Visiting Pink Lake, in Gatineau Park, Quebec: secrets of the deep preserved and respected
Silent mysteries probed
As if Gatineau Park (French: Parc de la Gatineau ), with its fresh, wide open spaces, and closeness to nature, were not special enough, Pink Lake (Lac Pink ), situated in the Park, is very special, indeed.
The distinctive character of the Lake lies in the fact that is is classified as a meromictic lake.
Put simply, this means that the waters of the upper and lower levels of the lake do not mix.
It is thought that maybe one in every thousand lakes worldwide may be meromictic, although, with the absence of uniform studies, this proportion is hard to justify with accuracy. Probably the world's most famous meromictic lake is Lake Nyos in Cameroon, which, owing to the build up of CO2 over a long period beneath its waters, and other subterranean factors, underwent a sudden catastrophic change in 1986, resulting in an explosion which caused the deaths of 1700 people within 25 kilometres of the lake. However, scientists are certainly convinced that the particular, naturally occurring reasons which cause this lake in Cameroon to undergo such a sudden catastrophic event are not present at Pink Lake. (If you visit the lake, it is not likely to explode!)
At Pink Lake, the factors which have caused its meromictic character to develop are apparently as follows:
It is surrounded by somewhat steep cliffs, which prevent the wind from greatly stirring the surface of the lake's water. It has a relatively small surface area; it is roughly bowl-shaped and is of average depth. All these factors combine so that nutrients and oxygen are not distributed evenly, with the result that the deepest 7 metres of the lake are not oxygenated.
Thus, little can survive at the deepest level of the lake, except a photosynthetic bacterium that uses sulphur instead of oxygen when creating energy. Interestingly, this bacteria is coloured pink!
Note on the name
Despite the presence of pink bacteria in its waters, it is called Pink Lake after an Irish-Canadian family which settled in the area near two centuries ago. Indeed, descendants of the family still own property in the district, although much of the land to which it formerly had title now belongs to Gatineau Park.
Request from the Park authorities
The Gatineau Park authorities — the National Capital Comission (Commission de la capitale nationale ) — strongly request that visitors keep to the designated paths around the lake area, refrain from picking flowers or interfering with wild animals. It is important that the waters of the lake be not disturbed in any so that the fragile ecological balance of the waters be not affected. Not representing the Park in any way, I am glad to pass on this request. Even if you are in the Ottawa area for a short time only, taking the trip out to see Pink Lake is certainly well worthwhile — but do respect the rules!
Also worth visiting
Gatineau , Quebec, in its Downtown area (distance: approx. 8 kilometres) has the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Musée canadien des civilisations ), which is Canada's most visited museum. At Aylmer, the Auberge Symmes (Symmes Inn) has been declared a heritage jewel of Gatineau (1) by the municipal authorities.
Mackenzie King Estate (Domaine Mackenzie King ), Chelsea , Quebec (distance: approx. 5 kilometres), contains Kingswood , Moorside and The Farm , all properties which belonged to Canada's veteran Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874-1950), the first two of which are open to the public; The Farm is the official residence of the Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons.
Ottawa , Ontario (distance: approx. 10.2 kilometres) has cultural treasures, buildings of architectural distinction and excellent museums too numerous to mention adequately here, but a few of these include Parliament Hill, the Chateau Laurier, Laurier House, Rideau Hall, and the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada.
(1) Original French: 'joyau patrimonial de Gatineau'.
How to get there: An entrance to Gatineau Park, approaching from Downtown Ottawa, is adjacent to 390 Boulevard Alexandre-Taché, Gatineau. Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, where car rental is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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