Winter is finally officially over! The trails are not in an ideal condition right now, but spring is the perfect season to go chasing waterfalls. This is the reason why I went to visit the Parc Regional de la Rivière-du-Nord in Saint-Jérôme, where there is a waterfall and some trails that I had never hiked before!
Saint-Jérôme is often described as the gateway to the Laurentians and I myself often drive by this small town on my way to the mountains of the region. I had never stopped to hike there before, and even if I usually prefer trails far from urban centers, I was still looking forward to visit the park.
As its name suggests, the regional park showcases the magnificent Rivière du Nord (in English, River of the North), and offers a historical circuit to learn more about its historical importance. It also offers several trail options (hiking and biking trails in summer, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails in winter). After paying my entrance fee, I decided to head for Le Colvert Trail first.
Sentier Le Colvert (Mallard Trail) goes around a pond where there were, of course, several mallard ducks. There was no more ice on the pond, but there was still a good layer of it on the trail, so I was glad I brought my microspikes. The noise from the nearby highway took away some of the charm of the place, so I continued on my way to the Marie-Victorin Trail.
The Marie-Victorin Trail crosses a marsh (very quiet under its layer of ice) and brought me to the banks of the Rivière du Nord. The river was far from quiet. Its waters, swollen by the melting snow, flowed in a noisy torrent, en route to the Ottawa River further south…
After the Marie-Victorin Trail, I followed the Arts Trail, a short trail that runs along the river, and where there were art works retracing the history of the place. The sound of the rushing water made me forget for a moment that I was in the middle of Saint-Jérôme.
This trail led me to a bridge over the river, which gave me my first view of Wilson Falls, the highlight of the park.
These falls have long been an important economic driver for the region. For 50 years, they produced electricity. A pulp mill was also installed there at the end of the 19th century, the first major industry to emerge in Saint-Jérôme. Over 30 people used to work there at one point.
What is particularly interesting is that several signs of this industrial past still remain today. It is possible to visit the ruins of the pulp mill, or to see the traces of the old dam up close.
I went to see the falls up close following the Wilson Trail, then crossed the bridge again and followed the Energy Trail, for a viewpoint on the other side of the river. The Energy Trail goes deeper into the forest and offers other signs of the industrial past of the place, including an old surge tank, now very quiet between the trees.
For me, who love to hike while learning more about the history of a place, this regional park was truly a gem! My hike totaled about 4 kilometres. Parc Régional de la Rivière-du-Nord also has another sector in Prévost (not far from the Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve that I visited last year) where there are additional trails. But for me it will be a visit for next time!