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Top Five Winter Photography Locations in Val-d’Or

Top Five Winter Photography Locations in Val-d’Or

Ah, the joys of winter! Thankfully, the snow, sun, walks in the woods and our magnificent landscapes all help us to forget the cold. Winter is the perfect time to take in the scenery and capture the beauty that surrounds us.

Here are five wonderful places in Val-d’Or for taking photos of people in your life or capturing the landscape in images.

Le parc des Marais (Des Marais Park)

Des Marais Park, on Dennison Boulevard, offers some great scenery for photos. This beautiful space (green in summer and white in winter), its impressive stone sculpture, the gorgeous trees and two footbridges is a testimonial to the classic beauty of the Abitibi region in winter. The Park also makes a gorgeous backdrop for portrait pictures.

Le parc Belvédère (Belvédère Park)

tour rotary belvédère en hiver à Val-d'Or

Photo | Élodie Doua

Whatever the season, Belvédère Park on Sabourin Boulevard is a must. The Rotary Tower is a Val-d’Or highlight: it’s on top of a hill (great for tobogganing), surrounded by a forest. The lookout structure is 18 metres high and commands a view of the whole city. Some mine headframes can be seen on the horizon and there are beautiful lakes that freeze up in winter. The views will certainly not disappoint, and your photos are guaranteed to be fabulous.

Val-d’Or Recreational Forest

foret récréative de Val-d'Or sentier de patin dans le bois

Photo | Élodie Doua

The recreational forest is a place for movement, enjoyment, and family time and it also happens to be gorgeous! The iceway is a perfect place to take photos, while indulging in one of our favourite winter activities. The iceway is a frozen path that runs right through the middle of the forest for 2 kilometres. It’s even lit at night. There’s always a campfire going at the start of the iceway where skaters can warm up. Needless to say, opportunities abound for getting some shots of yourself on skates. The recreational forest is right near the airport.

Blouin Lake

Blouin Lake is one of the best-known lakes in Val-d’Or. A municipal dock makes access easy. The beauty of this place in winter is striking in its simplicity – a great expanse of white surrounded by forest. Val-d’Orians love ice fishing and this is one of the many spots available for it in winter.

Village minier de Bourlamaque (Bourlamaque Mining Village)

Standing as testimony to one of the most important chapters in the city’s history, the Village minier de Bourlamaque offers up awesome images. And when the Village is covered by a white blanket and it’s snowing out, the landscape is so magical that  it feels like being inside a snowglobe! This was the first village in the area surrounding Val-d’Or and the log houses still look the way they did at the time. The feel is very rustic in winter and a beautiful representation of Abitibi’s culture and heritage. A bright yellow mine headframe dominates the skyline at the old Lamaque Mine, now the Cité de l’Or.

Whatever the scene, be it man-made or natural, the winter here in Val-d’Or and Abitibi-Témiscamingue is definitely highly photogenic. Why here, particularly? Well, with the wide-open spaces, purity of the driven snow and stunning candyfloss sunsets and sunrises, a lot of the winning conditions are naturally present for gorgeous photography. All you have to do is choose a location and capture the beauty.

village minier de bourlamaque en hiver- cité de l'or

Photo | Caroline Gélinas

Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories

When you think of October, you can’t help but think of Hallowe’en and ghost stories. There are all kinds of stories around and some of them can make us question our sanity. There are scary tales told the world over, including Val d’Or. Allow me to tell you a few of our own…

Oscar the Ghost in Hammond Place

Hammond Place has a long history. It was the head office for the Siscoe Mine in the early thirties when it was divided in three and moved to Bourlamaque, where it became the town hall in 1954. The post office and police department were also housed there. The prison ended up in the same building, in the basement, and is still there to this day, although the space has been converted into a storage vault for documents and archives. Various ministries and organizations have offices in the building. Currently, Hammond Place is the headquarters for the Regional County Municipality (RCM) of La Vallée-de-l’Or.

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For a number of years, employees working in the building have noticed disturbing noises and eerie shadows. Numerous unusual visions over the years led them to the conclusion that ‘someone’ has been living there for a long time.  Apparently, his name is Oscar. Long ago, Oscar was a prisoner in the basement of Hammond Place and ended up hanging himself in his cell. One might conclude that his ghost would be a scary one, but aside from scaring a few people here and there, he’s never hurt anyone.

