Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: July 2021
Fitzroy Provincial Park is located just east of Ottawa along the shore of the Ottawa River. It protects a locally significant southern mixed forest region featuring white pine that initially drew people into the Ottawa Valley for logging. The park offers ample opportunities for water recreational activities, including canoeing, boating and swimming. Fitzroy also has over 200 campsites and features two short hiking trails.
We arrived at Fitzroy just after 5p.m and checked in at the Park Office to collect our campsite permit. But before setting up our tent, we decided to just hike along the two trails in the park since they were both relatively short. We might as well work for our dinner.
We first drove to the group picnic area where there’s a lookout of the Ottawa Valley and Ottawa River. There are a few interpretive panels that provide more information about the Ottawa River and its significance. For centuries, the Ottawa River served as an important transportation route for the First Nations, explorers, fur traders and loggers. It is also a major transcontinental flyway for migratory birds.
We then drove to the trailhead for the Terraces Trail (1.6km, rated moderate), which is located just east of the Park Store. The trail is marked with 7 numbered posts that correspond to the numbered descriptions in the trail guide which can be found at the gatehouse or trailhead.
The trail winds through the forest and along cliffs and highlights the interesting geological features of the area, including shale pillars and glacial erratics. The trail starts off near a small creek that spills over a cliff and flowers into the Ottawa River. Thousands of years ago, the Ottawa River was once much wider than it is today and helped shape the landscape in Fitzroy into cliffs and terraces.
The trail then passes by a series of cliffs with reddish rocks and several distinctive layers of bedrock. Almost 500 million years ago, most of Ontario was covered by a vast sea. The layered red rock exposed in the cliff faces is shale, which was once the muddy floor of the Paleozoic sea.
The trail then leads to the top of the hill and showcases the effects of water and wind erosion. The tall pillar of shale has been left standing while all the rock around it has been weathered away. The viewpoint at #7 also provides a decent view into the valley below, including the power lines that lead to the Chats Falls dam.
And with that we had one numbered post left, which leads to the top of the park. From here we could view the Ottawa River and the man-made Chats Falls Dam.
We then headed to the Carp Trail (1km, rated easy), which is located near the bridge towards the Two Rivers Campground. Naturally we had to check out the views from the bridge first.
The trail is relatively short and sweet. The path loops through the forest and follows the shore of the Carp River for the first few hundred metres.
After finishing up our hike we drove to check out the beach area. There were a few signs posted about how the beach was currently unsafe for swimming due to high bacteria levels. Despite this warning, we saw a number of kids playing in the water. That’s a hard pass for us though.
Near the beach area there is a plaque to commemorate Robert Shirreff, who, with his father, brother and sisters were the first settlers and founders of Fitzroy Harbour. The remains of Shirreff’s Point House, which was built in 1819, are reputed to be located here, but we didn’t search for them as dark clouds were rolling in.
Remember how we were at Driftwood earlier this morning and tried to drive away from the rain? Turns out there’s no escaping it. Just as we were finishing up at the beach area, it started to rain. Maybe we should have set up our tent earlier. To kill some time while we waited for the rain to subside, we drove to the comfort station in the campground to shower.
But the thing about the rain is that it was only getting started. According to the weather forecast it was supposed to continue raining throughout the evening. Setting up in the rain is the worst. And we were getting tired and hungry. So there was only one thing we could do – leave. We ended up booking a room in a hotel in Kanata instead. No regrets. We had a wonderful sleep and this way we were reassured that we and our tent would stay dry.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here