As I stated in an earlier post there are a lot of nature parks on the highway heading north from Montreal in the direction of the Laurentian Mountains. One such park just 45 minutes north of Montreal near St Saveur is named North River Regional Park. I have been around the area at least 100 times and have never known of this park, but just by chance on one of my deliveries for work I accidentally uncovered this treasure. This is one of those hidden treasures that you will never experience if you are not the type of person to get off of the main highway and follow a sign. As you enter the park you pass through a gate and are asked to pay $5.00 for parking and told that the park closes at 5 pm. At the end of the parking lot you notice a wood cabin type structure with an information sign attached to it. Inside there are maps of the park and people eager to tell you about the park and all it has to offer. I arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon and so the staff suggested that I take the path that led to the falls, circled where I was on the site map highlighted the trail and I was off. The signs indicated that this park was open to the public all year round for walking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
My path led me first to a small pond that was home to some ducks. People were relaxing on benches and enjoying being out in the fresh air. Crisscrossing my path with every few steps were the chipmunks and squirrels. The chipmunks seem at odds with the squirrels and appeared to be chasing them out of their nesting spots, or winter storing areas, but from the video I took and will be sharing with you it will be clear to see that this was no innocent game. I watched for a while fascinated at the territorial mini war knowing that in the end nothing would die, territories would be established and reaffirmed and peace would once again reign in their little community.
The next thing I saw were huge mounds of what looked to be mud covered with dead branches and twigs about 200 feet from the road. They were approximately 4-5 feet tall and about 3 to 4 feet at the base ending in a conical type top, with what looked to be and entrance hole just off-center in the front. There were no animals in view so there was no way for me to confirm that it was a nest, or what type of animal made it. Not wanting to leave the road and chance disturbing any animal that might be inside I decided to take a few pictures of it and move on and try to find the waterfalls that I was told could be found if I followed this trail.
I walked a little further and decided to go off trail and down to the river to see if I could hear or get a glimpse of the waterfalls with my naked eye, or using the 70 zoom magnification on my video camera lens. I could hear the falls, but needed my video camera to see the falls, so it was back up to the road and with a quickened pace I headed for the falls determined to see it before my time ran out and I was forced to leave the park. I came upon a small wooden bridge used to cross the river and once on it, about the middle, I looked up river and there it was, Wilson Falls.
A Little History: Located on la ”Rivière du Nord” in St-Jerome, Quebec. On the upper right corner, I could see Wilson Falls and the remains of the Wilson Paper Mill. Wilson used the falls in 1924 to make the hydro turbine work. Known under the name of their successive owners, the Wilson falls, in the past Berthelot and Sanderson, are quickly recognized for their hydraulic potential. With the establishment of the Wilson Paper Mill, a first wood dam is built by the Delisle brothers in 1880. In 1924 Wilson decides to exploit this capacity more and built a hydroelectric power station on other side of the river, almost equal with the paper mill. The installation, includes a concrete dam located at close to a kilometre upstream of the paper mill, a pipeline and a power station with two Francis turbines of a capacity of 1200 HP, two generators and two General Electric exciters. During fifty years, the power station produces electricity for St-Jerome. Devastated by a fire it is closed in 1974.
There are picnic tables where once the turbines and the gears, buildings and such used to be and all that is left are the foundations of what was and used to be a magnificent enterprise using the force of nature to do the work, before a fire burnt everything down to the ground. What I had seen of the park up to now had been spectacular. I took some photos and made a little video so that you can see what I saw. If you follow the youtube link I left below, I think you will understand the calming affect of watching ducks bobbing and swimming in a pond. I think that you will be facinated by the way a smaller animal is able to ward of an intruder much larger than itself and both live to tell the story. I think that you will be humbled when you hear and see the power of Wilson Falls.
The toilettes were in little wagons on wheels not more than Johnny on the spots with a sink, but it was in keeping with the natural state of things. they were clean and contained all that one neded. Checking my watch I realised that I had cut it close and that someone would be coming along soon to advise everyone to leave the park so I turned and retraced my steps. On the bridge I took a few more pictures of the falls and the surrounding scenery and then pushed on.
The sun was starting to go down and the wildlife was no longer visible or as active as when I had passed barley an hour before. I did stop just before getting off the path and heading to the van to take a few pictures of the trees and the nests they held. The engineering skills of birds always gave me reason to pause and question human superiority in nature. To think that every bird comes equipped with all that it will need in terms of skills to live out its life while we seem to arrive into the world unable to survive and often leave it the same way we came in makes me smile.
I never did get to go above the falls and so have only explored one path partially, but what I have seen will have me going there as soon as the park opens and staying until it closes enough time to see it all. From the little of this park that I have seen, I would have no problem recommending this as a must do, must see for all of the family park to visit. I could think of no better way to enjoy a walk, see nature and get a little fresh air, than to visit Quebec’s, North River Regional Park. I hope the video that I posted on youtube of what I saw and heard gives you a sense of how truly beautiful this park is.