If you want to get up close to real, living Canadian wildlife, there’s no better place to go than Parc Oméga.
Located in Montebello, Que. – just a 45-minute drive east of Ottawa’s downtown core – Parc Oméga offers about 2,200 acres of natural habitat for Canadian animals such as deer, elk, bison, caribou, wolves and more. Whether you’re looking for a romantic outing, a family getaway or an interesting place to take a group, you can be sure that the serene Parc Oméga will be a hit with visitors young and old.
Serge Lussier, Parc Oméga’s Zoologist, refers to the attraction as a “living museum.” “Canada is a vast country with vast nature,” Lussier told Ottawa Tourism during a guided tour of the park. “So we offer the discovery of this nature and of the northern hemisphere. We offer Canadian wildlife.”
Also, how you choose to explore the nature park is up to you. Opt to drive your own vehicle through the park’s 12-kilometre (7.5-mile) trail or if you’re part of a group, hop onto Parc Oméga’s open-sided school bus. There is also a little caged 4×4 you can take, which is a great option on a nice day. Alluding to the famous Jurassic Park films, these caged 4×4 vehicles can be rented for $25 CDN per hour. This is a convenient option for visitors who have arrived via motorcycle.
But no matter what option you choose, make sure to pick up a bag of carrots at the park’s entrance. The best part of Parc Oméga is getting to feed friendly animals all along the way. “You get to see relaxed animals in a natural environment,” Lussier said.
In addition to seeing the beautiful animals, Parc Oméga is also a great place to learn about Canadian history, early pioneer life and Aboriginal culture. “We have a role to play as an educator,” Lussier said. “I think every Canadian family should experience Parc Oméga. It’s their nature and their history.”
In Section 11 of the park – the Colonization Area – you’ll find an authentic Trading Post that recalls the days of Canada’s Voyageurs fur-traders. Here, you’ll learn about how trading posts worked and how pioneers and Aboriginals would often exchange various goods. You’ll also find examples of furs that would’ve been traded at the time such as red fox, racoon, otter and more.
From the Trading Post, you’ll also find a few enchanting walking trails that lead to a farm built in 1847 by one of the area’s first settlers. Interact with majestic white tail deer along the way – there are many great photo opportunities – and arrive at the farm, which displays early pioneer life. Here, visitors can interact with docile farm animals such as cows, horses, chickens and goats, among others. Also, from February to April, guests can stop at an old-fashioned sugar shack to try maple taffy on snow; a quintessential Canadian treat. The park becomes even more magical once the snow arrives and you can even go snowshoeing if you like.
Section 11 of Parc Oméga also offers a daily birds of prey demonstration as well as an information session with a pack of wolves. During this session, visitors are invited to stand on a secured, raised platform as a staff member draws the animals closer with treats. You’ll get to see the beautiful wolves up close and learn interesting facts about them and their individual personalities.
According to Lussier, Parc Oméga is home to four thriving packs of wolves that include black wolves, arctic wolves and timber wolves. But don’t worry, these expert hunters live in large and secured enclosures. Lussier noted that the 25-year-old Parc Oméga represents various ecosystems in Canada. “We only select animals that thrive in the Canadian climate,” he said.
Also worth stopping at is the First Nations Area. Near the park’s entrance, this area offers a one-kilometre (0.6-mile) hiking trail that makes its way around a small lake. Enjoy the walk and see huge, colourful rainbow trout swimming calmly as you go. You can even feed them if you want. Additionally, along the way, you’ll find various totems carved by Algonquin artist Dennis Charette. These totems represent the 11 Aboriginal Nations that call Quebec home. “This site really honours the area’s native people,” Lussier said.
Now, you may have come to realize that there is a lot to see and do at Parc Oméga. Want to extend your visit? No problem.
If you’re visiting during the spring, summer or fall, opt to stay over night. In the last two years, Parc Oméga has added 19 accommodations to its offering. Overnight accommodations include simple tipis, wi-tents, prospector tents and beautifully carved log cabins.
If you’re with a group of four to seven people however, opt to book the impressive ‘House on Stilts.’ Overlooking the secured black bear and timber wolf enclosures, this beautiful two-bedroom wood cabin offers a tropical atmosphere with a partially covered balcony and a roof made of synthetic palm leaves. Enjoy the sights and sounds of nature as you sip your coffee in this cozy Canadian oasis. And… Imagine falling asleep to the distant sound of a wolf’s cry…
Also, each cabin-style accommodation comes with a campfire spot, which is perfect for cooking and roasting marshmallows. But if you don’t want to rough it in the woods, Parc Oméga has you covered there too. Near check-in, you’ll find a brand new common area complete with hot and cold water as well as kitchen appliances such as a stove, microwave and kettle. Additionally, you’ll find new washroom and shower facilities just around the corner. Parc Oméga’s accommodations are generally available from May to mid-October.
On the guided tour of the park, Lussier said that there is a real difference between just observing nature and living it. “Here, you really live it. You really get to see the animals as they’d be in the wild,” he said, adding that Parc Oméga actively works to not cause stress to its animals.
Want to visit? Parc Oméga is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Check the park’s website for admission prices.
If you’re looking to get back in touch with nature, this is the place to do it. Just make sure to bring a camera with you and share your photos with us at #MyOttawa. Happy exploring!
Photos by Sofie Sharom