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mike's detours: pink lake, gatineau

Hi! Welcome to Mike’s Detours, a guest spot on I’m Amy's husband Mike, and every so often I'll be writing about great places to discover in our city and beyond, both natural and cultural. Most of my pieces will be about the National Capital Region, but occasionally we’ll go farther afield.

I find that locals often make poor tourists of their own city. We know about all of the exceptional cultural facilities that this city has to offer, but most of us are not lining up to take a tour of Parliament unless friends or family are visiting from out of town.

The same can’t be said for our natural surroundings. Whenever you see a survey – formal or informal – about why people like to live in Ottawa, inevitably the greenspace is one of the top answers. Our parks and conservation areas are a treasure that should be experienced by anyone able to do so. Gatineau Park is the crown jewel of the region in my opinion; 361 square kilometers of accessible Canadian Shield, criss-crossed by multi-use pathways available both in summer and winter. Given that the fall colours are in full effect, we decided to take a trip to one of the Park’s most popular destinations: Pink Lake.

It’s ironic that people like to visit Pink Lake because of its algae-dyed teal hue. It’s actually named after Pink Floyd, who played the entirety of Ummagumma to the lake in 1968, after which it started turning the funky green colour you see today.

Ok, so half of that is nonsense.

The lake was named after the Pink family, the Irish settlers that were awarded the territory to farm in 1869. The farming of the site didn’t last very long; it was briefly the site of a mica mine and then incorporated into Gatineau Park during its creation in 1938. The crazy algae was only observed in the early 1970’s, so it is conceivable (though unlikely) that it was coaxed by the music Pink Floyd.

Pink Lake is quite special; it’s very deep (20 metres), and contains very distinct layers of flora and fauna. Under 13m, the lake is completely devoid of oxygen, and a colony of sulfur-breathing bacteria has grown. The best way to see this looker of a lake is a 2.5km trail that circumnavigates it, providing an intermediate hike for those looking for fantastic views of the water and the changing leaves of the park’s deciduous trees.

The pathway is wide with easy footing, with plenty of boardwalks to help you cross marshy areas and climb over steeper cliffs. This also means that you’ll be climbing plenty of wooden stairs, so it is best for those with average cardiovascular conditioning and is not accessible to wheelchairs. Stairs also tend to be rubbish for cross-country skiing. There are plenty of interesting signs (also algae-teal in colour – coincidence?) along the way that explain the lake’s uniqueness far better than I am able to.

If you’re feeling particularly lazy or are unable to complete this hike, the NCC has built a beautiful lookout a few hundred metres away, served by a separate parking lot.

Given Pink Lake’s relative proximity to other key sites of the Park and its ease of access from the Gatineau Parkway, it is one of the most popular sites there. We went at 11am on a Tuesday and were greeted by two school groups and a pack of tourists there for the fall colours.

All photographs by Amy and Michael Karlin

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