Joëlle Tourangeau

Communications Assistant, Strategic Communications

You go there for cycling, hiking, swimming and camping. You volunteer there, practise birding or athletic training. Perhaps you even live close by...

But, do you really know Gatineau Park?

Find out six things you may not know about Gatineau Park, and impress your friends with your new knowledge!

You can see the world’s fastest animal in Gatineau Park

Peregrine falcon in flight.

It’s not a cheetah, an ostrich or a great white shark. Of the entire animal kingdom, the peregrine falcon holds the record for speed — and this bird can be seen in Gatineau Park! When it is in a high-speed dive, it can attain speeds up to 350 km/h!

The peregrine falcon is designated as a vulnerable species in Quebec. Its presence in the Park, and specifically, in the Eardley Escarpment area, is monitored by our biologists. Protection measures are in place to protect its habitat each year during its nesting season.

Gatineau Park hosts Canada’s largest cross-country ski competition

Finish line of a cross-country ski race.
Photo : @gatineauloppet

Since 1983, Gatineau Park has hosted the largest international cross-country ski competition in Canada: the Gatineau Loppet. First called the Gatineau 55 (1983–1995), then the Keskinada Loppet (1996–2008), this renowned and unique annual competition attracts cross-country ski enthusiasts from around the world to the trails of Gatineau Park.

The Gatineau Loppet today is still the only Worldloppet competition that takes place on Canadian soil.

There are over 50 lakes

You probably know the Park’s popular lakes: Meech, Philippe and La Pêche, but did you know that the 361 km2 area that is Gatineau Park contains some 50 lakes?

Among them, one lake is unique: Pink Lake. And for two reasons.

Pink Lake
  • A meromictic lake: Pink Lake is one of 58 known meromictic lakes in North America, which means that the water at the lake bottom and surface never mix. The result is that there is no oxygen in the bottom seven metres of the lake. Because of this, only a single organism lives in the depths of the lake. It is a pink photosynthetic bacterium, which uses sulphur instead of oxygen to transform sunlight into energy.
  • A green lake: Despite its name, Pink Lake is actually green. The magnificent greenish tint to the waters of the lake is caused by the growth of microscopic algae. Although this phenomenon is quite beautiful, it is very harmful. The algae are gradually taking over the oxygen, and suffocating the lake. The lake is named after the Pink family who settled in this area in 1826.

In order for us to continue to enjoy this jewel of Gatineau Park for many years to come, it is important to follow the rules established to protect the lake. For example, swimming is not permitted, and dogs are not allowed at the lake.

Other lakes in Gatineau Park are also unique in different respects. The chain of lakes, Philippe, Harrington (Mousseau) and Meech, are home to a very rare species of snail found nowhere else in Canada: the Gatineau tadpole snail.

Locals represent 90 percent of recorded visits

Cyclist admiring the view from the Champlain Lookout.

Of the 2.6 million visits to Gatineau Park recorded annually, 90 percent are by people who live in the region. As a comparison, Jasper National Park in Alberta records a similar number of visits per year, but only 33 percent of them are visits by Canadians.

This amount of use by the local population demonstrates the extent to which people in this region are attached to Gatineau Park. The second-most visited park in Canada, it is a place where outdoor enthusiasts can engage in recreational activities that respect the environment. This popularity also comes with challenges, as demonstrated by our Responsible Trail Management project.

The Park has two historic official residences

The country residence on a large lawn with some mature trees.

Gatineau Park has not just one, but two, residences for Canada’s official leaders!

The residence at Harrington Lake serves as the country residence of the prime minister of Canada. The property is the former site of a sawmill that was owned by William Cameron Edwards, an important businessman who made his fortune in Ottawa in lumbering and finance.

His nephew, Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Macpherson Edwards, inherited the property in 1921. He had the sawmill demolished and built a house in the Colonial Revival style which was very popular at that time. In the late 1950s, the house became the official country residence of the prime minister of Canada, and has been managed by the NCC since 1988.

The Farm, the second official residence in Gatineau park, serves as the residence of the speaker of the House of Commons. It was the personal sanctuary of William Lyon Mackenzie King, who had purchased it in 1927 to add to his estate.

It is the site of important scientific research

Blanding’s turtle.

Gatineau Park is a major natural laboratory for scientific research. For example, Quebec’s only known population of Blanding’s turtle, an interesting reptile that is designated as threatened under Quebec’s Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species.

This research project will allow us to verify the effectiveness of a new method of inventory and monitoring of turtle populations. The conventional method involves capturing turtles using hoop nets (conical nets mounted on a series of hoops), while the new project uses environmental DNA analysis and monitoring by drone.

Knowing the size of the Blanding’s turtle population is essential for maintaining or improving habitat conditions and population status.

Now, it’s your turn!

We hope that you’ve learned more about Gatineau Park, an area with many extraordinary places to be discovered — and protected. We need your help to protect this important natural space.

Here are three ways you can take action:

  1. Always follow the principles of outdoor ethics on your outings in nature, and leave no trace.
  2. Volunteer for work crews, scientific research or trail patrol.
  3. Become a member of the Friends of Gatineau Park, an organization dedicated to understanding, appreciation and protection of the Park’s natural and cultural heritage.

There is one question that remains unanswered: the mystery of what happened to parking lots P4, P14 and P18!