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The boardwalk at Mer Bleue. Photo: NCC website.

613 Geotours: Get bogged down in Mer Bleue

By Bruce Burwell on August 19, 2020

In our geotours of the 613 we’re hoping to inspire you to visit an interesting geological/geographical area where it’s possible to do some quality social distancing and maybe even learn something. We’ve covered beaches, falls, a boulder, a cave, and some fossils that aren’t actually fossils. This week, we’re heading to a bog.

I’ve always wondered why it was called Mer Bleue, since it’s neither a sea nor particularly blue. But now I know that it’s supposed to refer to the colour of the mist that rises off the bog in the morning. The name aside, it’s an interesting place to visit, and I’d say that the next three months are the very best time of year to go there. Why? Well, first of all, the bugs are pretty much gone now, and fall is actually an amazingly beautiful time there. You get all the colours of the bog and marsh areas blending with the trees changing in the background.

Mer Bleue in the fall. Photo: all4travel/Flickr.

So let’s start with the basics: What exactly is a bog? The executive summary is that a bog is a wetland that is usually acidic and accumulates peat. That peat may be many meters thick and can even become solid enough to walk on. Peat is a generic name for the organic matter that accumulates in a bog. At Mer Bleue, the sphagnum moss that grows in the bog is the major constituent of the peat.

Why is it special? Well, Mer Bleue is the biggest and best example of a bog that we have anywhere around Ottawa. It’s also quite unusual in that bogs like it are usually only found much further north. In the west and north of Canada these sorts of wetlands are usually called muskegs.

Boggy. Photo: Karen Chappelle/Flickr.

If you go to Mer Bleue, you will find out a lot more about peat and bogs. There is a very accessible boardwalk, a little over a kilometre long, that takes you out into the bog and has interpretive panels along the way. It would make a nice walk for a family with a stroller.

The boardwalk at Mer Bleue. Photo: NCC website.

Near the start of the boardwalk, there is a picnic area that includes some sheltered tables and outhouses. Apart from the boardwalk and picnic area, there are walking trails through the woods that make for good cross-country skiing in the winter.

Cross-country ski season starts sooner than you might think (or want). Photo: NCC website.

There is also a lot of bird and animal life around the bog, so it’s a favourite locale for birders and nature lovers. A few winters back, I was skiing there and caught up to a fat porcupine walking slowly down the trail. He preferred to walk on the trail, since the snow there was packed down, and I didn’t feel like getting close enough to him to pass. I slowly followed him for the next few minutes before he decided to exit the trail and brave the deeper snow.

So head down to the bog, check out the boardwalk, and go for a hike. Remember, the bog may look solid enough to walk on, but don’t try it! You might get bogged down!

The NCC has a good summary of the facilities and parking at Mer Bleue on their website. You can find out more about Mer Bleue’s history here.