The Frontenac Arch – a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve
By Liz Harder, Amazing Places Program Manager
“You applied for a job where?” This was the start of the life changing conversation my husband and I had on a 110 o F day in July. We were living in Las Vegas and the thought of moving to Canada was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. It would be a huge change but my husband, our two children and I were up for the adventure when we relocated to Brockville 6 years ago. We instantly fell in love with the small town quaintness and incredible beauty. Once we got out and started to explore we realized how special our new home really was.
Did you know the Frontenac Arch is globally recognized by UNESCO as one of the four biospheres reserves in Ontario, 18 biospheres reserves in Canada and 686 biosphere reserves worldwide (as of Nov 2018)?
But what is a biosphere reserve anyway? Simply put, it is a region recognized for its ecological, historical and cultural uniqueness. The “caretakers” of the biosphere reserve designation, the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network or FABN, work to see the region flourish naturally, economically and socially. www.frontenacarchbiosphere.ca.
For my family, a great place to start was FABN’s list of Amazing Places. The list contains sites that are rich in history or are known for their breathtaking views and opportunities to explore the outdoors. There are sites for all ages and abilities and many can be visited year round. http://visitamazingplaces.ca/amazing/listing-category/frontenac-arch/
Keeping my kids busy in the winter is a challenge. Here’s our favourite picks of family friendly Amazing Places for the winter months.
I recommend starting with a visit to the Aquatarium. It offers a hands on experience for all ages and abilities to learn about the history, geography, wildlife and recreation that makes this area so unique. My kids love the interactive displays, seeing the fish swimming in the tanks and watching the otters play.
Foley Mountain Conservation Area is a great family friendly spot so grab your snowshoes and explore the 10 km of easy to moderate trails. Walk out along the accessible walkway to Spy Rock for an unprecedented view of the Upper Rideau Lake and the town of Westport.
The Silver Queen Mine Trail in Murphys Point Provincial Park is perfect for families looking for a short, easy winter trail. This trail has lots to see and explore. All the parks trails are perfect for snowshoeing and 20 km of trails are groomed for a variety of styles of cross country skiing.
Looking for a bit more of a challenge? Winter hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are waiting at Gould Lake Conservation Area. The Mine Loop Trail was once the heart of the regions mica mining industry. My kids love scrambling up and down the path that follows the shoreline of Gould Lake. Be prepared to forge your own path though since they are not groomed in the winter.
The Rideau Canal lock stations can supply a fun filled day of exploration. Jones Falls boasts the highest lift of the canal system, 17.8 m (58.4 ft) so expect lots of hills to climb as you explore the sites 4 locks and restored buildings. Whitefish Lake is a popular lake for fishing year round, so if you are missing the pull of a fish on your line, be sure to bring along your gear.
Lower Brewers lock station might appeal to those looking for a more leisurely stroll. Cross the timber swing bridge and you will see Donner Studios and stunning views of the Cataraqui River. Sit at the base of the lock and you might see a bald eagle circle overhead while you try your hand at ice fishing or just some fun in the snow.
The stretches between the locks provide an abundance of winter recreation as well. The small village of Seeley’s Bay is a perfect place for snowmobiling, hiking, cross country skiing or ice fishing. Ask the locals, they’ll tell you Haskin’s Pointi s the perfect spot to enjoy a fun filled day.
The Thousand Islands Parkway is a wide open playground on a winter day. Walk, snowshoe, ski or Fat Bike. With large snow griping tires, Fat Bikes allow for any path to become a cycling path. Looking for a kid friendly trek? Park at Mallorytown Landing and travel east 2.3 km. Take a breather at the historic marker for Chimney Island. It was once a wartime garrison after the War of 1812. The trip back is sure to be filled with imagination after a visit to this Amazing Place.
Don’t let a little snow keep you from exploring the Frontenac Arch. All your favorite winter sports can be found here. Walk, hike, snowshoe, cross country ski, fat bike and fish your way through this family friendly winter wonderland.