Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Camp Site #19 at Poisson Blanc Reservoir

Further to my general description of the Poisson Blanc Reservoir as a great kayak-camping destination near Ottawa Ontario, here's a more detailed description of our campsite.

As you can see on the map of the park, campsite #19 is near the middle of the reservoir. That means that you'll need to paddle at least a couple of hours from the put-in before reaching your destination. Due to the distances involved, this availability of this site is likely better than easier to reach alternatives.

Contrary to what's shown on this map, there are two campsites (#18 & 19) on this island, not just one. We found this out when we were given a colour map by the park staff at the put-in. Luckily this didn't turn out to be a disappointment, given the considerable distance between the two sites. We never saw or hear anyone from the other campsite.

The campsite is located on the southern point of the island, offering a magnificent 270 degree view of the area. If you look closely at the picture below (click to enlarge), you'll see the top of our tent tucked away on the left side.

First impressions are good when you arrive at the site. Firewood is in a bag as promised, site is clean and magnificent chain-saw sculptured bench adorns the fire pit.

Apparently this site had an even more impressive table hand-built out of logs but it disappeared one night a while back.

You get quite a lot of nice accessible space from this campsite as you can see from the picture below.

This site is described on the park's web page as being suitable for 2 to 6 people. If everyone is in a small 2-person tent, that might be reasonable. If anyone has a medium or large sized tent, that could be a challenge.

In the pictures shown on their site, I never would have thought to set-up a tent in the area where they show a tent. I'm not saying it's a bad location, simply that it didn't look to me like a spot for a tent.

We set-up our tent near the area where a yellow tarp is shown in their pictures. This seemed to be the largest & flattest area on the campsite. It actually took a while before I could find a suitable orientation to fit our MEC Wanderer 2 Tent between the roots, rocks and trees.

If a second tent had to be set-up, the space shown on the left of the picture above would have been my choice. A third tent would have ended up as shown in the picture of a tent on the park's web pages or down by the beach on the west side of the point.

The path to the thunderbox is behind to the left of the tent shown in picture above. It's a bit of a climb but otherwise well located. If you keep walking past the facilities, you reach the top of a rock face on the west side of the island. Could be an interesting viewpoint when the sun sets.

One of the great features of this site is the great views to the east....

and to the west, next to a beautiful campfire...

As no site can be perfect, one of the slight disadvantages is the fact that fishermen seem to think there are a lot of fish in the area and many of them converge around the point. I have news for them, after watching them for 3 days, not a single fish was caught in the area...


Monday, July 05, 2010

Poisson Blanc Regional Park

Located less than 2 hours north-east of Ottawa/Gatineau, the Poisson Blanc reservoir has long been a popular camping destination for canoeist, kayakers, fishermen and boaters.

In May 2009, a regional park was inaugurated to preserve and enhance this natural habitat and turn it into a first-class destination for outdoor activities.

Starting with a professionally designed web site (available mostly in french and partially in english at the moment), an overview of the park, the main activities, the camping and contact information is provided. If you don't understand french but would like more details than what is provided on the english pages, you can try Google Translate's version here, particularly the camping details for full descriptions with pictures of 10 of the reservable camping sites.

Probably the best way to get good overview of what the park has to offer with it's 20+ mile length and 80+ islands is by looking at the detailed map available on their web site. You will see there are four types of campsites:
  • Reservable (for a fee): 13 sites
  • 1 to 2 tents, Unrestricted Access (free): 13 sites (plus one more as we later found out)
  • 3+ tents, Unrestricted Access (free): 7 sites
  • External to the park: 16 sites on the reservoir and another 21 sites if portaging is an option
While there are numerous put-in options on the reservoir, some public and many private, you might find it worthwhile to drive up to the park's own parking & launch site just off the road leading to the Notre-Dame du Laus village. Directions from Ottawa are available from Google here. As you arrive, you will see a generous parking lot to your left and and what appears to be an overflow area to your right

You will be greeted by friendly and informative park employees near the equipment shelter at the back of the parking lot, next to the rack of rental canoes and kayaks.

With our camping site reservation, we were provided a full color map, a blue recycling bag and and a matchbook. A large back containing enough firewood for two nights was also delivered to our site in the afternoon, by two other park employees doing the rounds and making sure everything was to our liking when we got to our campsite. They dropped by again the second day to see if we needed anything else such as extra firewood and to ask again if everything was to our liking. For those trusting their luck to find room on one of the free campsites, you can purchase the bag of wood for $8 or have it delivered to your site for $10.

The main launch area consists of a dock at the end of a trail near the back of the main parking lot. While this options may be quite suitable for canoes, it's not ideal for kayaks due to the slightly rugged shoreline.

Across the road the smaller parking lot was closed due to construction activities. We did get a special permission to launch our kayaks from the sandy beach accessible on this side (sorry no pictures to share).

The reservoir offers plenty of destination options, with tons of bays, islands, cliffs and lookouts to explore.

Given the size of the reservoir, large waves can easily develop when the wind picks up. Luckily, the numerous islands can give you some relief from the wind in certain areas.

As with any great outdoor destination, word quickly gets around and what was once a secret gem has now become a very popular destination. That means that boating & fishing activities can seem a bit overwhelming during weekends. For that reason, I would aim to go back on weekdays next time if possible. Regardless of when you go, it's still a great destination.

In my next post, I'll provide more details on our campsite and the areas we visited during this 3-day and 2-night trip.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Poisson Blanc (White Fish) Reservoir Regional Park - Notre Dame du Laus QC

Details to follow...come back in a day or so!


Meech Lake - Gatineau Park

Pictures from an earlier paddle out on Meech Lake in early June.

We've often wondered about the history of the church/chapel on the lake.

Perhaps our local experts at Guide Gatineau can shed some light on this?