Ghosts Around Us – Part 2

A few months ago I wrote about the ghosts – or scars – left behind by events from the past.  They seem to be all around us if only we stopped long enough to notice them.  Sometimes however we don’t actually recognize what we are seeing.

That’s what happened to me last week.

I was on a cycling/kayaking trip in Eastern Ontario near the Quebec border.  It was a section of the Waterfront Trail I had wanted to do for a long time and it finally bubbled up to the top of my list.

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An interesting little piece of trivia neither of us had ever seen before.

The location was the Long Sault Parkway … a chain of 11 small islands in the St Lawrence River connected by a road and a series of small bridges.  This parkway is now very popular with campers, boaters, and cyclists, however the days we visited, the park was unexpectedly very quiet.

Our day of riding was stinking hot and the strong head wind felt like it was blowing heated air from an oven.  We stopped often – to hydrate and take photos – and that’s when one particular scene caught our attention.  In the distance, people were lounging out on a spit of rock.

On this particularly hot afternoon, it looked extremely inviting.

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Taken with my new telephoto lens!  That island in the distance is actually US land.

Since we were riding an out-and-back, we decided that on our return trip we would try to find our way onto this interesting little spit of land to check out the water.

When we got there, we discovered it wasn’t a rocky outcrop at all, but an old asphalt road.  That’s where the ghosts from the past came in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack in the 1950s, a decision was made to flood the area for the creation of a nearby power dam and deepen this section of the St Lawrence Seaway.  Several communities located on this chain of islands were going to be buried under water so all the people and the buildings from their villages were relocated.

Two new communities were created from this relocation – Long Sault being one of the them.  The islands remaining after the flooding were then made into parkland. The highway that existed at the time was also affected by the flooding and had to be relocated.

We had just found the original highway … or what was left of it.

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That’s me, walking out as far as I could on one section of the flooded out old highway.  It was actually a bit harder than it looked.  The waves were quite strong and I was constantly fighting to keep my feet from being pulled out from underneath me on the slippery asphalt below the surface.

It became a new subject of fascination for us and the next day while kayaking we attempted to follow the path of this former highway from island to island.

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From a distance it looked like the truck was floating on the water.

Sometimes our first clue about the existence of the highway was just strange rippling on the surface of the water.

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Pieces of old road would pop up – sometimes unexpectedly – from the surface of the water.

Discovering this unexpected ghost from the past and exploring some of its history was unquestionably the highlight of this adventure.

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If I didn’t love kayaking before this trip, I definitely did afterwards.

 

109 comments

  1. I’m utterly fascinated by this Joanne, and it has me seriously thinking I need to visit. Since I was a child I’ve had dreams of such a partially sunken road and the exciting, and somewhat frightening, feeling of crossing it. Your photos are fabulous, and it sounds like you had a wonderful adventure.

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  2. Oh wow, how cool is that?? What a fab bit of history to stumble across (luckily not literally).

    If I found myself on the 45th parallel, I’d run south a few metres and call out “I’m going to the equator!!”, then I’d run north, past the line and yell “Nope, going to the North Pole!” And then probably do it about ten times. Or until I’d completely annoyed my companions. If I had any. I’d still do it even if I didn’t. Because.

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  3. That is a very interesting place, somewhat eerie in the way of how it happened, but neat in an awesome way now. How bizarre, really. Kind of reminds me of this lake we went to when I was a kid, it had sidewalks. Never seen anything like it until this post, closest I can get.
    I’m glad you’re still kayaking!

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    • That’s odd! Sidewalks in the water?! Sounds like a sunken town to me!

      I’ve always loved boats and water in general. I’m strongly attracted to it so it’s no great surprise that I would embrace kayaking. It’s so peaceful.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes. I don’t know if it was a man made lake or if the concrete was added to an existing lake.
        It had a beach, but it also had sidewalks jutting out into the water, and we jumped from them, same as a pool. Also, floating out there, couple of diving platforms and a half basketball court! We used to camp there fairly often. I may look it up, see if it’s still a thing.

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  4. Hey Joanne! Thanks for sharing your latest adventure with us. And good for you for persevering in tough conditions (I tend to be a fair-weather sports person!) And I did try kayaking once but like you observed during this outting, it was hot, winding and there was a strong current. It didn’t fit my definition of “fair-weather” and I haven’t even wanted to try again! But I don’t blame you a bit for trying to figure out how those people got out there on that water! I definitely would have done that. ~Kathy

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    • For the first 40-some years of my life I was the kind of person who didn’t like to exert myself enough to break a sweat. Then I was introduced to the Dark Side 😉

      We learn a lot about ourselves while training and racing endurance sports. I’ve learned I’m made of pretty strong stuff.

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  5. Joanne what a brilliant adventure! I love the discovery and how you followed the road. I imagine at the time there was a great upheaval about the decision. I’m not sure if you remember a post I did about Lake Minnewanka near Banff. Their is a town at the bottom of the lake and residing there for similar reasons. Can you imagine such a thing happening today in a Canadian National Park?

