% of the visitors arriving by ferryboat toured the historic site as part of a package deal.
  • Fifty-five percent of respondents reported that tourist brochures had prompted them to visit the site and 40% had heard about it by word of mouth. The Internet was mentioned 5% of the time.

The survey also found that most visitors were very satisfied with their experience. Respondents were asked to rate 28 aspects of their visit: interpretation services, facilities/services, site staff, and overall experience. We considered “very satisfied” and “satisfied” ratings to indicate a high level of enjoyment. With two exceptions, the various aspects evaluated achieved “satisfied” ratings more than 80% of the time. Nine elements even scored 95% or above. Ferry service, site cleanliness, service in the visitor’s official language, staff courtesy and communication skills, and overall experience were items scored high by almost all visitors, with results ranging between 98% and 100%. However, according to the “Top Box” analysis, three points earned a “very satisfied” rating less than 50% of the time: site signage (48%), the souvenir shop (47%), and the exhibit (46%). Although there is no reason to consider them major problems, they still indicate some level of dissatisfaction.

Parks Canada spends approximately $1,370,000 Footnote 7 annually to operate the national historic site. Its spending has an additional economic ripple effect of almost $1,400,000 annually and helps sustain and create about 31 jobs (full-time equivalent).

5.4 Regional tourism

Fort Lennox National Historic Site is located in the greater tourist region of Montérégie and is one of its major attractions. Montérégie covers over 11,000 square kilometres and ranks third among Quebec regions in number of historic sites, museums, and interpretation centres. It is also notable for the diversity of its tourist attractions, which include places of cultural, agricultural, and heritage interest. Because of its size, Montérégie, which has a population of 1.3 million, is subdivided into four tourism areas: Suroît, Rive-Sud, Montérégie-Est, and Rivière-Richelieu, which is where the Fort Lennox site is located.

Confirming the importance of this tourist region, the data Footnote 8 available for 2004 indicate that over 1.5 million tourists visited Montérégie in 2004, generating revenues of $192 million. Most of the clientele, or 87%, comes from Quebec, 5% from other Canadian provinces, 6% from the United States, and 2% from other countries. They stay an average of 2.7 days. The regional supply of lodging includes some 127 hotels and tourist residences and 100 campgrounds, for a grand total of nearly 4,800 hotel units and more than 19,000 campsites. Tourism-related enterprises number over 3,000, a high number for this particular sector.

The Rivière-Richelieu sector is fairly representative of the greater Montérégie tourist region. It comprises some 41 municipalities on both sides of the Richelieu River, from Sorel to the U.S. border. Rivière-Richelieu offers a variety of food-related tourist attractions (vineyards, cider mills, chocolate factories, orchards) as well as interpretation activities, museums, and recreational activities (cruises, fishing, zoos, gardens). The region also has many cultural (theatres, interpretation centres) and historical (chemin des Patriotes, various heritage buildings) attractions. Parks Canada is a major part of the sector’s heritage holdings, through the Saint-Ours and Chambly canals and Chambly and Lennox Forts.

Well integrated into the regional, provincial, and even international tourist network, the Fort Lennox site is mentioned on several websites (Haut-Richelieu Tourism and Convention Bureau, Jardins de Napierville local development centre, Circuit du Paysan, Municipality of Saint-Paul-de-l’Île-aux-Noix, Tourisme Montérégie, etc.) and in most regional and provincial tourist guides, such as Guide POM, Guide des vacances au Québec, and Guide de Montréal. Partnership agreements with other tourist operators are also signed annually, allowing the site to offer joint package deals and promotions.

5.5 Environmental management

Natural resource management

Management of the Fort Lennox National Historic Site poses special challenges given that historical facts are commemorated and cultural resources presented in an important and distinctive natural environment.

The site’s insularity is the reason Fort Lennox is located where it is. The biophysical resources found there are intertwined with the site’s history and have shaped settlement and construction on the island. The human activities pursued on Île aux Noix have profoundly altered its resources, in particular through the disappearance of the walnut tree. Now they provide an environmental setting that shapes the site’s character and aesthetics. The island is located near the Marcel Raymond Ecological Reserve. Much of its area contains biophysical resources that are evolving freely and reflect changes characteristic of a humanized environment. In addition, during the 1970s and 1980s, a hundred American elms had to be felled to protect against a disease that was threatening the species. Table 1 lists the biophysical resources present at the Fort Lennox National Historic Site.

Sustainable development

The Canadian government has made a commitment to sustainable development. Footnote 9 It does its best to prevent pollution and protect the environment in the course of performing its duties. The Sustainable Development in Government Operations initiative supports this commitment by:

  • incorporating sustainable development principles into all federal government operations;
  • coordinating and publishing the federal government’s efforts to “green” its operations;
  • sharing its knowledge of sustainable development tools.

Parks Canada is one of the agencies and 25 government departments subject to the Sustainable Development in Government Operations initiative and is required to prepare sustainable development strategies. Footnote 10 The goal of sustainable strategies is to ensure that the departments and organizations concerned consistently factor environmental, economic, and social considerations into their decision-making processes. They also aim to introduce changes to policies, programs, and operations to advance the cause of sustainable development. Hence the federal government’s insistence that each government department and agency meet or exceed legal and environmental regulatory standards, adopt model environmental practices, and establish an environmental management system to “green” its operations. Parks Canada must report to Parliament concerning its efforts to fulfil its environmental responsibilities.

