Cape Chapeau Rouge is a coastal landmark fronting Placentia Bay at the entrance to St. Lawrence. This is the highest point of land on the south coast located 2.5km west of Sauker Head and 4km east of Ferryland Head. It is located within the municipal boundaries of the Town of St. Lawrence. The designation encompasses the entire area.
Cape Chapeau Rouge has been designated a municipal heritage site because it has environmental and historic values.
Cape Chapeau Rouge Municipal Heritage Site has environmental value because it holds a strategic purpose due to its location. Used as a landmark this land feature is located on the highest point of land on the south coast at 226m above sea level. Located at the edge of the Burin Peninsula it was a signal to early fishers that a safe harbour was near and its expansive beaches were useful for fishermen who exploited the cod fishery. There is a rarity of good harbours along this shore and the coast is fogbound with treacherous currents. Cape Chapeau Rouge has been a landmark for a long time, found on rutters (sets of sailing directions) as early as 1579.
Cape Chapeau Rouge got its name for its appearance, though ancient records say that the mountain changes shape as one moves towards it, traveling the sea. Its appearance is most striking when fog is hovering about it and it has been said it resembles the crown of a hat, a lion, a bust, a broken turret, a rough dome and a broken, irregular, craggy, inaccessible mountain.
Cape Chapeau Rouge is historically valuable because it has a connection with the French fishery. France was an important participant in the exploration and exploitation of Newfoundland. By the time French explorer Jacques Cartier arrived in Newfoundland waters in 1534 Breton, Norman and Basque fishermen had been fishing there for thirty years. French Basque fishermen appear to have been the first fishermen in Placentia Bay. There is an abundance of French place names to support this theory of early settlement by the French. French Basque had a ready supply of salt and concentrated on the cod fishery and St. Lawrence’s safe harbour is listed among the busiest in the bay. The French Basque set up summer rooms (fishing premises) at the base of Cape Chapeau Rouge, but no permanent settlement took place.
During the seventeenth century the French fishery reached its peak and its only competitor was the English fishery, who they outnumbered by two to one in fishing vessels. The French concentrated their efforts in two main areas of Newfoundland, one of which took in Placentia Bay, encompassing St. Lawrence, among others. This area was known as la cote du Chapeau Rouge and the fishers came mostly from ports in Brittany. In addition to the migratory fishery the French set up year-round settlements in these areas. The Cape Chapeau Rouge was used by the French to guide them to the fishing grounds and safe harbours, which was particularly important, considering the fog and unpredictable currents.