 

About 25 years ago, an employee named Denise saw Oscar one morning when she’d gone into work very early. She was the only one in the office at the time. No sooner had she sat down at her desk than she noticed someone sneaking past her door and duck into the neighbouring office. She hurried into the hall to see what could possibly be going on and no one was there. She was still alone in the office. Was this just a product of her sleepy imagination? Or was Oscar indeed the visitor she spied that morning?

 

There was another similar occurrence, on December 9, 2005, to be exact. It was at the annual office Christmas party. The employees and their spouses were all gathered in the basement in the RCM boardroom. Later in the evening, they began to play board games. Everyone was busy enjoying themselves and, all of a sudden, they heard the sound of running in the staircase.  They all stopped in their tracks and immediately looked around the room to see whether everyone was there. Indeed, all were present and accounted for. Someone or something else was making all the din. The guests went upstairs to have a look around and check the doors to make sure none were unlocked, and that no one else had entered the building.  Everything seemed fine. They found no intruder, and nothing had fallen. It had snowed that evening and there was a covering of new snow outside, so had someone entered the building there would have been footprints to prove it. There were no fresh tracks in the snow. Perhaps Oscar felt envious as he watched the party-goers having such a good time…

Lake of the Evil Spirit

Do you know the legend of Lake Matchi-Manitou?

The lake is in the town of Senneterre, in the Regional County Municipality (RCM) of La Vallée-de-l’Or. Its name means ‘evil spirit’. According to indigenous legend, a great moose hunter was hunting around the lake. He was really the best: he took down the largest animals and his hunting grounds were vast. The more moose he killed, the more he sold. As the cold months approached, everyone relied on the meat he sold. He was unstoppable. He tracked and killed moose around the lake, hunting more out of pleasure than need. His ego began to swell – he became reluctant to sell the meat and even wasteful on occasion.

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One quiet, chilly fall evening, the hunter was cutting up a carcass on the other side of the lake. It was getting dark, so he quickly loaded the pieces into his canoe to get them back to his camp. As he began to paddle, the wind came up. It gathered strength, whipping up huge waves on the lake’s surface. The hunter began to panic. The boat started taking on water. It began to pour rain. Buffeted mercilessly by the waves, the hunter decided to turf the animal carcass into the water. As he did this, the canoe became top-heavy and capsized.

 

The next day, all the people he had turned against him found a birchbark canoe floating upside down on the lake and felt that justice had been done. Perhaps he’d been punished for his ego-centric ways and attracted the evil spirit that claimed his life. And so the lake got its name.

An Icy Death

Photo, Société d'histoire et de généalogie de Val-d'Or Fonds Gilbert Tardif

Stanley Siscoe
Société d’histoire et de généalogie de Val-d’Or-Fonds Gilbert Tardif

It’s probably not news to you that Stanley Siscoe, who founded the Siscoe Mine in Sullivan, froze to death on this same lake.

 

Stanley Siscoe, originally called Stanlaw Siskwo, emigrated to Canada from his native Poland. He changed his name when he got here to make it easier to pronounce. He is known as the man who established the Siscoe Mine in 1912. The mine was in operation from 1929 to 1949. The mine is situated on Siscoe Island, an area inhabited by First Nations people when he arrived. They were chased off their land by development of the mine and its related infrastructure.

Photo, Société d'histoire et de généalogie de Val-d'Or, Fonds Herby Goyette

The photo of Stanley Siscoe dead frozen on Lake Matchi-Manitou.
Société d’histoire et de généalogie de Val-d’Or-Fonds Gilbert Tardif

Unfortunately, Mr. Siscoe did not live long enough to see the mine in full operation. In March 1935, he was on his way back to Montréal by air. There was a vicious storm raging at the time, with high winds and glacial temperatures. The atrocious weather forced the pilot to make an emergency landing on a frozen lake near Senneterre, Lake  Matchi-Manitou. The plane became lodged in the ice and they waited for help for two long days. Stanley Siscoe, starving and chilled to the bone, decided to walk south. His frozen body was discovered lying in the snow the next day. Of the photos taken at the time, two different ones made the rounds. One depicting a man lying on his back and another, quite similar, with bank notes strewn around his body. Was it photo enhancement? Was it robbery? Did he throw his money into the air in one final desperate gesture, as though to say that his massive fortune could not save his life? There are those who like to think that the evil spirit came to get him as punishment for expelling the First Nations from their land to build the Siscoe Mine. The evil spirit is unforgiving…

 

 

Paul-Antoine Martel, a local history buff, says that Val d’Or is fertile ground for ghost stories and mysterious rumours.

