Today’s post comes from Dave Sproule, Natural Heritage Education Specialist in our Northeast area.
Can you hear the water talking? The waters of the French River have many voices.
These voices traveled along the river and lived on its banks. The French River has been a conduit of people, goods and culture for thousands of years. The voices of the river are celebrated at the spectacular French River Visitor Center.
The French River
The 105 km French River was designated the first Canadian Heritage River in Canada’s Heritage River System. This award recognized it for its outstanding natural and cultural heritage and its recreational opportunities.
For millennia, the river was linked to a continental trade network and acted as an important trade and travel route for indigenous peoples of many nations. Today, the river is home to the Dokis First Nation.
Much more recently, European and Canadian fur traders used that trading network between the 1600s and 1800s.
The French are a favorite of boaters, fishermen, kayakers and canoeists for their classic Canadian Shield scenery and backcountry recreation.
French River Visitor Center
Today, highways have replaced ancient trade routes and waterways as the most common mode of travel and commerce in Canada. An hour south of Sudbury, Highway 69 crosses the French River from north to south. Cars and transport trucks speed by, and most drivers and passengers can barely glimpse the majestic river.
Some signs invite travelers to stop and explore. You will see “the westbound route” and the “French River Visitor Center.” If you decide to stop, you will find an oasis of calm.
The French River Visitor Center is a Governor General’s award-winning building and is located a short distance from the scenic French River Gorge.
Inside is the “Voces del Río” Exhibition Hall. The exhibits take you on a virtual journey along the French River, exploring its natural and cultural heritage, with voices from the past and present as your guides.
The Visitor Center also contains restrooms, local tourist information, and a park store with souvenirs, books, and works by local artists.
French River Gorge
French River Gorge, including the French River Visitor Center and Recollet Falls Trail, was selected as one of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve’s “Amazing Places.”
East Georgia Bay and the Thirty Thousand Islands were designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2004. The Biosphere Reserve, one of 16 in Canada, is home to more than 200 species of animals and the freshwater archipelago largest in the world (the Thirty Thousand Islands), as well as indigenous nations and communities.
Amazing Places promotes places in the biosphere that are accessible to the public and tell a story about the physical, biological and historical characteristics of the Reserve. They are opportunities to explore, connect and be inspired.
Recollet Falls Trail
For the more adventurous, the 1.5km Recollet Falls Trail hugs the edge of the gorge and ends at Recollet Falls.
Around the falls is a brief tour taken by a who’s who of historical names, from the 17th century Algonquin chief Iroquet to the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, passing through Radisson and Groseilliers, who were instrumental in the founding of the Company of Hudson Bay. . Another walker of this transport was Frances Anne Hopkins, who traveled by canoe from Montreal to Manitoba in the mid-19th century and later painted what is now the most detailed collection of paintings from the fur trade era.