Exploring Driftwood Provincial Park!

Fungi in the forest and panoramic Ottawa River views!

During the last weekend of August I was hoping to get out for some sort of big adventure. But, as what has happened most weekend’s this summer, it rained all day one day, this time on the Saturday, and then on the Sunday it was cloudy, windy, and looked like it could start raining any minute. Very unpredictable, and not the type of weather that I’d want to head out in on something like a big long bike ride.

One thing that can be done on days like these where you don’t want to risk being caught out in bad weather is going for a drive somewhere, and not going too far away from your vehicle. That’s exactly the idea I came up with on this day, I thought why don’t we go for a drive to Driftwood Provincial Park!

Driftwood provincial Park is located along the Ottawa River and Highway 17, just north west of Deep River, in the Upper Ottawa Valley area of Ontario. Surprisingly enough, even though the park is located only about a 45 minute drive from where I live, I have never really explored Driftwood before! I’ve been there before, kind of one of those drive in and take a quick look and drive out kind of things when I was on my way along the highway heading somewhere else, but I’ve never explored it further than that.

I was really looking forward to it! I hadn’t got a very good impression of the park the first time around during that quick stop. When we had drove in before I can’t remember exactly where we went, but all we saw were a few campsites and a not so great view of the river.

Myself and a few family members packed up and headed off down the highway. The area surrounding Highway 17 between the Mattawa area and Driftwood is quite scenic itself! There are views of the hills across the Ottawa River, little rivers and creeks that the highway passes over, marshy areas that resemble what you might see in Algonquin Provincial Park and the type of land you can imagine a moose walking through.

We arrived at Driftwood, and of course the first stop was to take a few photos with the entrance sign, which must have been recently moved off the highway and is now located a little ways in along the park road.

After a friendly wave from the gate staff we passed by the permit office and continued on into the park. My family has a Ontario Parks Summer Pass. We buy one every year. It’s a great thing to purchase if you plan on visiting any Ontario Park for day use at least several times a year. This year’s summer pass only cost around $125.00 and pays for itself after about eight uses. You simply stop outside the permit office, show your pass, and they wave you through. No need to stop at the gate and wait in line to pay for your day pass, it saves time, and is a great investment. The summer passes can be used between the beginning of April and end of November each year, and this year’s summer pass is being extended for use until March 2021, due the COVID-19 Pandemic and parks being closed for the first few months that the summer passes could be used.

The weather seemed to have cleared up a little by this point and we decided that we would head to one of Driftwood’s trails first. We did a quick drive through and stop in the Brumm Campground first to find a vault toilet. Brumm is located in the upper part of the park and offers large pull through and electrical sites. Two group campsites are also located right beside Brumm.

Driftwood has two trail systems, The Oak Highlands Trails and also The Chevier Creek Trails. I had done a little research online before coming to the park and had heard that the Oak Highlands had some very scenic views of the Ottawa River, so we decided we would hike that trail.

The Oak Highlands Trails consists of two different sections, the 2.3km Beaver Pond section and the 1km Riverview section. We would be hiking the entire Beaver Pond section and half of the Riverview section to complete a roughly 3km loop.

We started off along the trail from a parking lot just across from Brumm. The forest surrounding the trail was so green. Everything was still a little wet from the recent rain so the colours really popped.

The area was very much alive, many birds, squirrels, chipmunks, late summer flowers, different little plants, and lots of fungi growing all along the trail. The wet weather during the past few weeks have been ideal growing conditions for the fungi this year. We must have saw at least 100 different species of fungi just along this trail alone!

The trail took us much longer to hike than it should have because I stopped quite often to look at the many different plants and animals we found, and to take photos of them to upload later to the iNatuarlist app and website.

I’m a very active user of iNaturalist, an app and website used to identify and collect information about where different species of plants and animals are found around the world. I submitted a total of 316 observations to the app after our day spent at Driftwood. That’s a lot of observations taken during such a short period of time!

Another very interesting thing we saw while hiking along the trail was White Quartz! At several different spots the trail passed over white Quartz that was exposed through the dirt of the well worn trail. I’ve seen White Quartz before, but none along any other trails I have hiked around this area.

