Lorne Mountain, a Natural Wonder

Cantley 1889 Articles

<em>Echo</em> Cantley <em>Echo</em>

The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 35 no 9 April 2024. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.


Cantley 1889’s mission is to discover, document, protect and promote Cantley’s history and heritage including our pristine natural heritage. Lorne Mountain is Cantley’s natural treasure, our living nature museum.

Lorne Mountain, a Natural Wonder

John Almstedt

Cantley’s Lorne Mountain is a natural heritage site noted for its prominent physical, natural and cultural features. It, together with its neighbouring Mont Cascades, are the two highest hills on the Gatineau River between Farrellton and the Ottawa River. They have long been Cantley's favourite hiking venue for viewing beautiful landscapes, marveling the interactions of nature and celebrating life. Canada's fourth Governor General, Lord Lorne (1878-83), visited the area so often locals began referring to one of the hills as Lorne Mountain. Both hills are forever immortalized in the masterpieces of Group of Seven artists J.E.H. MacDonald and A.Y. Jackson who painted them several times between 1904 and 1960.

In its natural state Lorne Mountain provides a wide range of recreational tourism benefits to Cantley, tells the story of who we are, connects us to our past, and enriches our understanding of ourselves.

Lorne Mountain's intact broadleaf and mixed temperate forest ecosystem features an extensive biodiversity where plants and animals have interacted together for thousands of years resulting in an environment where at-risk trees like ash and butternut can still flourish. One of the unique physical features of the hill are high viewing areas for monitoring tree biodiversity and the branch details of the tall mature trees.

Viewed from the ground a second layer of smaller canopy trees species can be seen as well as a third layer of shrubs and brush growing in places where there's enough sunlight. A fourth layer of herbs with wildflowers, ferns and grasses is on the ground growing on top of a recycling layer of earthworms, bacteria, fungi and insects applying their physical and metabolic processes. Even bare rock has biological activity amongst the moss and lichen. Hikers, using the popular monitoring tool iNaturalist, have shown over 200 plant and animal species living on Lorne Mountain.

The hill and shoreline illustrate how trees, plants, lichens, fungi, animals and other living organisms have connected over the years to form an ecosystem where the resources of each are shared for the benefits of all. For instance, fungi aid the uptake of nutrients by the trees and protect their roots from harmful parasites in the soil. In return, the fungi take sugars they need from the trees. This ecosystem is not only essential for the healthy ecology of the forest but is also for the benefit of researchers, educators and for recreation. Hopefully Lorne Mountain will be conserved and stewarded for future generations.

The large deposit of clay in the valley between Mont Cascades and Lorne Mountain left in the retreat of the last ice age has biological interests as well. In 1871, one of Cantley’s pioneer settlers James Strachan acquired the land for farming. His farm fields are portrayed in J. E. H. MacDonald's 1904 sketch of the two hills on the Cantley shoreline. It is believed Strachan lived in his small square-timbered house until the mid-1940s. Today the fields on each side of Cascades creek are gradually filling in with aspen and slower growing trees like red oak are moving in from the surrounding mature forest.

Lorne Mountain’s aquatic ecosystem is extensive with several wetlands. Its 1.5 kilometres of river shoreline is the longest and last natural intact shoreline remaining between Wakefield and the Chelsea Dam. Hopefully this undisturbed healthy shoreline will always be retained in its natural state for recreational enjoyment and as an official natural heritage site for encouraging river stewardship. A healthy aquatic ecosystem can play an important role in supporting the resilience of the Gatineau River wildlife corridor. It also encourages people to observe how organisms respond in a positive way to temperature change, population change, water abundance and water drought when living in a healthy freshwater ecosystem.

In its natural state Lorne Mountain provides a wide range of recreational tourism benefits to Cantley, tells the story of who we are, connects us to our past, and enriches our understanding of ourselves.

 

The 600-acre Lorne Mountain sub-watershed with 1.5 kilometres (from points A to B) is the longest and last remaining natural intact shoreline between Wakefield and the Chelsea Dam.

The Lac Cascades wetland is the largest of several Lorne Mountain wetlands, important for hydrating its thin soils. Photo Michel Junger

 

Bare Canadian Shield rock has biological activity amongst the moss and lichen that needs protection. Photo Michel Junger

This sugar maple is about 200 years old, here when our first settlers arrived. Its trunk diameter is 140 cm. Photo Michel Junger

 

J.E.H. MacDonald, 1904 sketch of Strachan’s Cantley farm fields on far shore of Gatineau River.

Rock lookouts allow us to see diverse varieties of vegetation and forest canopies since sunlight and soil are different on each hillside. Photo Michel Junger

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