We, who live on the Island of Montreal, do have our peaceful spots and areas where it does not matter what language you speak or what church you worship at. We have some of the most beautiful nature parks and bird sanctuaries right in Montreal. It is now possible to bike across the entire Island of Montreal. There are also the walking parks where not even bicycles are allowed and it is one of these I wish to explore with you today. It is called, Parc Des Rapides. The park is situated in the city of Lasalle on the Island of Montreal in the province of Quebec. There is fast running white water and calm water and the island itself is home to a wide variety of water fowl and birds. The trees and reeds and all that make up this eco system is nothing less than spectacular. If you only have an hour you can walk the whole island, but you will be back, or you could bring a lunch and easily enjoy a breath-taking day. Other walking parks I have heard about, but have not visited as of yet are far bigger and may require a few trips to see all of the park area. I will start with the park I have mentioned.
The island park is not visible from the street and I only found it by luck some years ago. Walking along the walking path I noticed a path leading to a gate that was open, but could not see anything after that. I began to walk toward the open gate my sense of adventure kicking in. Paths that led seemingly to no where have always called to me and most of the time left me no where, but this was to be so different. The moment I stepped through the gate I was magically transported to another time. There was a small bridge crossing the river which when looking to either side you could see calm water. To the right it looked like a lake where you could swim and the beach was green with grass. Ducks could be seen swimming here and if you peered closely into the water you could see the fish swimming or sunning. To the right you could see the marsh area with its tall reeds and grasses and large boulders jutting out of the water. Here there were all the wild marsh animals you could hope for. There were ducks swimming and preening themselves on boulders; there were small birds perched on the tiniest strands of marsh grasses. I saw a water-rat. There were signs to tell you where you could fish and what you had to release if caught.
All I could hear was the sounds of the birds as they went about their business darting from tree to tree doing what birds do. If you looked to the trees you could see other birds as well and squirrels. Directly under the bridge was where the left hand emptied into the right in a fast downward rippling flow. If you looked directly through the marsh you could see the eastern tip of the Island this little bridge is connected to and there the water is white and running fast. Guys line the shoreline fishing for perch and bass the braver ones wading up to their knees. Once across the bridge and on the Island you see that the Island separates the calm side from the raging white water of the St Lawrence River rapids. The noise of the rapids and the speed at which the river runs is breath-taking. The sound of the rapids leaves you in awe and just a little humble and with a new respect for this river.
On the western tip of the Island there is room to rest and eat a sandwich and enjoy the river from all angles. There is white water rafting just off the island and you can see the boats with screaming adults and children pass by, or simply enjoy nature how it was intended quiet and peaceful. On the way to the western tip of the island there are many viewing areas and an abundance of gardens. If you look closely you can see the nests of the squirrels’ and you can capture one on film like I did coming or going from its nest. The hardest to see though are the nests of the birds you can be right on top of one and not know what you are looking at.
There are also display stands to tell you what you are looking at in terms of birds and what fish you will find here as well as the history of the river rapids and settlers and how it was used by the native population of the time. It is a must see. So far no one is trying to sell you anything there. There are no souvenir shops, no restaurants. Unfortunately I did see some signs of man, plastic bottles left behind, candy wrappers on the ground and a window on the information center smashed, clearly vandalism. If this continues they will have to start charging to pay for repairs clean up crews and security. I think that would be a shame.
Please let us practice a little respect for nature and take pride in our parks. If you see someone polluting report them. If you see someone vandalizing report them. These are you parks and if you won’t protect them who will? It is hard to believe that this Island that is maybe 200 feet wide in some areas is enough to separate the raging water from the calm. It is indeed hard to pull yourself away from the wild life and the water and the gorgeous scenery, but is now time to go home or back to work.
Parc Des Rapides in my opinion is one of Montreal’s treasures. The most you will bothered on this Island, by anyone is to ask you if you would be kind enough to take a picture for a tourist.