O’Connell Airstrip at La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve in Quebec
Guest blogger Alain Bernier sent us the blog on an abandoned airstrip in western Quebec off of Route 117. Like many small airstrips over the last half-century, it closed off due to a lack of use. Hope you enjoy exploring more of what the Quebec area's abandoned places have to offer!
O’Connell Airstrip, La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve, Quebec, Canada
© Alain Bernier 2021
The O’Connell Airstrip, also known as the Lac-des-Loups (lake of the Wolves) airstrip, is an abandoned landing strip located at Le Domaine in the La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve in the province of Quebec, Canada. Although the “lac des Loups” was officially renamed “lac Jean Péré” in 1935, folks continue to refer to it as the “lac des Loups”. The O’Connell airstrip should not be confused with the closed O’Connell Seaplane Base (ICAO: CSB9) that was located on nearby lake Jean-Péré.
Hebert J. O’Connell, a local civil works contractori, built, owned, and operated the expansive O’Connell Lodge on the shore of the lac des Loups. The lodge was popular with fishermen, hunters, and wildlife enthusiasts. For Mr. O’Connell and his company, specialized in major works such as roads and airfields, building a landing strip to facilitate the access to his lodge was no big endeavor. He built the airstrip in the early 1940’s with an orientation 15-33. It was located 4.3 miles from O’Connell Lodge. It remained in operation for years, well after the O’Connell Lodge was purchased by the government of Quebec to become “Le Domaine”, one of only two road stops in the otherwise largely unpopulated 110 miles of highway 117 through the La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve. It has been used from time to time for emergency operations of Canadair water bombers or as a refill stations for planes spraying insecticide to fight the spruce budworm. Le Soleil, a Quebec City newspaper, on March 31, 1971, was informing that the Quebec Department of Lands and Forests would be spending $1,241,000 to fight the budworm pandemic including $75,000 to build or improve airstrips, including improvements at the Lac des-Loups airstrip. The airstrip is located at kilometer post 321 of Highway 117.
Although the landing strip has not been maintained for years now, its concrete surface is still in fair condition. It is used from time to time by amateur pilots flying over the area. Landing on this abandoned strip is more akin to bush piloting than anything else since the strip is not manned, has no markings or any equipment to assist pilots and does not have any facilities in case of problems. In addition, any number of obstacles such as holes, rubbish, cars, or wildlife may be obstructing the landing strip. Recently, a group of general aviation pilots and enthusiasts formed “Les amis de la piste O’Connell, Lac-des Loups” (The Friends of the O’Connell Airstrip, Lac-des-Loups). They are working on a project to revive the airstrip a couple days per year by holding an airshowii.
Photo 1: O’Connell (Lac-des-Loups) airstrip, 2020 (Highway 117 is visible on the left) Source: Photo credit Yves Auger, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/waco2020)
Photo 2: Article informing that the Lac-des-Loups airstrip would be used in the fight against the spruce budworm
Source: Le Soleil de Québec, March 31, 1971
Photo 3 : O’Connell Lodge, 1955
Source : Postcard
Photo 4: The road stop at O’Connell Lodge, c. 1950
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, public domain
Photo 5: O’Connell Lodge, c. 1960
i H.J. O’Connell Company Ltd was established in 1931 and is still in operations today. It was purchased by Toronto based Bird Construction on January 1, 2011 and operates as a subsidiary. ii Au Lac-des-Loups dans la réserve faunique La Vérendrye : La piste O’Connell pourrait revivre un jour ou deux par année, in L’Info de la Vallée, May 6, 2020 (https://infodelavallee.ca/actualite/2020/5/6/la-piste oconnell-pourrait-revivre-un-jour-ou-deux-par-annee.html?fbclid=IwAR3svciemnIt9kbBo7kcIz mgkDcJiT20dl31-JVwrAg5qdFXfspv-_vwT8#.XrSqP3SQaw4.facebook)