in Parc National d'Oka
A beautiful campground with a unique history
©Outdoor Adventure Canada
d'Oka situated in the lower Laurentian region of Quebec, is
about 60 km northwest of Montreal. The park's proximity to
the city and its dual mission of protecting the environment
while promoting outdoor recreation make it a wonderful place
to get away.
Historically, the land belonged
to the Seigneurie du Lac des Deux Montages (Lake of Two Mountains)
and managed by Sulpiscian Monks since 1717. The influence
of the religious order is still visible in a monastery that
you pass along the way to the park and a school that you can
see from the North Gate. In 1881 the Trappist Monks also developed
a model farm for the education of the colonists and natives
in the area and made the world famous OKA cheese.
The most impressive and lasting
of the Monks' achievements is certainly the Calvary which
consists of four oratories and three chapels built on the
mountainside amidst the trees and natural décor. This
beautiful spot is only a few minutes walk from the campsites
and is a great place to get away, reflect, enjoy the scenery,
and admire the recently restored artisanship of the Monks.
Although the fall colours are
particularly stunning, the walk along the wide and very well
tended gravel dust trail is beautiful in all seasons. You
can even rent snowshoes to do the trail in the wintertime,
although, because it is on a hill, neophytes may find it difficult.
The park is open all year round
with camping from May to October. There are a total of 580
sites for tents (semi-serviced - water and toilets nearby)
on four campgrounds and 301 sites for trailers and RV (water,
electricity and sewer connection). At central locations, there
are toilets, showers, garbage stations and hot ash disposal.
The sites, which are situated in the woods, and are far enough
apart to afford relative privacy. All sites have access to
the beach, trails, observation activities and Interpretation
One of the wonderful features
of this Parc National d'Oka is what they call their "Turnkey
Package in A Tent"; especially useful if you are
vacationing from afar or if you don't have camping equipment
of your own. It consists of a six-person tent, a rechargeable
lantern/flashlight, a ground sheet, a woodstove and enough
wood for the duration of your stay. All you need is your sleeping
bag, dishes and camp stove.
The beach is certainly the main
attraction of the park in the summer. It is a sandy expanse
of more than 1.5 km and is supervised by lifeguards until
dusk. You can bask in the sun, or set up in one of the many
shaded picnic areas. There is also the opportunity to rent
paddleboats, sailboards and various nautical craft. The new
Littoral Visitors' Centre is open year round, has a restaurant
with a patio facing the lake, lockers, and a first aid post.
Challenge your campsite neighbours to participate in the sand
of the beach? Getting restless? There are dozens of kilometers
of walking trails in many diverse natural environments - wetlands,
forests, hills - and most of these have been set up with information
panels to let each one discover at their own pace. Or you
might want to go out in a kayak for a relaxing paddle.
Even better, you can arrange for
a guided tour with a qualified naturalist who will explain
the natural surroundings in depth. The Interpretation and
Visitors' Centre has a permanent photograph exhibit, a projection
room and is the departure point for two of the hiking trails.
Over 200 species of birds have been identified within the
park. Grab your camera and find out how many species you can
If you brought your bicycles,
you won't be disappointed. Ten kilometers of the La Vagabonde
cycle path's forty kilometres are within the park boundary.
There is also a fairly difficult mountain biking trail, for
those of you who are adrenalin junkies.
Recently, Parc National
d'Oka made their hiking trails more accessible for the mobility-impaired
persons who visit in the winter. Their "Made-to-Measure"
product is available free of charge and gives the visitor
the ability to use the trails.
There's so much to do and
see in Oka that you might find yourself booking extra days
just to rest up!
For more information please visit the Sépaq
Written by Mariane Colombe
Calvary photo courtesy Enviro Foto ©Sépaq
Lake photo courtesy Jean-Pierre Huard ©Sépaq