The summer season in Ontario Provincial Parks has officially started! There are still so many parks in my province that I haven’t had a chance to visit yet, and Fitzroy Provincial Park was one of them. I finally went there for the very first time last weekend, to explore its hiking trails.
Fitzroy Provincial Park is located in the western metropolitan area of Ottawa, not far from Morris Island Conservation Area. I enjoyed hiking on Morris Island, and I confess that I thought the trails in the provincial park would be a pale imitation of the longer ones found on Morris Island.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. Fitzroy Provincial Park is quite different from the Conservation Area and its two trails are meant to introduce people to certain aspects of the park.
A bit of history
Fitzroy Provincial Park is bordered by the Ottawa River. Artifacts found in the area reveal that the place has been frequented by humans for more than 4000 years.
As at Morris Island, the area was used as a portage point for First Nations and European explorers who wanted to bypass the Chats Falls (“Chutes des Chats” a name given by explorer Samuel de Champlain).
After the explorers came the loggers. The flourishing logging industry of the 19th century significantly increased traffic on the Ottawa River. In the 1930s, the construction of a hydroelectric dam led to the disappearance of Chats Falls, and to the prosperity of the small village of Fitzroy Harbour.
Fitzroy Provincial Park was created in 1959, when the Ontario government purchased 200 hectares of farmland by the river. Today there are several campgrounds, two beaches and two hiking trails, both of which I have hiked.
1-kilometre loop. Fitzroy Provincial Park is located at the junction of the majestic Ottawa River and the meandering Carp River. The Carp Trail follows this river for a few metres, before bringing us back to our starting point.
This trail is definitely easy, and allows you to appreciate the very old forest of the provincial park. Some of the tall white pines found there are over a century old!
1.6-kilometre loop. The Terraces Trail is the flagship trail of the park, because it allows you to appreciate the geological characteristics of the place. An interpretive sign and pamphlet provide more information on the various landscape features found at Fitzroy Provincial Park.
Part of the hike is along shale cliffs and terraces, which have been sculpted by water, time and retreating glaciers. It is particularly interesting to see the different layers of red and green shale that accumulated there millions of years ago.
The trail had a slight elevation gain (which is always surprising in the usually flat Ottawa area) and leads to a viewpoint. Although not very high, the viewpoint allows you to see the Ottawa River down below as well as the Chats Falls dam, which has also significantly shaped the landscape and the history of the surroundings.
For me who loves to learn more about the geology and history of a place, I found this hike very interesting!
All in all, I enjoyed this visit to Fitzroy Provincial Park. The hikes were not very long or very complicated, but they once again reminded me of how the parks of my province are true natural gems!