The Photographer’s Guide to Gatineau Park

“A Canadian Treasure”

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Gatineau Park

Located just minutes from downtown Ottawa, Gatineau Park is 361 square kilometres of pristine Canadian wilderness.  The vast park is home to scenic lookouts, caves, waterfalls, lakes, and nature trails. But for the photographer, the park contains more than a few hidden treasures.  Fantastic photo spots that are also incredibly accessible and visiting them is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

For the photographer the natural spaces are a playground of life and beauty. Worth a visit at almost any time of year, undoubtedly the best times are in the heart of summer and winter. Cross country skiing, biking and hiking are popular activities in the park and it is easily accessible by a number of roads. While parking is available in the park, it is an extremely popular weekend escape for city dwellers, so arriving early on weekends or visiting on weekdays is recommended. In this post we’ll cover some of the top photo destinations for photographers in the park.

WIld Irises at Pink Lake - Photo by Shawn M. Kent

Pink Lake

Actually a deep green in colour due to algae growth, the lake is at it’s colour peak during August and September. This might lead visitors to wonder why the lake isn’t named bright green lake. Well, the lake is actually named for a group of Irish Settlers who settled here, building a farm in 1826. Pink Lake is a popular photo spot in Gatineau Park and features a number of picture ready lookouts along its shores. A well maintained trail makes its way along the shores of the lake and a number of lookouts and other photo opportunities await. The full ring around the lake will take between a 45 minutes to an hour depending on your pace.

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Carbide Wilson Ruins

Wilson Carbide Mill Ruins in Winter - Photo by Shawn M Kent

Thomas “Carbide” Wilson is known for developing the process of creating calcium carbide, an important industrial compound. But in Gatineau park he is best known for being a paranoid inventor. Worried that his competitors would steal his ideas he built this massive stone mill deep in the park away from the prying eyes of industrial espionage. His mill still stands today, though a little worse for wear. Built into a waterfall, the mill itself is a thing of beauty. With a lovely footbridge over the falls at the top and a lovely pool at its base it may be the most photogenic spot in the park.

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Once the home of Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, Kingsmere is a vast estate with many photo opportunities. MacKenzie donated it all to the Canadian government after his death in 1950. The estate features a number “ruins” that are actually the rescued remains of demolished buildings from Ottawa. Visitors can wander the estate grounds and there is a lovely waterfall trail nearby that leads to a tall stepped waterfall deep in the woods. A must visit for photographers and visitors alike.

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Champlain Lookout

Camplain Lookout - Photo by Shawn M Kent

On the edge of the Eardley Escarpment, the Champlain Lookout is a perfect place for capturing stunning vistas of the surrounding region.  Thankfully the lookout is accessible by car and has ample parking. Naturally this makes it a very popular spot with locals to take in stunning sunsets over the Ottawa Valley. Expect to find many other shutter bugs when you visit and the skies are just right.

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Luskville Waterfall

Finally we have Luskville Waterfall, one of the most impressive in the Ottawa Valley.  As well the Luskville trail allows you to take in the view not only from the base of the waterfall but the top as well. In fact the trail goes high up the escarpment and presents an amazing view. Do not be fooled, like we were, by the promise of a fire tower at the top however. While this distance may appear short, the incline is steep and it will take at least an hour to reach the top. The fire tower is closed to public access and in an unremarkable spot. We found the hike up challenging, but the views may have been worth it. If you do go to shoot the Luskville waterfall the best time is in the spring just after the snow melts and the water levels are at their highest. Visiting in late summer or early fall may result in a bare stone cliff where there once was a waterfall.

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