I’m really excited to share this place, because as my husband said, it was “one of the best summery things we’ve done!”
“You look active!” he said as I came down from getting dressed.
“Yup! I’ve got spandex on AND running shoes! Maybe if I look sporty, I’ll feel sporty. Let’s go!”
I’ve been wanting to go on a little canoe excursion for a while but couldn’t quite find the right place. Though we live a few blocks from the river and a canoe club, the fast current seemed like it would be a lot of work. I wanted calm water, somewhere quiet and pretty, and with spots we could park (dock?) and get out to explore.
Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles in the Sainte-Rose district of Laval is a 26.2 hectare wildlife refuge consisting of ten islands and has been a protected territory for the area’s diverse wildlife since 1998. The park boasts 50 species of fish, 28 species of reptiles and amphibians, 200 species of birds, and 46 species of mammals.
Early on a Sunday morning it took us about 25 minutes from the West Island to the park’s parking lot. And because we’re eager beavers, we were the first ones there before the rental office even opened at 9am.
But while we were the only ones in the (free) parking lot when we arrived, it was packed when we left around 11am.
Follow the path down behind the big chalet, and there’s a greenspace used for day camps, a beach volleyball net, lots of picnic tables, porta potties, and the building that houses the watercraft rental office.
There’s a big choice of boats to rent. Canoes, single and double kayaks, pedal boats, rowboats, and rabaskas (for up to 10 people.)
“Can we get a pedal boat? PLEEEEEEEEASE?”
“No way, those things only travel .000007 km/h no matter how fast you pedal. Canoe it is!”
While we could have fit all four of us into one canoe, we opted to spring for an extra one so everyone could have a chance to paddle. (And it would cut out any potential bickering from the two monsters in the middle of the boat).
We discussed who would
have to take get the honour of taking the toddler (I won and got the 8-year old with me), and then paid our 13$/h x 2 canoes. So for 26$ we had a great family morning. While we only canoed for an hour, we sat and had snacks afterwards (the boys saw the ice cream and drinks for sale in the office), wandered along the shoreline, and watched some beach volleyball.
For rental prices and opening hours you can CLICK HERE.
While lifejackets are provided, I brought our own for the kids. The jackets had been sitting at home with the price tags still on since I’d bought them, so I figured we should get some use out of them before they’re outgrown.
Helpful employees brought our canoes right to the dock and helped us get into them, while I warned everyone about the rules.
“There’s NO STANDING in the canoe!”
“What about when we get in and out?”
“Fine. There’s standing ONLY when you get in and out!”
Storing our backpack of snacks etc on the bottom we set out through the ultra calm waters. It’s shallow and peaceful and was easy to paddle. We’d borrowed a detailed map so we could pick which route would be best to follow during our hour, and set out for Île aux Fraises. You can see some of the self-guided routes below:
Paddling got a bit harder once we reached the wider part of the river, but the water stayed calm and with the wide bottom of the boat, we never felt tippy. We docked at the small island (identified by a numbered post) and walked around the trails, had a snack, found an animal carcass (the boys were both horrified and thrilled), spotted a beaver dam, saw a teensy-tiny tree frog, didn’t touch any of the poison ivy, and then, trading kids, we paddled around a few more islands before letting the current carry us slowly back to the starting point. Oh, and fished out a dropped paddle.
While on the water we passed couples fishing, families with little babies tucked into canoes, and serious kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders (you can launch your own boat for a fee of 10$/day).
I’d absolutely come back, maybe for a longer trip, and this would also be a great spot for a grown-up date (do people still do that?), or for some serious outdoor fitness time. There are bike trails that pass through the park and continue along the shoreline, or trade flip flops for sneakers and go for a walk.
In addition to renting personal watercraft, there are guided island cruises, day camps, fishing courses for kids 8-13, evening activities as well as winter activities. Visit the official website for maps, events and more.