What’s one to do with 500 acres of land that includes a 70 acres marsh, agricultural fields and rolling mountains accentuated by a magnificent mixed forest. This was the question that Michel Leclair asked himself upon acquiring this vast property located just outside of the charming town of Wakefield
The Origin of Eco-Odyssée
Above all, Michel Leclair is passionate about nature. Rich with knowledge about both wildlife and plantlife, he captures the attention of anyone who questions him about the subject by sharing his fascinating and incredible anecdotes. Michel has spent his life working in the forest, and calls animals, trees and natural phenomena his colleagues. Following his experience as an Animal Conservation Officer in the Gatineau Park, Michel started his own business, “S.O.S.Wildlife “, in which the main goal was to manage the beaver population, as well as the beaver habitat and the marsh.
Having almost disappeared from its natural habitat in the last century, the beaver came back to the North American continent in full force, bringing with it several advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, dams built by the beavers promote the development of marshes, which are home to rich and diverse animal and plant life. On the other hand, these dams can flood the agricultural lands and wooded areas, along with forest and municipal roads and pathways, and when they collapse, the water that escapes can destroy everything manage by its habitat. Over time, Michel developed an unmated expertise in managing the beaver and its habitat. Today, he is proud to be known as an expert in his field.
One question remains to be answered: can we cohabitate with the beaver, or should it be eliminated? For Michel Leclair, the answer is obvious. Human beings can cohabitate with this animal, but in order for this to occur, we must properly manage its habitat. Over time, Michel developed an unmated expertise in managing the beaver and its habitat. Today, he is proud to be known as an expert in his field. More than 200 water control devices were installed in the Gatineau Park with over 300 colonies of beaver on 360 km ². This has resulted in almost eliminating the negative impacts of beavers on our infrastructure.
The expertise that he developed was highlighted throughout a movie led by Jari Osborne and by The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. Entitled The Beaver Whisperer, this film is in part dedicated to the achivements of Michel Leclair. It is available on the website of the CBC. In addition, from this website, it is possible to see the beavers live thanks to different cameras installed on the Eco-Odyssée property.
The Eco-Odyssée Concept
In 1997, Michel Leclair developed the idea of sharing his precious knowledge on the beaver and its habitat following the purchase of his vast property in Wakefield. The concept of the water maze came to him from the beavers that he worked alongside for 35 years; the beaver, upon settling in a habitat, digs a network of underwater canals that are similar to a labyrinth. This network allows it to move around throughout the entire year in order to find food and wood to build dams.
So what does one do with 70 acres of land? Michel did a vast water maze with an interwoven canal system, to allow those who wish to discover in true beaver fashion, the richness of the marsh environment. During your paddle boat journey through the marsh, you will experience the environment from a beaver perspective. In fact, aboard the paddle boat, you will be just above the water surface, which will focus your field of vision to the labyrinths edges, putting you directly in contact with plants and wildlife located there. In addition, thanks to the dams build by beavers, the water level in the maze is controlled. With the table set, all that remained, with the help of family and friends, was to refine the elements that would give birth to the Eco-Odyssée project.
The Development of Eco-Odyssée
The development of the maze project began in 2002 and continued over 5 years. 2007 was a monumental year for Eco-Odyssée. The installation of the labyrinth as well as the planning and development of different adventures led to a month of trial runs with the public. The originality of the concept, the relaxation and the beauty of the environment charmed the participants and this positive feedback allowed Eco-Odyssée to take off.
Eco-Odyssée is, first and foremost, a vast water labyrinth comprising 64 intersections spread out over more than 6.4 km. By paddle boat, visitors can discover the labyrinth and learn about the rich diversity of plant and wildlife living there.
Eco-Odyssée is also an ecotourism venture. The purpose of ecotourism is to promote the discovery of animal and plant life while respecting the environment and ecosystems. As a general rule, ecotourism activities aim to be both educational and interpretive, and we kept this in mind while designing our adventures. The process of completing the adventures allows participants to develop their knowledge of nature and promotes the existence of a healthy relationship between humans and the environment.
What’s new since our opening!
We are now in 2018 on our eleventh year operating. Since it’s creation, Éco-Odyssée has proudly welcomed over 70 000 visitors. During this period, the business has innovated by offering to the visitors these new adventures:
Adventures using Iphone or Android application. Offered in seven different languages, these adventures allow the visitors to identify themselves easily in the maze (GPS location) while learning more about the animals in our marsh thanks to programmed animations.
The Bugologue, an adventure that allows us to discover the world of insects on a pedestrian path throughout the forest with white cedar, black spruce and fir.
Predator/ Prey, our pedestrian maze which teaches us a little bit about the world of predation while identifying animal tracks and dung.
The Rapido, an adventure in the walking maze where participants have to find numbered posts to punch their adventure card;
Scientific adventures offer the possibility for students to discover the fauna and flora of the marsh by photographing some species that can be found on the site to then establish their specific features.
Since it’s creation, the efforts of Éco-Odyssée’s business have been recognized and crowned with success nationally, provincially and regionally :
2009 : Winner of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada in the category of New Tourism Business of the Year
2010 : Regional winner of the Grand Prix du tourisme québécois in the category of Ecotourism and adventure tourism
2013 : Regional winner of the Grand Prix du tourisme québécois in the category of Ecotourism and adventure tourism
2013 : Provincial Gold winner of the Grand Prix du tourisme québécois in the category of Ecotourism and adventure tourism