I feel a bit down after spending six weeks on the road for work. So, what do you do when you have travel nostalgia and find it hard to come back to reality? For me, there is a simple solution: I look for a place nearby where I haven’t been yet, and I head there! That’s how I ended up at the Morris Island Conservation Area.
The Morris Island Conservation Area is located west of Ottawa, near the Ottawa River. I never heard of that place before I noticed the green space on Google Maps and as I enjoyed my visit to the Cooper Swamp Conservation Area last spring, I thought it might be interesting to discover another conservation area not far from home.
The conservation area consists of forested woodlands and wetlands and is centered around Morris Island on the Ottawa River. There are a few trails and launching points for canoes and kayaks.
I do not have a canoe or kayak, but I really wanted to explore the hiking trails of the conservation area. So as soon as I arrived I headed for the Old Voyageur Trail, a flat and wide trail that was charming, though not very complicated. The Old Voyageur Trail eventually joins the Miner’s Trail that I decided to follow.
The Miner’s Trail was definitely my favorite. It is well signposted, but less regular and a bit steeper than the Old Voyageur Trail. It makes a loop on the island and offers nice views of the Ottawa River. I sat on a large rock for a few minutes just to observe the landscape and I saw two great blue herons fly calmly over the shimmering river. It was just what I needed to make me forget how I missed being on the road in Europe.
Before leaving, I decided to also follow the Chats Falls Trail. The trail was pleasant, although I was a little disappointed to realize that it did not lead to a fall, despite its name. In fact, I later learned that the name “Chats Falls” was the name given to the rapids once found on the river there. But the Chat Falls no longer exist and the Ottawa River is now pretty calm at that spot since a dam was built downstream.
Moreover, in addition to its natural interest, Morris Island is also of historical significance as it was used as a portage point for First Nations and European explorers who wanted to bypass the Chats Falls. I did not meet any explorers (in fact, I did not meet other hikers on the trails that day), but I saw several amateur painters who came to try to capture the quiet beauty of the place.
The Morris Island Conservation Area is located about 40 minutes from downtown Ottawa. There is no fee (not that I am aware of), but a box at the entrance allows to deposit donations. The trails are marked (and indicated with different colors) and also accessible in winter, apparently (I’m planning to come back with my snowshoes in a few months!).