One of Montreal’s ten Écoterritoires, the 30-hectare Parc des Rapides is also a small part of the larger Île aux Hérons Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Created in 1937, the bird sanctuary includes most of the Lachine Rapids, Île aux Hérons, Île au Chèvres, Île au Diable, Île à Boquet, as well as several other small inlets and islands and their surrounding water.
Some of the birds that we saw on our walk were the Great Blue Heron, Egrets and various kinds of ducks. According to the city’s website, the park is home to 225 bird species, 66 fish species, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and rare and endangered plant species such as Butternut and Green Dragon; and is also home to the second largest heron colony in Québec. You can read interpretive panels along the trails that detail the history of the Lachine Rapids as well as descriptions of some of the animals you might see. There were a LOT of people with impressive looking cameras with 3-foot long lenses taking photos of the rapids and fauna. I was not one of them. So if you’d like to see some amazing pictures, there are tons on Flickr 🙂
Located at boulevard LaSalle and 7th Avenue, there is a large (free) parking lot, and you can access the park from 7am-9pm. After that the gate leading to the bridge is locked.
You ARE allowed to fish here in designated spots, but you must wear a life jacket as the Lachine rapids are pretty treacherous. Probably not the best place to bring kids for their first time out!
If you want to learn more about the 50 different kinds of fish found in the waters around the park, on Sundays from 1:30-3pm until October 30th, specialists from Héritage Laurentien are on hand to present their Scientific Fishing program. There’s also an annual fête de la Pêche which takes place at the beginning of June.
We walked along the paths, admired the landscaping and sat for a while in one of the ornate benches. There are also picnic tables and places to sit and watch the raging water, or on the quieter side you can see the herons or egrets searching for fish.
This would also be a great spot to park and walk or bike along the path that runs beside the river and through Lachine/Lasalle/Verdun to downtown. There are bathrooms along the way, and if you look at my Playground Maps page, you can see playgrounds along the route.
Nearby at 7770 Boulevard LaSalle is KSF where you can rent surfboard, stand up paddlebaords, and white water kayaks, or take a course. You can also try jet boating down the rapids with Saute Moutons (which leaves from the Clock Tower Beach in the Old Port), or rafting or jet boating with Rafting Montréal which is right in Lasalle.
For events and activities happening throughout the year, you can visit the official Ville de Montréal website, or see the Culture en cavale brochure HERE. For a guided tour of the park visit HERE for the dates and times. And if you’ve got a nature enthusiast, Héritage Laurentien also offers a summer and winter day camp for kids.