FIT – McNaughton Trail
Footprints In Time (FIT) Teaching
Take twelve giant steps for 12 000 years.
Cut the last step in half.
This half-step marks the short time Europeans have been on this land compared to the Algonquin People.
~ Migwech to Algonquin Elder Dorothy Commanda for sharing this traditional teaching with us in 1997.
The Sands and Time
As you wander along the meandering shoreline take note of how the Little Bonnechere River has wandered back and forth over time as well.
McNaughton’s Walk sits atop a sand delta that formed over thousands of years as glacial meltwater spilled into an ancient lake – a much larger version of present-day Round Lake. Today’s shallow ponds and marshy wetlands only hint at the volume of water that this river once carried, but although the Little Bonnechere barely scratches the surface of the 100 metres of sand it flows across, it still leaves its mark.
Alternately eroding and depositing sand, the Little Bonnechere moves repeatedly back and forth across the delta. Sometimes it even loops back on itself to create new streamlined channels, leaving abandoned river bends in its wake. No wonder early travelers chose the Long Portage over land to avoid the Bonnechere’s seemingly endless meanders.
Recently abandoned channels still receive some flow, while older channels have grown into open marshes, cattails, shrubs and eventually treed swamps. Check out these water bodies for turtles and other wetland wildlife.
Although voyages of exploration started up the Ottawa River as early as 1613, these early explorers didn’t record much about the various rivers that fed this historic highway. In fact, it wasn’t until 1744 that Bellin drew the general course of the ‘R. de la Bonnechere’ on a map, but subsequent attempts by other adventurers were often incorrect.
Finally in March 1847, James McNaughton was given the daunting task of accurately surveying the entire stretch of the Bonnechere River. But with each step, new and difficult challenges faced McNaughton and his crew. The snows of March gave way to thick ice in April, and May was a month of forest fires and smoke. And as summer approached McNaughton described June’s swarming black flies as “bad, very bad and exceedingly bad.”
In early August the crew began to survey the area from Round Lake upriver to the headwaters – the stretch we now call the Little Bonnechere River. This involved mapping all the meanders along today’s McNaughton’s Walk and the various park walking trails and riverside campsites.
Returning to Round Lake in late October, McNaughton took a sighting of the North Star from the sand beach where the Little Bonnechere enters into Round Lake. Imagine the brightness of the stars against the truly dark sky in that time long before cottage lights and patio lanterns.
- variety of habitats
- home to a diversity of small mammals and birds
- meandering river
- wetlands and beaver pond