Ottawa has its winter classics. There is, of course, skating on the famous Rideau Canal. There is also snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the Greenbelt. And there is also going to admire the ice formations at Sheila McKee Park in the west of the national capital.
In fact, I believe Sheila McKee Park is still a well-kept secret, little known to people from outside of Ottawa. Located in the neighbourhood of Dunrobin, this park has just over two kilometres of trails on a rocky escarpment that overlooks the Ottawa River. The trails pass through an old mixed forest and lead to a staircase that descends along the rocky cliff, to the shore.
It is at the end of this staircase that the highlight of this small park is to be found. Along the rocky escarpment, there are several ice formations, which give the impression that many waterfalls have been frozen there by the cold before reaching the Ottawa River.
These small waterfalls may not be as impressive as Hog’s Back Falls or Princess Louise Falls, but the effect is still stunning. The series of waterfalls stretch for several metres along the shore and are interspersed with old evergreens that grow between the rock strata on the cliff.
At my visit, the shore was also covered in ice, as was a portion of the stairs to get there. Microspikes or crampons are therefore recommended, so that you can admire the ice formations in complete safety.
In summer, the place is also a popular spot as it gives access to the river and offers a nice view of the hills of the Outaouais. It also apparently has a diverse wildlife, including salamanders, snakes, and birds.
By the way, know that Sheila McKee was a City of Kanata councillor, who was very involved in her community. She passed away in 2010 and this park was named in her honour two years later.