Parks Canada is a leader in natural and cultural resource management. Its partners and the public recognize this and expect Parks Canada activities and facilities to be managed such that no resource is compromised. The Agency therefore has a special responsibility with regard to how it manages its park and historic site facilities as well as its commercial activities.

Some recommended measures of the Western Quebec management unit’s environmental management system apply to Fort Lennox National Historic Site. The site’s location, size, area, and infrastructures pose environmental and sustainable development challenges, including the following:

  • a significant loss in tree cover since the disappearance of nearly 100 American elms;
  • fluctuations in the groundwater table level;
  • repeated erosion of the wet ditch’s banks;
  • management of the wet ditch ecosystem;
  • updating of the biophysical inventory, which hasn’t been done in years;
  • management of tree cover throughout the island;
  • the deployment of measures to conserve rare plants at the historic site;
  • management of the historic site’s wetlands.

Table 1: Description of the naturel environment of Île aux Noix

Biophysical resources


Silt-clay soil from the Champlain Sea
The island's altitude varies by no more than 7 metres.
  • The fort's wet ditch—1,320 metres long, nearly 18 metres wide and 3 metres deep—has evolved into an ecosystem in its own right.
  • A major flood zone, depending on the level of Richelieu.
  • River Presence of swampland on the island's northernmost tip.
  • The groundwater table is less than 10 cm from the surface at several points, and about 1 metre at the island's highest elevations.
  • The island is located within the climateric area of the maple forest in Caryer.
  • Several arborescent species are found on the island, including the American black ash and red ash, the American elm, several species of poplars and willows, and the silver maple.
  • Riparian flood plains, home to several shrub and plant species, plus a maintained grassy area of almost 18 hectares.
  • Presence of weedy plants such as the purple loosestrife and the European frogbit.
  • Three species of amphibians and two species of turtles have been inventoried at the site.
  • Sunfish, brown barbel, and brook stickleback have been seen in the wet ditch.
  • Presence of small mammals such as woodchucks, muskrats, and, in some buildings, chiroptera, including small bats
  • Avian fauna include the great blue heron, green-backed heron, and the kingfisher; the island's northern tip is a resting and nesting area for wildfowl.
  • The banks in the northwest are spawning areas for the northern pike and barbel.
  • A large part of the island's area is wildland (flood zone), where woody vegetation and bush growth evolve freely.
  • The grass-covered sector covers the fort, the earthworks, and the island's centre.
  • The unwatered part is studded with tree groves, a main road, and a few trails. There are two piers, on the east and west sides of the island.
  • The island's southern tip is occupied by Fort Lennox and its wet ditch.

5.6 Strengths and weaknesses

Appendix 4 of the 1997 State of the Parks Report highlighted the main strengths and weaknesses with regard to Fort Lennox National Historic Site’s cultural resource integrity. Its findings remain valid. Although the commemorative integrity of site resources has not yet been evaluated, the commemorative integrity statement provides additional indications concerning strengths, while the current managers’ expert opinion backs up our analysis of weaknesses. Weaknesses are challenges that require appropriate management measures.


  • The authenticity of the heritage buildings and defence works and their ability to evoke the past contribute to the expression of Île aux Noix’s cultural landscape, which remains strongly representative of the mid-19th century. They give the site an unusually powerful sense of place.
  • The main components of the cultural landscape still standing–the rampart and heritage structures–were all built within a period of 10 years, from 1820 to 1830.
  • The reason for Île aux Noix’s designation is communicated to the public that comes to the island.
  • The customized interpretation program is well put together and the guide staff perform their work well.
  • The site’s insularity helps preserve its integrity and adds cachet to the visitor experience.
  • There is a wealth of known and presumed archaeological remains.
  • The site is connected with the major conflicts that have marked the country and region in the last 250 years: the War of the Conquest, the American War of Independence, the War of 1812-1814, the events of 1837-1838, and the Second World War.
  • The level 1 archaeological collection is rich and extensive.
  • Île aux Noix’s ecosystem is typical of a flood plain, and the wet ditch ecosystem is characteristic of a human development returned to a natural state.
  • Except for the barracks, the site’s heritage buildings have preserved their integrity.
  • The site is integrated into its regional environment and strategically located on the Richelieu/Lake Champlain tourist route.


  • Little is known about most of the archaeological sites located outside the fort, which still need to be excavated.
  • With the exception of the north curtain wall, erosion is causing the ramparts to deteriorate.
  • The abundant tree cover that is spreading freely on the outside of the earthworks is obstructing certain views of the Richelieu from the rampart’s banquette and terreplein, and vice-versa. It also increases erosion risks.
  • The barracks need to be stabilized and brought up to standards and their masonry work restored.
  • The guard room needs to be stabilized and brought up to standards and its upstairs restored.
  • Several sections of the buildings are inaccessible to the public.
  • The fort’s two bridges need to be restored.
  • The wet ditch is eutrophic.
  • Bank erosion is threatening some paleohistoric resources.
  • The documentation of archaeological sites prior to 1985 must be reviewed and the inventory completed.
  • The archaeological artefacts for the years prior to 1989 need to be inventoried.
  • Forty-seven percent of the artefacts in the archaeological collection (metal objects) are considered in mediocre condition.
  • Historical and archaeological knowledge of Île aux Noix facilities is still limited.
  • There has been no structured, comprehensive development of presentation approaches.
  • The reasons for designation are not communicated to visitors who go no farther than the pier.
  • The site is located off the main tourist routes, but in a region experiencing tourism growth nonetheless.

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