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Gatineau Park: Gem of the Capital Region

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Author: 
Matthew Farfan

Pink Lake from the lookout, Gatineau Parkway. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)Gatineau Park, one of eastern Canada’s premier natural heritage sites, is located at the edge of the Canadian Shield, a stone’s throw from the nation’s capital. Minutes from downtown Ottawa-Gatineau, and easily accessible by car and bicycle, Gatineau Park occupies a 363 square kilometre (36,300 hectare) wedge between the Gatineau and Ottawa Rivers.

Managed by the National Capital Commission, the park is famous for its hills, forests, lakes, trails, and splendid scenery. A magnet for residents and visitors alike, it is open to the public year-round.

A view along the Eardley Escarpment (right), with the Ottawa River in the distance. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)

There are many ways to explore Gatineau Park, depending on the season. For those wishing to see the park by car, there are several scenic routes, including the Gatineau, Champlain, and Lac-Fortune Parkways.

The 165-kilometre network of hiking and walking trails is popular during spring, summer and fall. Cycling and mountain biking are also popular activities during these seasons. In winter, there are plenty of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and downhill skiing is available at Camp Fortune.

There are numerous lakes in the park, including Meech, Philippe, Mousseau, and La Pêche Lakes. These provide ample opportunities for swimming (there are six supervised beaches), canoeing, and fishing. In addition, there are a number of designated camping and canoe-camping sites.

Champlain Lookout. (Matthew Farfan)

Gatineau Park has a number of scenic lookouts. Champlain Lookout is perhaps the most spectacular. Located at the end of the Champlain Parkway, at the edge of the 300-metre-high Eardley Escarpment, it offers a breathtaking view of the Ottawa River Valley.

The park is known for its diversity of plant and animal species, and within its boundaries there are at least 1,000 species of plant, including 50 types of tree, 230 species of bird, and 54 species of mammal.

Some 2,000 white-tailed deer find refuge within the park, as do 2,000 beavers, and a number of black bears, timber wolves and other species at risk in Quebec or Canada. Hunting and the collection of plant or animal species are forbidden in the park.

The ruins at the King Estate. (Matthew Farfan)

There is so much to see and do in this park that visitors will want to return again and again. The Mackenzie King Estate, the former country retreat of Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, is a popular attraction. Its landscaped grounds, gardens, tearoom, and picturesque ruins are among the park’s most frequented sites.

Visitors to Gatineau Park are encouraged to stop at the Visitor Centre, at 33 Scott Road, near the Chelsea entrance to the park. Here they will find maps and brochures, and learn all about the park through exhibits and park interpreters (depending on the season).

For more information on facilities, opening hours, equipment rental, and user fees, call (819) 827-2020, or toll free at 1 (800) 465-1867.

Or visit the Park website at:
http://www.canadascapital.gc.ca/bins/ncc_web_content_page.asp?cid=16297-16299-10170&lang=1.

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