Grandes-Piles is a recreational tourism and picturesque locality of the Moyen-Mauricie located in the Laurentian Shield, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, in the regional county municipality of Mékinac, in Mauricie, in Quebec. This municipality has a territory of 124.8 kilometres (77.55 mi) where 415 inhabitants reside.
This municipality has a large industry derived from the forestry industry and recreational tourism activities.
In the past, the forestry industry was the dominant economic activity in Grandes-Piles, and agriculture second. In the 20th century, recreational tourism activities (vacationing, boating, nautical activities) gained momentum because of the capacity for tourist accommodation and the various attractions offered by this body of water on the Saint-Maurice River. . The latter can be sailed to La Tuque if the water conditions allow it.
Route 155 linking Grand-Mère to La Tuque generates significant traffic, especially in summer.
As early as 1850, the forestry industry became the vector of economic development in the Mauricie valley. From then on, ships powered by steam engines and paddlewheels crisscrossed the river to supply shipyards in the Moyen and Haute-Mauricie. Relays were established along the banks. In early winter, the hordes of workers and horses (sometimes up to two hundred horses) traveled on the ice roads laid out on the river to go to the logging sites. The workers came back down in the spring or were assigned as loggers to direct the floating logs into the current.
The section of the “Chemin de fer du Nord” was built in 1877-78 to link Montreal to Quebec on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. This railway project included the construction of the Piles branch which was built in 1879-80. The train arrived at Les Piles in the fall of 1980, serving in particular the parishes of Saint-Narcisse and Saint-Maurice. This branch contributed to the economic development of the Piles and to navigation on the Saint-Maurice River, upstream of the Grand-Mère dam. This branch opened up the hinterland to colonization, to the industrial exploitation of the forests of the Middle and Upper Mauricie, as well as to the creation of parishes. However, this spectacular economic boom lasted until the construction of the railway connecting La Tuque.
Residents of this municipality have the advantage of being located near Shawinigan to receive services and the Saint-Maurice River which was a vector of economic development at the end of the 19th century.
The Saint-Maurice River has its source at Gouin Reservoir, in Haute-Mauricie. It flows on 560 kilometres (350 mi) in a north-south direction and displays a drop of 405 metres (1,329 ft). The segment of its east shore of Saint-Maurice River in the territory of Grandes-Piles is 7.3 kilometres (4.5 mi).
The village of Saint-Roch-de-Mékinac is accessible by road, snowmobile, all terrain vehicles or by river.
- From Montreal (184 km (114 mi). Time: 1 hr 55 min. Take highway 40 (north shore) eastbound, to Trois-Rivières; take highway 55 (northbound) to Grand-Mère, which becomes route 155 and then cross the Saint-Maurice river bridge; take road 155, to the village of Grandes-Piles.
- From Quebec City (145 km (90 mi). Time: 1 hr 36 min. Take highway 40 west ; take road 359 (northbound) passing through the village of Saint-Luc-de-Vincennes, then Lac-à-la-Tortue; then take route 153 (eastbound); take road 155 (northbound), up to the village of Grandes-Piles.