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 Éco-Odyssée

Photographie de Michel Leclair pointant le site d'Eco-Odyssée

Michel Leclair
Founder

Above all, Michel Leclair is passionate about nature. Rich with knowledge about both wildlife and plant life, 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 in its path and cause significant financial loss.

One question remains: 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 unmatched 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 km². 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 presented by The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. Also, the film The Beaver Whisperer, was in part dedicated to the achievements 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 Éco-Odyssée property.

About us

Michel Leclair, president and general manager, is a shareholder of the company. Michel has served 5 terms on the board of directors of Tourisme Outaouais since 1995, and has been on the board of SADC Papineau for 6 years.

Danielle Rocheleau, vice-president and director of customer service, is one of the directors of the company. After thirty years in the education network, Danielle has been leading the excellence of customer service and human resources at Éco-Odyssée Nature Park for 15 years.

Olivier Rocheleau Leclair, director of operations, is currently a shareholder and director of the company. Olivier holds a master’s degree in Biochemistry from the University of Montreal and a certificate in management, and he participated in the Rémi-Marcoux Entrepreneurship Course offered at HEC Montreal. This nature enthusiast has been in charge of the operations of the Éco-Odyssée Nature Park and the modern lodge Le Bellevue since 2018.

Amélie Rocheleau Leclair, director of communications, is one of the company’s shareholders. Amélie holds a master’s degree in management science and a bachelor’s degree in communication. She has more than 7 years of experience in various positions related to communication, and has been in charge of communications for Éco-Odyssée Nature Park and the modern lodge Le Bellevue since 2020.

Propriétaire Éco-Odyssée
Famille Rocheleau Leclair

The Éco-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 pedal boat journey through the marsh, you will experience the environment from a beaver perspective. In fact, aboard the pedal 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 built 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 Éco-Odyssée project.

The Development of Éco-Odyssée

The development of the maze project began in 2002 and continued over 5 years. 2007 was a monumental year for Éco-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 Éco-Odyssée to take off.

Éco-Odyssée is, first and foremost, a vast water labyrinth comprised of 64 intersections spread out over more than 6.4 km. With our selections of boats, visitors can discover the labyrinth and learn about the rich diversity of plant and wildlife living there.

Éco-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 2022 on our fifteenth year operating! Since it’s creation, Éco-Odyssée has proudly welcomed more than 150 000 visitors. During this period, the business has innovated by offering to the visitors these new adventures:

  • 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 (only available for groups). 
  • Predator/ Prey, our pedestrian maze which teaches us a little bit about the world of predation while identifying animal tracks and dung. (for groups only)
  • The Rapido, an adventure in the walking maze where participants have to find numbered posts to punch their adventure card. (for groups only)
  • 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.
  • It is now possible to paddle board in our maze since summer 2020!
  • The new open-air multimedia projection show, Eco-Noctura, and evening and nighttime activities in the labyrinth, are now available since summer 2021. 
  • We are open year-round, since it is possible to skate in our labyrinth. Our first winter season started in December 2021.
  • Hebertism trails will be available during the summer of 2022 (date to be determined).
  • In 2023, it will be possible to play mini-golf (more details to come).

NEWS

Acknowledgments

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

Wakefield Eco-Odyssée