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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.