With summer in full swing, it’s time to head outdoors and enjoy all that the beautiful Canadian landscape has to offer. Hikes, basking in wildlife, dipping your toes in the water, and embracing our spectacular wilderness are all on the bucket list as summer unfolds, and there’s no better place to do all of that than Quebec’s newest national park, Opémican.
Nestled in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region and bordered by lakes Témiscamingue and Kipawa, the park is only five hours away from Ottawa (4.5 hours from Toronto) and features many distinct traits that make it well worth the visit. Here are five reasons why you should add it to your list of activities this summer season.
It has accessible accommodations
You don’t have to be a seasoned camper to reconnect with wilderness at Opémican. The park features 59 wooded campsites for those wishing to stay under the picturesque pines, or you could book one of several accessible Étoile ready-to-camp canvas structure sites . There, you’ll find three double beds, all you need to cook for six people, a fridge, heating, and lighting. Not too shabby, right? It’s the perfect solution for people who want to enjoy nature, but who don’t feel completely comfortable pitching their own tent, lugging along gear, or sleeping on the ground.
It’s the perfect place to spot rare wildlife
Whether you’re going for the day, a weekend, or any kind of extended stay, there’s plenty of fauna and flora at the park to keep you clicking those cameras for hours on end. The sprawling hills and rocky cliffs house many forms of wildlife, including rare species like the peregrine falcon and woodland pinedrops. Two endangered species of bats—the silver-haired bat and the hoary bat—have also been spotted there, along with the endangered chimney swift. Meanwhile, tree-climbing fishers, which have become the park’s animal emblem, also call the area home.
It’s steeped in history
You don’t often think of venturing to a national park in order to take in a bit of history, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Opémican. The area was popular for logging back in the 19t h century, when it became a hub for driving operations on Lac Témiscamingue. The traffic resulted in the construction of a timber floating relay station and in 1883 a historic inn, which lodged many lumberjacks over the years. These days you’ll find plenty of traces of those industrial times—including four buildings that will eventually be restored and featured as part of a heritage discovery circuit. For now, book a tour with a park warden and jump in a rabaska canoe to rediscover the historical secrets of Pointe-Opémican.
It’s a rafter’s paradise
If water activities and sports are your thing, you’re in luck at parc national Opémican. Fish for brook trout, walleye, lake trout, bass, and northern pike on the calm lakes, travel across Lac Témiscamingue and Lac Kipawa by canoe, kayak, or paddleboard (rentals for all three available), or else hop into a raft and get your thrills white-water rafting across Rivière Kipawa. It’s considered a must-try for aficionados thanks to its 90-metre vertical drop along a 16 kilometre stretch, which is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
It has unique geography and fascinating geology
Of all the reasons to visit Opémican, the best is also the simplest: there’s nothing else quite like it. Aside from the unique ecosystems, the capacity for adventure, and the easy access to overnight stays, the park is rife with learning opportunities. Where else can you gain insight into a unique space where deciduous and boreal forests meet, while also taking in picturesque views like the Lac Témiscamingue graben, the Kipawa River’s Grande Chute, or the Strawberry Island archipelago? Add in memorable rock walls, sky-high white and red pines, and a variety of trails designed for bikers, strollers, and hardcore trekkers alike, and parc national Opémican pretty much has something for everyone.