From Woodland to Parkland
Four hundred years ago, Voyageur Provincial Park
was covered by a dense forest that was rarely traveled.
Samuel de Champlain was the first European to visit
the area in 1613, followed by the coureurs des bois
and later the Voyageurs. Their search for beaver
pelts in Canada's interior exposed them to the numerous
and dangerous rapids on this section of the Ottawa
River which they navigated by portaging the land
now occupied by the park. Eventually the fur trade
diminished and in 1828 the white pine era began
as great numbers of trees from here and further
up the Ottawa Valley were felled and floated downstream
to Montreal. There they were sold, loaded on boats
and shipped to Europe.
As colonization progressed the lands adjacent to
the river were cultivated for farmland. This changed
in 1959 when the Carillon Dam was built to generate
electric power. The dam calmed the rough waters
immediately upstream and flooded the land along
the river. The unflooded portions of these expropriated
properties were eventually designated as a provincial
park. Carillon Provincial Park opened its gates
for the first time in 1971. It was renamed to Voyageur
Provincial Park in 1994.
Back to the Future
Twelve thousand years ago during the last ice age,
this area was covered with a dense 2.5 km-thick
ice pack. As the immense glaciers retreated north
they left a deep depression on the land. Ocean water
rushed in to fill the void creating a land-locked
saltwater basin called the Champlain Sea. But the
land gradually rebounded and the sea eventually
drained. Today’s Ottawa River is a relic of
this huge expanse of water.
Left undisturbed for years the land gradually developed
into a dense woodland before subsequent colonization
transformed the forest into farmland. Today the
park lands are changing yet again as this protected
natural area undergoes a process of ecological succession.
Old fields are gradually developing into young forests
and waterfront areas are transforming into marshlands.
The changing landscapes provide for a diversity
of plant and animal species. White-tailed deer,
foxes, groundhogs, raccoons, northern orioles and
Kingbirds are abundant in park fields and forests,
while wetlands and marshes provide habitat for herons,
bitterns, bullfrogs and beavers. During spring and
fall migration hundreds of ducks and geese stage
and feed here as well.