Pockets of Paradise: Blakeney Park

Blakeney Park – A Contemporary Reflection

by Theresa Peluso

From the moment we first moved to Blakeney, on the Mississippi River, 14 years ago, I’ve been entranced by the rapids at Blakeney Park.  They’re not your straight, ordinary, everyday rapids.  No.  Coming into the hamlet of Blakeney from Almonte, the main branch of the river makes a sharp turn to the southwest past a twisty peninsula, around and over a cluster of islets and rocks, and under the narrow bridge, leaving a sideshoot of water to meander into a small, secret bay fed by two series of rapids. Once past the bridge, the river wends its way on to Pakenham.

The Blakeney rapids have many moods. During the winter they ripple, constrained by the snow and ice; in spring, as the melted snow feeds them, the water storms over the rocks; and gradually the heat of spring and summer tame them into a burbling, benign set of rapids.  In the fall, the subdued rapids quietly await, once again, the shackles of winter.

Blakeney Park, just before the bridge, is a gift, enabling people from far and near to enjoy the rapids in all seasons.  The Ministry of Natural Resources has set aside this area for us, and the Almonte Fish and Game Association does a superb job of maintaining the trail and building charming wooden footbridges over the water channels criss-crossing the park.  The Mississippi Mills Beautification Committee has also contributed litter bins to help the many users keep the park clean.

What draws me to this place?  The river in all its moods, the myriad beautiful details – the lacy ice crystals at the river’s edge in winter, the unrestrained thunder of the water during the spring melt, the craggy rocks that speak of prehistoric times, the bridges and creeks, the otters, the mink, the shadowy shapes of fish, the dragonflies, damselflies, herons and turkey vultures, the whispering pine boughs, and so much more.  I have yet to spot the endangered rapids clubtail dragonfly or the rare redhorse, but I like to think they are sheltering somewhere, doing their utmost to preserve their lineage, and avoid extinction.

I also enjoy watching the visitors to Blakeney Park.  In early spring, when this section of the river has swelled into Category 4 rapids, I have watched several intrepid (suicidal?) kayakers attack the turbulent waters with only their plastic boats, their daring and their amazing skills coming between themselves and certain death.  As the weather warms, I contemplate the people fishing, and the leisurely kayakers and canoeists, and once summer starts, people swimming, relaxing on the small beach nearby, and clambering over the rocks in the now sedate river.  From time to time there are pelotons of cyclists, from Ottawa and elsewhere, taking a break from their strenuous activity to enjoy the beauty and calm of the park, and have a drink and a bite to eat.  In the park, there are a few barbecue pits and picnic tables for people to enjoy a repast en plein air.  It’s also not uncommon to find photographers and artists doing their utmost to capture the bewitching beauty of the park to share later with others, and birdwatchers and other naturalists exploring the wildlife there – from plants, to insects, frogs, turtles, birds and mammals.

For me, Blakeney Park is like a favourite book, with moods and pictures and characters to be savoured over and over, each time repeating the familiar, while giving rise to new insights and observations.