Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024
Lighthouse in background of trees and shore

Thanks to Laura McClintock of Presqu’ile Provincial Park and Sabrina MacDowell of Voyageur Provincial Park for putting together today’s post.

Have you ever wondered how your favorite park got its name?

Voyageur Provincial Park

Voyageur Provincial Park, Ontario’s easternmost park, located on the Ottawa River, has an interesting history behind it. First of all, Voyageur was not the original name of this park.

A popular fur trader.

Established in 1971, Voyageur was first named “Carillon Provincial Park”, after a local inhabitant of the nearby town on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, Philippe de Carillon.

Lake water with forested shoreline under blue sky

He owned land on which he established an illegal fur trading post with the wooden runner (fur traders also known as “timber brokers”). Finally, due to much confusion with another camp called Carillon Park in Quebec, Voyageur was renamed in 1994.

A stop for explorers, traders and travelers.

The story behind the Voyageur name begins in the 17th century, when the area was inhabited solely by First Nations. In fact, the name “Ottawa” comes from the Algonquian term “came,” which means “trade.” The forests around Voyageur were filled with pine, hemlock, and maple trees, making land travel difficult and water travel easier, making the Ottawa River a popular trade route.

Coast with canoe rental in the distance

Once European settlers arrived, this route marked the boundary between Upper and Lower Canada in the 1700s-1800s. Around this time, the land that is now Voyageur Provincial Park became a prime stopping place for explorers, fur traders and travelers.

A treacherous vocation

Travelers were hired to transport goods, including furs, in canoes to different trading posts. Most worked for one of two companies: Hudson’s Bay Company or North West Company.

Looking at the water and sky from the beach.

Anyone traveling along the Ottawa River had to pass through three sets of rapids totaling 13 km long: the Carillon Rapids, the Chute-a-Blondeau Rapids, and, the most dangerous, the Long Sault Rapids.

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Pond with grasses

Travelers risked their lives daily to ensure that people downstream had the supplies they needed to survive and colonize new cities. Over time, roads were built along the coast for transportation around the rapids, and many lives were saved.

A quieter place today

In today’s Voyageur Provincial Park, the days of the fur trade are long gone, but remnants of the era of exploration can still be seen.

Girl fishing on the shore of a large body of water

Whether you travel along ancient shipping trails through pristine forests or experience the silence of canoeing in one of the quiet bays along the Ottawa River, there are many ways to imagine yourself stepping back in time.

Peninsula Provincial Park

One of the most common questions our staff is asked is, “What does Presqu’ile mean?” And, as if by reflex, we respond: “Almost an island.” But there is more to the name Presqu’ile than just that.

Presqu’ile is an L-shaped landmass jutting into Lake Ontario, with three of its sides surrounded by water.

Lighthouse on the background of trees and the coast.

Our name comes from French, ““presque” meaning “almost” or “almost” and “with” which means “island.” In other words, a peninsula. But Presqu’ile was not always a peninsula.

the tombolo

Thousands of years ago, there was only a limestone island (now a campground and day-use area of ​​the park) and a water channel separating it from the mainland. Little by little, this channel filled up thanks to the changing currents and the accumulation of sand, forming a land bridge, also known as a tombolo.

Boy looking with binoculars

Presqu’ile has one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, and this unique land formation is the reason Presqu’ile has such high biodiversity for such a small place.

Unique and precious habitat

The tombolo has many different habitats, from beach, dune and salt marsh habitat, to ancient woodland and meadows. Presqu’ile is home to thousands of species of plants and animals, and acts as a vital rest stop for migrating birds and insects.

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Plover male with sand in its beak,

This small plot of land thrives on its diversity and resilience to the ever-changing conditions that it considers a peninsula on Lake Ontario.

A tragic turn of events

Another name linked to the peninsula is Newcastle, the name of the district capital that would be established in the 19th century.

The city of Newcastle began its development by building a courthouse, hoping to see its first trial in October 1804. However, the courthouse would have no trials, and the plan for Newcastle was abandoned when HMS Speedy, a ship carrying an accused murderer and government officials from York, Toronto to Newcastle for the first trial – sank off the coast during a storm. All lives were lost.

Person in red shirt looking at the lake, shot from behind

Since travel by ship was the only way to reach Newcastle at the time, the location was considered unsuitable for a capital due to the severity of the storms and the treachery it could present. Instead, the capital was moved to Amherst, present-day Cobourg.

Various spellings

While no one is credited with the name Presqu’ile, our French name was a common label for peninsulas on maps made by French explorers, such as Frontenac and La Salle.

A group of children and adults in a program in Presqu'ile

There have been many discussions about the spelling of Presqu’ile, as it has many variations depending on which map you are referring to. He was known as Almost Isle of Quinte in 1798, and Presque Isle Bay in 1840. Finally, Presqu’ile Bay, Presqu’ile Park and Peninsula Point They became the standard names for the peninsula in 1933.

A couple sitting around the fire, next to a motor home parked at a waterfront campground in Presqu'ile

Throughout Presqu’ile’s history, its name has changed as much as its landscape. However, Presqu’ile remains a thriving area on the Great Lakes and an important activity site for birds, insects, plants and people.