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    • I do remember your post and I’m sure there was a huge hue and cry. The difference today is that social media dramatizes every little issue and concern. In today’s environment, one complaint can and has shut down entire programs because of fears of negative publicity regardless of the program’s merits.

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  6. How fascinating to discover that old road and to paddle along it. I too love kayaking. One of my retirement plans is to buy a sea kayak. I have shopped around a bit but not seriously yet. In the past, I have always borrowed or rented.

    Jude

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    • I’m very much in serious kayak purchasing mode, but there are a few hurtles I’m still trying to resolve – like transportation.

      Sea Kayaking is an entirely different animal and I can see that it makes a lot of sense where you are. I’m a little leery of “big water” especially big water prone to big waves – but that may simply be because of my lack of experience.

      All my experiences so far have been with rented boats and I’m ready to make the plunge to buy my mine. I’m missing a lot of events with the senior’s club I belong to because I don’t have my own boat.

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  7. A cool adventure, and discovery! The truck did look like it was parked on top of the water.

    18.5 mile bike ride is pretty awesome. He-Man spruced up my bike and I only rode a couple of miles. I need to get out with it more and feel the wind on my face. It was fun. I hadn’t ridden my bike in years, and years, and years.

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    • I get a feeling of both exhilaration and anticipation when I ride my bike. It’s not like walking because there is an element of speed involved, and yet it’s not like being in an open car either because you’re up close and personal with your surroundings.

      I think you’ve inspired me to get out on my bike this morning in spite of the heat and humidity. I was going to hunker down in the AC today, but where’s the adventure in that? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What an interesting find. Does the water ever completely cover the highway? I imagine motor craft are not allowed in the area. Might be a bit hazardous to ones health!

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    • Good question. I hadn’t heard anyone indicate whether the water levels were unusually high or low this year. I really don’t have a clue.
      We did see a jet ski in the area. I wonder how they know about the shallow bits? In a few places I even wondered if our kayaks were going to clear it.

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  9. Oh, SO COOL. I love the photos. And you’ve got my imagination going here, Joanne. How about you visited this site in the middle of a full moon night. And suddenly, the water parted and a town appeared, and… oh never mind. I just love ghost stories…

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  10. Very cool, Joanne! I love the sign and, of course, the highway. If anyone ever dares question your bona fides as a highly curious woman, just point them to this post. I probably would have noticed the people on the ‘spit of rock’ thought, “Huh, that’s interesting” and that would have been it. I certainly can’t imagine that I would have been “playing hide and seek with the old highway” as you said in your comment to Fran. Great image that, by the way.

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    • I have to give my friend Scott credit for this one. He’s the one who thought it was more than just a rock outcrop. He’s the one who wanted to go off-road to check it out. As it turned out, he hit a home-run with this one!
      This is exactly why it’s more fun to have a “partner-in-crime” when out exploring. You can feed off each other’s curiosity.

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  11. Huh. There was a highway there at one time. That fascinates me for some reason. It truly is a ghost of times past, just not one I would have expected. Your photos are wonderful, by the way. So pretty to be out in nature like that.

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    • That was our reaction too – oddly fascinated. There was something about standing out on a flooded road (or kayaking over the remains of it) and trying to imagine where the shoreline used to be 60 years ago.

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  12. Thanks for jogging some fond memories. I used to go camping there in my early twenties but it has been ages since I’ve been back there. It IS a lovely area for outdoor activities, especially paddling.

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    • I guess it’s true that the quintessential Canadian childhood summer involves water!

      It was an interesting place to visit. There’s the inevitable cultural shock that comes from going from the largest city in the country to a very small town, but I didn’t realize that it is such a popular place with people from Quebec. The vast majority of license plates were from Quebec and we heard mainly French spoken in our travels. In fact when we went into restaurants, they spoke to us first in French.
      I’m starting to get the impression that this may be an ongoing theme with this summer!

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  13. I really love reading about your adventures! You find some amazing and interesting places / things. I am so glad you didn’t get swept into the lake from that road! There would have been one very soggy Joanne. I regret not having learned to kayak at an early age, but not living near water and not being a good swimmer has always put me off. Must be such fun to discover little inlets and bays and beaches that are inaccessible by land. Being curious about the 45th Parallel I had of course to look it up, on Google maps it seems that it goes through Bordeaux in France so quite a way south of where I live. See, I learned several new things today already 😀

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      • I’ve been to Lion’s Head, but not Stokes Bay. I’ve actually crossed the 45th parallel a million and one times with Toronto at the 43rd and my home town at the 49th.
        … but a marker indicating that halfway point? I thought that was pretty cool 🙂

        We went into Cornwall only to have dinner. It wasn’t on our agenda for this trip even though it was only about 15 minutes away. After having looked at Cornwall Island though, I wish we had planned for more time in this area! Both its location relative to the US and its history of problems associated with the border crossing is very interesting.
        With US territory so close to Canada in this area, we had been warned not to venture too far out while kayaking that we could easily drift into international waters.

