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Rest stops are as important as riding for young ridersYoung Anna Sierra and young Jasper on the inagural Great Waterfront Trail Adventure.
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Swimming and bikingA rest and a play is fun for everyone.
Five years ago, our family participated in the inaugural Great Waterfront Trail Adventure. It’s an eight day bike tour from Niagara on the Lake to Cornwall, showcasing the Waterfront Trail that follows Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence. It’s a stunning route that winds through towns, cities and rural areas, hugging the waterfront. Along the way we camped, met cyclists from all over Ontario and Quebec and learned how different communities had preserved their waterfronts or were reimagining these special spaces.
When we rode the tour, our kids were two and four. Wonderful ages, but logistically challenging for long distance cycling. In order to make the trip fun for everyone, we invited grandparents to join us. The children had the option of riding with us – our two-year-old had a backseat on my husband’s bike and our five-year-old rode a trail-a-bike behind my bike – or driving in grandpa’s red car. Generally the kids spent the morning with us on the bikes and the afternoon at a park, a beach, a grocery store or the evening’s camping spot with grandpa. Grandma rode with us on her bike.
The whole tour was amazing. And we discovered lots of sections of trail that we wanted to return to.
This summer, with a six-year-old on his own bike or the back of a Bike Friday Family Tandem and a nine-year-old on her very own hybrid or speed bike, we were looking for high-interest routes that were either paths totally separated from traffic or roads with very light traffic.
The Long Sault Parkway, 15 km from Cornwall and 15 km from Upper Canada Village was perfect. This is a paved route through a series of 11 islands that were created in the 1950s when the St. Lawrence River was flooded to create the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Long Sault Parkway is part of the St. Lawrence River Parks and three campsites are located on the islands. We camped at Milles Roches Campground, as it was exactly between Cornwall and Upper Canada Village.
Because it is parkland and cars need to pay to enter, the paved route is ideal for cyclists who are waved beyond the barricades into a very scenic route with very few cars.
Cyclists of all abilities, including children, can enjoy these wide roads past ducks, geese, and through McLaren, Woodlands and Milles Roche Campsites from Long Sault to Ingleside. With water on both sides of the route, this is a stunning ride.
The Seaway is a series of locks, canals and channels that permit ships to go from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. It was created both so ships good navigate past the once ferocious Long Sault rapids and so that Ontario would have an abundant source of hydroelectric power.
In order to create the Seaway, ten communities were permanently submerged, leaving only these islands. Farms and businesses were moved to the communities of Long Sault and Ingleside before the flooding occurred. Controversy surrounded the move as many families felt they were not compensated with fair market value for their homes as market prices had depreciated in the years leading up to the project. The towns of Iroquois and Morrisburg were moved to higher ground instead of being abandoned. In total, 530 buildings were moved and 6500 people were displaced by the project.
Upper Canada Village was created out of the most historic homes which were moved to Morrisburg so they wouldn’t be submerged. And a museum in Ault Park, near Long Sault, tells more of the story of the lost villages.
On our first day, we rode towards Upper Canada Village. As this was our daughter’s first big ride on her own bike, we weren’t sure how long she would last or what we could expect, so we set off in the direction of Upper Canada Village, but didn’t tell the kids we might go there. We were planning to call it a day whenever the kids had enough.
We counted the islands as we rode. We read historical plaques explaining the flooding. We discussed expropriation. Before we knew it we were riding through woods, past swamps and arriving—15 km later—at Upper Canada Village. It’s an incredible destination. With guides dressed in period costume working the mills, spinning wool, driving horses, baking bread and making brooms, the kids were transported back in time. The ride home required some coaxing, and a few stops where we ate the freshly baked bread we picked up before leaving the Village but it was fun to realize we were able to ride 30 km as a family.
The next day we set off for Cornwall. Almost the entire route was on separated bike paths. My husband and I remembered that there was a park on the waterfront in Cornwall with a giant play structure and great views of the water. It was a wonderful surprise to discover that in the five years since we had last visited Lamoureux Park, it now had a splash pad. Like the day before, the ride back to the campsite was slower, but once I started asking our daughter, Anna Sierra, to read her odometer to me and tell me how fast we were going and how far she had ridden, she rode along happily.
When the kids rode on our bikes, we were able to safely take busier roads when we went bike touring. Now that Anna Sierra is on her own bike, we’re more selective about where we’ll ride and that means the whole family gets to enjoy really scenic, mostly separated pathways.