 

 

Photo de couverture | Jack Cain sur Unsplash

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Birds to watch for in the forests of Abitibi-Témiscamingue in winter

Birds to watch for in the forests of Abitibi-Témiscamingue in winter

There are countless ways to enjoy Val-d’Or all year long. In winter, outdoor activities are very popular, which include taking a walk in the woods. Nothing quite compares to the joy of getting some fresh air and immersing yourself in Nature. Although most birds head south in winter, to escape the snow, some of the hardier ones stay behind, enhancing our local forests with their own special beauty, to everyone’s delight. You can take photos and even feed them. Here are eight birds you can see in the woods of Val-d’Or during our colder months.

Brown Creeper

This little bird is brown on the upper parts with light spotting, distinguishable by its long thin bill, eyebrows and white underparts. The creeper can often go un-noticed due to the fact that this bird, which forages for food on tree trunks, blends in so well it appears to be part of the tree bark. Sunflower seeds are a big hit with creepers.

Ruffed Grouse

Sometimes incorrectly referred to as a partridge, the ruffed grouse is a ground-dwelling bird, often found close to tree trunks.  About the size of a small chicken, the grouse’s dappled and barred plumage ranges in colour from pale grey through to reddish brown. The male fans its tail to seduce females. It is a relatively shy bird, but you can get closer for a peek if it happens to be perched in a tree. Click here to hear the song of the ruffed grouse so you know what to listen for when you’re out in our woods:

Common Redpoll

What makes this little seed-eating bird quite distinctive are its pinky-dappled breast and the dash of red on top of its head. Its short, pointy, yellowish beak is perfectly designed for getting at tree seeds (particularly, birch seeds), its primary food source. Redpolls can be seen hanging out at birdfeeders in the winter and they enjoy all kinds of birdseed. Click here to hear its song.

Blue Jay

Long before it became the emblem for Toronto’s baseball team, this bird was a resident of Quebec and the great forests of Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Its magnificent plumage is bright blue overall, with some touches of grey. It is a friendly bird that enjoys being around humans. Its shrill call makes it easy to recognize. Click here to have a listen of its song.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

As its name implies, this bird’s red breast makes it easy to identify. Another distinguishing feature is the black band across its eyes. Its main sources of food are coniferous seeds, suet and birdseed from feeders. Sunflowers are a big hit with these little birds. Click here to hear its song.

Gray Jay

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Photo | CC BY-SA 3.0

This bird, also known as the Canada jay, can live up to 19 years! Its plumage varies from white to gray, with touches of blue on its tail. It can be up to 23 cm long. Often mistaken for a magpie, the gray jay is omnivorous. To make it easier for you to identify, click here to hear its song.

Pine Siskin

This bird is brown and streaky overall with subtle yellow edgings and a pointed tail. They tend to roam in twittering flocks; in fact, in winter, they can live together in groups of as many as 50 individuals. The pine siskin eats all kinds of seeds. Click here to hear their song so that it is easier to identify them.

Black-Capped Chickadee

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Photo | Mary C Kirby “shurdbug”

This is the most common of the American chickadees and definitely the best known bird in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Its black cap and white sides to the face make it easy to identify. Sometimes, it has bluish highlights on its off-yellow flanks. Black-capped chickadees are curious and congenial birds that won’t hesitate to eat out of your hand if you offer some sunflower seeds. Their vocalization is very distinctive. Click here to hear its song.

With a bag of seed, a good sense of observation and some patience, your walk in the forest can become a veritable ornithological adventure! Nature is our playground and Val-d’Or and Abitibi-Témiscamingue are ample proof of that. Come see for yourself!

To see more photos of birds that live in our beautiful forests, I would suggest Raymond Ladurantaye’s work. Raymond is a photographer and avid birdwatcher from Val-d’Or. Check out his images by clicking here.

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