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Jessup’s Falls Conservation Area: A Great (Free!) Family Outing!

It is officially identified as a ‘conservation area’ but (off the record), it is a genuine park and as such, offers a variety of activities one would expect from a 13-acre virgin natural waterfront setting: boat launching and floating docks, fishing and ice-fishing (walleye, pike, muskellunge, bass), picnic facilities with barbeques, dog walking, geocaching, parking, washrooms and more: napping for example (always a favorite!), reading, playing music, painting, throwing or kicking a few balls …), all of this settled among giant pines and majestic oaks, with a ground cover of trillium (when in bloom) and unfortunately, some poison ivy and wild parsnip patches to watch for, all of this within a half-hour car ride if you live in the United Counties of Prescott-Russell, and most of all, FREE! TOTALLY FREE!

Too good to be true? Well, let me dare you to experience the place. Conveniently located on Regional Road 17 between Plantagenet and Wendover on the South Eastern side of the steel bridge that crosses the South Nation river, its welcoming sign says JESSUP’S FALLS CONSERVATION AREA. Historically, Jessup’s Falls may have been part of the village of Treadwell located five kilometres to the north, but it is now more or less reduced to an ‘intersection’ on the main road. Originally, a grant of 400 acres of land was made by the government to a Sir Edward Jessup Jr, thus the name of the area; the land was later sold multiple times and finally purchased by a Mister Anderson who used the river and the bay for his mill business and lived in that exact area, in a cottage among the pines. The South Nation Conservation authority now operates this park as well as four other parks within Prescott-Russell, all open to the public.

Previously, FISHING was mentioned as one of the preferred activity in the park, as fishermen are often seen on the site from dawn till dusk; unless you are an avid fisherman and knowledgeable of its rules and regulations, you may not know that there are four moments during the year when our provincial government grants everyone a break and allows fishing without the need of a permit: a fishing weekend in February (for ice fishing), Mother’s Day weekend, Father’s Day weekend (June 19-20 in 2021) and Family Fishing Week (July 3-11 in 2021). A permit is neither required if you are under 18 or over 65. Two of those FREE opportunities are coming soon to take advantage of! And the cook-in-you can grill your catch-of-the-day on a nearby barbeque! Wonderful!

The unique geography of the area is a gateway to nature in all its splendor, both at the ground level and at the water level: although the section of the river south of the bridge holds waters that are calm and serene, on the north side however, underwater falls bring stronger currents and deep waters before reaching the Bay of Wendover where old concrete bridge pillars still stand today.

The local non-profit group ESCARPACTION, whose hand-painted road signs border the main road between Plantagenet and Wendover, ‘thrives to protect this fragile environment and promote the region, the reason being that the Jessup’s Falls escarpment is a remarkable limestone formation very sensitive to surface water contamination.’ The group organizes and funds an annual festival which showcases local small businesses, artists and artisans; and again, entrance to the festival if FREE! (although donations towards the cause  are appreciated).

Now that school is out till next September, what a great learning experience it might turn out to visit the Conservation Area with your children: nature science, biology, geology, geography, math, art, sports and whatever else you want to throw in the learning pot! But don’t confuse your children with such technical terms as ‘conservation area’, just innocently tell them: ‘Let’s go and have a picnic and spend the day at the PARK!’

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