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Magog: Tourist Mecca at the Outlet of Lake Memphremagog

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medium_img_2527.jpgFOUR-SEASON RESORT
Magog (population 20,000) is a major tourist centre. The city arcs around the northern extremity of Lake Memphremagog and is only minutes from Mont Orford Provincial Park. During the winter and spring, thousands of skiers and snowboarders flock to the area to take advantage of Orford's great snow conditions. Ice fishing on the lake is another popular winter pastime.

Autumn is a busy season, as well. With the annual explosion of colour that takes place in the Townships every autumn, many visitors make Magog their destination. Tourists, at this time of year, also enjoy the annual Harvest Festival (La Fête des vendanges) which spotlights wine and local produce.

Summer is the busiest season in Magog. Every year at this time, the city virtually buzzes with activity. Attractions include the beach, the park, music at the Vieux Clocher, downtown shopping, cruises on Lake Memphremagog, Magog's lively nightlife, and outdoor sports such as golf, boating, sailing, water skiing, in-line skating, cycling, tennis, or horseback riding. Another big draw is the annual swimming race on Lake Memphremagog (La Traversée internationale du lac Memphrémagog). The Traversée is a major international event that attracts competitors from around the world. And of course, there is Memphré, the fabled serpent, which according to legend has inhabited the lake for centuries. Bed and breakfasts and hotels in Magog are particularly busy during the summer months, as are the many local bars and restaurants. Thousands of cottagers descend upon the area in the summer, and many of them do their shopping in Magog, adding to the hustle and bustle.

Looking at Magog today, it's difficult to believe that the town wasn't always such a bustling place. In reality, for much of its early career, Magog was a sleepy country village called "The Outlet," named for the fact that it was built at the outlet of Lake Memphremagog. The settlement was founded by Ralph Merry III. Merry, who arrived about 1797, built a dam and mills in what is now the downtown area. Merry's son's house, built in 1821, still stands at the corner of Merry and Main. It is one of the oldest buildings in town.

Growth at the Outlet was slow. In 1840, people were still referring to the village as offering "no promising appearance." Roads, wrote one traveller, were "badly repaired" and the village possessed "the most miserable looking bridge I ever saw, not a rail on either side."(1)

Magog boomed, however, with the arrival of the railroad and the textile industry in the late 1800s. Dominion Textile, whose towering mill still occupies a large portion of the Magog River waterfront, is a major employer to this day. Many other historic sites, including some splendid homes, are located on quiet side streets within easy walking distance of the downtown.

Magog is only an hour's drive from South-shore Montreal's and half an hour from the U.S. border.

1) Henry Taylor, Journal of a Tour from Montreal, thro' Berthier and Sorel, to the Eastern Townships..., Quebec, 1840.