The Oak Highlands Trails was very true to it’s name, Oak Highlands. The trail climbed up a little from where we had started, to a drier and rockier area, and the majority of the trees surrounding the trail were Oak Trees. In this section of the park at least, there seemed to be a lot more deciduous trees, such as Oak, Maple, Popular, and Birch, and a lot less coniferous like Pines, Spruce, and Balsam. One thing we talked about while hiking this trail was how nice it would be during fall when all the leaves had changed colour, but unfortunately Driftwood closes for the season mid September.

As the trail winded around and starting to descend, we felt the wind off the river and could start to see it through the trees. The trail kept taking us closer to the river, and then we followed a little side trail that branched off and took us up on top of a rocky cliff high above the Ottawa River.

As we walked around several Jack Pines that were rooted on top of the rock, we came out to an opening at the edge of the cliff side that gave us a spectacular panoramic view of the Ottawa River!

The view was just amazing from this spot! I could not even come close to capturing it fully with my camera. To the left we could see far into Driftwood Bay where the Driftwood lower campground was located, straight in front of us we could see kilometres up the Ottawa River and the hills surrounding it, and to the right, across the river, we could see the mouth of the Dumoine River where it flows out of the hills on the Quebec side into the Ottawa River.

It was such a beautiful spot up on top of the cliff with the expansive views. Had we had more time to spare that day I would have stayed there to look around much longer. I reluctantly left the amazing view and we continued on along the trail.

The rest of the trail closely followed the Ottawa River shoreline, sometimes curving back into the forest a little before coming back out.

There was actually several other little lookouts to stop at along the last section of trail that each gave a new perspective of the river and area surrounding it.

One of the last lookouts gave a scenic view towards the two islands that are located just off of the Driftwood shoreline.

As we came to the end of the trail, which brought us out to the Driftwood boat launch and day use area, we realized that we were now at the trailhead to The Oak Highlands Trails. We had hiked the trail the wrong direction according to where the sign was and some numbered trail markers along the way, but we both agreed that we preferred it that way. We had enjoyed the first half of the trail that winded it’s way through the forest, and then got to enjoy the stunning views of the Ottawa River during the last half until the end. We had unintentionally saved the best for last!

We had a picnic supper at the day use area, and then explored the area and boat launch after. The day use area was very nice, it had several picnic tables under some trees, a long sandy beach, and of course, lots of driftwood along the shoreline! I now understand how driftwood got it’s name!

At the boat launch a long dock extended out into the river. It was quite windy on this day and the dock floated up and down on the waves.

It was getting late and the sun was setting. I had heard about the famous Driftwood sunsets but I wasn’t sure if we were going to see one this night. The sun and sky glowed a yellow orange for a little and then fell behind a hill across the river.

We left the day use area and made a quick stop at the permit office so that I could purchase a Driftwood crest and sticker for my Ontario Parks Passport. I was really excited last year when Ontario Parks came out with the crests, stickers, and passport. What a fun and affordable thing to collect from every park you visit! I also picked up one of Ontario Park’s face masks. A very fitting Ontario Parks souvenir I thought, from a very different type of season at Ontario Parks in 2020.

Before we left the park we thought we would take a quick drive to look around the other campground, the Ottawa River East and West Campground located in the lower section of the park along the Ottawa River shoreline.

Although these campsites were much smaller than the ones in Brumm and some lacked a bit of privacy, the only comfort station within the park was in this area and the majority of the sites were right on the waterfront. Campers staying in these sites could simply walk out of their tent or trailer, across the beach, and right in the river! That would sure be nice on a hot summer day!

As we approached one end of the campground we saw a red glow coming from the sky through the trees. We stopped and walked down to the river to see the clouds across the sky glowing red and pink from the sun that had just set! It was beautiful! We photographed the sky until the colours began to fade. I was very happy that we had got to experience one of Driftwood’s famous sunsets before we had left!

Overall we were very impressed with Driftwood! It’s a great little park! There are lots of things to do there that could keep you busy for days such as hiking, swimming, or paddling along the river. The park is also located not too far away from a couple of Algonquin Provincial Park’s access points, such as Brent and Achray, and is only about a hour’s drive from Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, if you wanted to do a day trip over to any of those places.

We look forward to returning to Driftwood in the near future for another day trip to hike the other trail system and explore the park some more.

Just a few days ago Driftwood posted on their Instagram account that they will now be open until Thanksgiving this year. We were really happy to hear this and hope to visit this park sometime this September or October to enjoy it’s fall colours and beauty!

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