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    • I definitely didn’t want to end up in the water – even though I was very hot and the water was a great temperature. Riding the rest of our journey soaking wet wouldn’t have been very comfortable … and my friend Scott would have thought it hilarious. I suspect I wouldn’t live it down 😉

      Water is such a big part of life in Canada. I’m always sad when I hear about drowning every summer. With such an abundance of water, not learning to swim seems wrong.

      I grew up in a small town with a lake in the centre. From a very young age, I’ve been attracted to water like a magnet. As you said, exploring little bays, lakes, streams, and waterfalls is one of my biggest pleasures 🙂

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    • I have to say that the parkway itself wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought it would be a small tree-lined road / trail with views of the water. Sadly – no. It might have been just an ordinary country road with the trees cut well back from the road. From a cycling perspective, it was a disappointment.
      When we journeyed in off the main road, it was pretty at the various campsites at the edge of the water.

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  14. That’s so cool, Joanne! What an interesting history to happen upon. I’m glad you stopped to play in the road! I used to scuba dive and occasionally dove through the remains of flooded towns. Ghostly for sure!

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  15. I’m still thinking about how this makes me feel. Maybe too many hurricanes/floods in my life. Regardless, I’m so impressed that you rode and kayaked around that. So interesting!

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  16. Your adventuring is always a pleasure to read about Joanne, but I really like the addition of the ghosts to this one. You got me thinking about how many towns and villages must have disappeared in the massive hydro developments in the 20th century. In NZ, I knew about Cromwell in the South Island, but learned the other day about another much closer to home. I’ve kayaked the lake it is under and never knew.

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    • Thanks Su. Sometimes I feel like I can almost ‘hear’ the past trying to tell its story. My new fascination right now is with the things that are hiding in plain sight. We see them … but we don’t … like ghosts 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • 😀 I totally get that. There is so much around us that we just don’t see in our rush to live in the modern world. I’m glad you are exploring and sharing these things. You’ve reminded me that I set out to find and photograph monuments to individual NZ women that are in Auckland (after I’d done the suffrage memorials) — and inspired me to get on with it!!

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    • I credit my friend Scott with this one. Although I had noticed the people out there, I just assumed it was a rock outcrop. It was Scott who said we needed to investigate. I’m so glad we did!
      He was also the one who wanted to kayak back up to that spot. I did blink because I thought it was going to be really far, but the paddling turned out easier than I expected.

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  17. So cool, Joanne! I’ve only driven on this parkway once, and I was fascinated. What a great place to kayak, too! Near me, a bunch of farmland was flooded decades ago in order to make Guelph Lake. Not sure if any buildings were submerged but there used to be a road that led directly into the lake like the one you saw, and we used to drive there as teenagers, to go swimming.

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    • I didn’t know that Guelph Lake. I know of this area only because there is a triathlon held there that we used to go to. Now that you mention it, is there a dam along there? I think the run course goes out that way.

      The kayaking was amazing! You would love it … unless you tried to kayak it on a day like the one when we cycled. The winds whipped up white caps on the water.

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  18. Not only an excellent post – love the “ghosts” concept, and I see them often, as old painted ads on buildings, partly torn-off former-business signs, and more. But also: what an excellent hat for adventures! 🙂

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  19. There is an original river lock dating from the 1850’s there that was flooded when they raised the water level for the St Lawrence seaway. It’s a popular diving attraction which I dove last summer. There are other locks, buildings, dams and power plants all below the water up and down the river that were flooded when they raised the water level. That’s what makes great diving in the St. Lawrence River for me! You should have to come visit us in Ottawa, although I’m in Toronto at the moment supervising the reroofing of our Toronto house.

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    • This has to be Al!! Hello, my friend! 🙂

      We had actually been reading about the diving in this area and the underwater portions favoured by divers. I knew about the power plant / dam but not the lock and other buildings. That’s pretty cool! What’s the current like down there? We found spots on the river where I really struggled to paddle upstream. I guess diving is like boating, you start upstream and return going downstream.

      You kept your house in Toronto?

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  20. Long Sault Parkway is a beautiful area and I do love being next to the water. I think you were a bit courageous walking out on the road when the water was trying to push you over.

    How many miles did you end up biking?

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    • I’m almost embarrassed to say we cycled only 18.5 miles …but it was hard! It took 2 bottles of beer to recover 😉

      I’ve always lived near water and I can’t imagine not being close to it! That’s what makes this kind of trip the best. The worst that would have happened if the waves had knocked me over is that I would have had to finish our ride soaking wet, my friend Scott would have laughed hysterically, and I’d likely have a new bruise 😏

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    • The kayaking was a bonus. I wasn’t sure we would be able to find a place to rent kayaks, or that the water would be calm enough for me to paddle on. Playing hide-and-seek with the old highway as we paddled around the islands was really interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

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