By Sarah Sekula
At first glance I think Parc des Chutes Coulonge in the Outaouais region of Quebec might be just another zip line park. But within the space of 30 minutes, well, it is apparent — clearly I am wrong.
Let me explain. The day begins with a series of zips that are enjoyable, but not off the charts in the thrills department. Yes, I am swinging from the treetops, and yes, I am having a spectacular time, no doubt. But, alas, my heart is not aflutter. That is, until I reach the canyon zip.
Here’s when things kick up a notch. I stroll out onto the platform and voila!, there’s a full view of jagged cliff walls and rushing waters. I stand there and soak it all in knowing that there’s even more to come. To my right I can see the Via Ferreta, a sprawling rock climbing route beckoning me to scramble my way up and down and across it.
At this point, I feel pretty enamored with the thrill of it all. Sensory overload doesn’t quite cover it. Anyway, the zip finale rockets me 805 feet to the other side of the canyon. And, what do you know? Another surprise. Straight ahead is an 300-foot wooden log slide that used to transport huge white pines from the 1800s up until 1982.
I repeat: This is not just any zip line park. Are you getting the picture now?
Here’s more proof. It’s time for the Via Ferreta. Latin for “iron roads,” it is, quite literally, an iron trail that runs 1,640 feet up the gorge and makes for a super easy rock climb. In other words, you go from one installed handhold or foothold to the next. So, let the scaling begin! I hook my trusty carabiners onto the cable. And across the prehistoric rock face I go.
“It’s not meant to be hard,” says guide Andre Piche, who follows close behind. And he’s right. I am having such a blast clinging to rocks, hopping across wobbly bridges and racing along the pathways. Not to mention, I’m so fascinated with the all-encompassing beauty — from the neon green moss to the gentle sound of the rapids below — I don’t even notice the cable foot bridge coming up.
Here goes nothing. I gracefully put one foot in front of the other. And, as if it’s not amazing enough that I’m casually sauntering across the 150-foot tightrope, I look to my left and there’s Coulonge Falls to greet me. Plus, a better view of the log slide and the marble metamorphosed limestone nearby, which originated at the edge of an ancient sea more than one billion years ago. Pretty impressive, eh? Given these circumstances, I can’t help but curl my lips toward my ears and gleefully stride along.
At its core, the Parc des Chutes Coulonge is a magical way to get up close and personal with nature. Take it from me, it’s the perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon. And to top it all off, it’s a non-profit organization, too. The proceeds go straight back in to keeping the property pristine. Like I said, this place is full of surprises. Very good ones, indeed.
Parc des Chutes Coulonge
100 Promenade du parc des Chutes, Mansfield et Pontefract
Click here for hours and rates. Visit www.tourismeoutaouais.com for suggestion on other outdoor activities in the area.