Ottawa – A winter walk at Hog’s Back Falls

I had decided that I wanted to do more hikes in 2018, but I must admit that the weather has caused me some difficulties to respect this resolution so far. In the last few weeks, snowstorms and extreme colds have forced me to stay at home more than I would have liked. Yesterday still, I was planning to go snowshoeing in Montérégie, but with the wind chill, the temperature was below -35 degrees Celsius. Too cold for me.

But as I’m a little tired of not being able to enjoy my weekends, I decided to go out anyway. It was too cold for a long hike outside, so I took the opportunity to go for a short walk at Hog’s Back Falls Park in Ottawa. Especially since I had never been there before, and I had heard that the falls were particularly pretty in winter.

Hog’s Back Falls (officially called Prince of Wales Falls) are located where the Rideau Canal and the Rideau River separate before entering Ottawa. They are not natural, they were created during the construction of the Rideau Canal in the 19th century. In his plan for the construction of the canal, Colonel John By wanted to have a dam built at this site to raise the level of the Rideau River and divert the water into the new artificial portion of the canal going through downtown Ottawa.

Hog's Back Falls Park
The tumultuous Rideau River

The construction of the dam was not easy (the dam collapsed three times before the end of its construction), but when it was completed in 1831, it effectively allowed the Rideau River upstream to reach its current level. On the other side of the dam, the rapids that existed at this location gave way to the all-new Hog’s Back Falls, created to allow water to flow naturally to the river downstream.

Hog's Back Falls Park
The falls

Although not natural, the Hog’s Back Falls are still impressive. Well, I must admit that with the cold weather, I could not see them much. An icy drizzle was covering the falls with a thick white mist. But I could hear them. And sometimes the drizzle dissipated a little to allow me to glimpse the falls, at least the part that had not yet frozen with this intense cold.

Hog's Back Falls Park
Mist and ice

First and foremost, Hog’s Back Falls Park is a beautiful urban park. The Rideau River, the waterfalls, the rapids and the forested shores make it a great place to come for walks, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, or just take a break to enjoy a lovely sunny day. There are various interpretive signs near the falls, but on my visit, they were covered with a thick layer of ice and snow. The trails and stairs were also covered with ice and snow, which can make the walk around the falls treacherous in winter.

Hog's Back Falls Park
A walk in the park

A trail follows the banks of the Rideau River and it is possible to cross over a footbridge to view the falls from a different angle. I would probably have stayed longer, if it was not that I could no longer feel the tips of my fingers and my toes. I will come back when it will be a little warmer!

Hog's Back Falls Park
The Rideau River downstream


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