Saturday, 4 July 2015

Le Parc de la Rivière-des- Mille-Îles







A symphony of Natural Sounds and Sights

Reviewed by Nancy Snipper

 Canoeing into a bastion of birds

In Laval’s central north lush perimeter there’s a conservative-conscious eco-nature park offering a unique oasis of leisurely pleasures within a matrix of 101 verdant islands. Only a half hour drive from Montreal, this special place, is called Parc de la Rivière-des- Mille-Îles. Here, birds, fauna and frogs come together to sing praises of their heavenly habitat; for humans, it is a haven for respite and relaxation; a cornucopia of natural surprises continuously delight the senses. Birdsong, bullfrogs and whispering breezes beckon us, weaving their magic in this bastion of visual beauty.











Hand me my paddle, please!



I met up with my guide, Joshua Parks whose knowledge, care of the environment and people are obvious. He not only holds a degree in applied ecology, but also in physical education. He’s been paddling among the islands for seven years, animating guided tours for children’s camps here, and taking journalists, such as myself out on informative outings. His enthusiasm for the area has not waned. Having seen several parks in Quebec and in Western Canada, Joshua claims Mille-Îles to be tops on his list of favourites. No wonder! There is so much to enjoy here.  




Eight guided itineraries on the Blue Route of Voyageurs include this very park, along with Lake of Two Mountains, the Ottawa River, Rivière des Prairies and part of the Saint Lawrence.
The park was open for public enjoyment in 1987. From the 1940s to 1975, people used the waterway basically as a refuge for almost everything, but thanks to efficient management and the park’s ecotourism team of experts (there is even a biology department on site), the water is finding its original purity. The abundance of birdlife and fauna growth is proof positive that so much is being done and the improvement shows starting with the water – a river running 42 kilometres in length that begins its path rising out of Lake of  Two Mountains and ending at the Saint Lawrence River.
I explored six kilometres of it with Joshua. As we paddled along, we spotted oodles of duck and geese families and their goslings. We saw painted turtles basking in the sun on logs, different types of majestic heron, including the green, and the great blue heron. Geese, swallow tails, an eagle flying overhead, and egrets greeted us as did wood ducks wandered in the water along with green-headed mallards (a sign the males were mating), soaring cormorants, and a colourful array of nameless winged creatures continued without end. 





As for fish, among the 67 different species, people can catch walleye, pike, perch, and small mouth bass.  We headed towards Cordeau Marsh, one of two left: 70% of marshes have disappeared according to Joshua. Nonetheless at every turn, we spotted interesting fauna that also attracted many ducks. Here we spotted so much wildlife, it was thrilling. Three species of endangered bats have managed to hang on – so to speak.
The vistas were splendid. Five islands offers docks and walking paths to explore: These sweet, tree-filled islands include: Îles aux Fraises, Darling, Moutons, Chabot and the one we docked at – Île des Juifs – called that as the last family to take leave were Jews. In fact, long ago, people had built their houses on some of these islands, but when the pollution became too intense, the islands were abandoned and thankfully nature was left to its own devices.
Joshua and I took a fifteen-minute walk on the trail on Île des Juifs. Joshua pointed out an assortment of trees, including three different types of maple trees, basswood, hard bark hickory trees whose bark peels like bananas, white birch and more. Poisonous mushrooms sprouted like oversized aliens out of the ground. Above us we saw holes in trees left by palliated woodpeckers, and I spotted a few butterflies darting about.




There may be only 101 islands in the park, but I am sure 1000 sweet secrets await you in Mille-Îles’ magic. I’ll let you discover them on your own, or if you wish, just request that Joshua accompany you in your canoe as you embark on your aquatic nature quest. 



Mille-Îles Park has a day camp for kids that take perfect advantage of all the indoor facilities and outdoor activities, including fishing. 


There are canoes, kayaks and pedalos galore here for them, and of course, families rent them too. Rentals for groups also include large Rabaska canoes. 
On July 9th and 23rd, you can leave in one of these to listen to the concert of author, composer and interpreter, Sylvain Lemy and his guitarist. Now how sweet is that!


The website is www.parc-mile-iles.qc.ca. You can also email them at info@parc-mille-iles.qc.ca or call them at (450) 622-1020, ext. 227.
The address is 345 boulevard Sainte-Rose, Laval, H7L 1M7.