Explore a hidden urban forest with UrbaNature

Thanks to grants from the Red Cross and the Government of Canada, UrbaNature’s resident Falaise St. Jacques expert has been hard at work creating a virtual walk and an activity kit to help you explore a hidden forest in Montreal – the Falaise St. Jacques (the St-Jacques Escarpment)!

The falaise separates N.D.G from highway 20 and the Turcot interchange. It used to border a lake (Lac St. Pierre or Lac à Loutre, which would have been a calm canoe route around the Lachine rapids. This lake dried up and disappeared when the Lachine canal was built. You can see what it might have looked like, and how it changed, in this short video:

In this small urban forest, many birds, animals, insects and trees still find a sanctuary. You can, too! It’s easy to get there by public transit, foot, bike or car and with the activities included here, you and your family can spend several hours exploring an urban wilderness.

Start by downloading the activities and resources below, then head down to the falaise and enjoy some UrbaNature! If you go, make sure to practice appropriate distancing to protect yourself and others.

This activity kit is meant to be used in conjunction with the Virtual Walk in the Falaise St. Jacques, created by UrbaNature with many thanks to the Red Cross and the Government of Canada. You can help us share this great project and create more virtual walks by putting your pictures up on social media and using these tags #falaisewalk @Urba_Nature @redcrosscanada @ESDC_GC .

Virtual tour of the Falaise St. Jacques: Short version (8 minutes) (C Rod Fishing)

Virtual tour of the Falaise St Jacques: Full version (Patrick Barnard)

Entrance to the falaise: How to get there

You can see the Escarpment on this map—the green band that goes along Rue St. Jacques from the MUHC hospital and Turcot Interchange at the northeast to Canadian Tire at the southwest.

Though the falaise stretches the length of St. Jacques Street from the St. Pierre interchange to the Vendome metro, the best place to access it is in the middle, at the east end of the old Rosebowl bowling alley (now Quilles G Plus) located at 6510 Rue Saint-Jacques, Montréal, QC H4B 1T6. The entrance to the bowling alley is on the south side of St .Jacques Street and if you continue past the entrance to the east you will see some trees.

How do I get there?

Public transit: take the 90 bus which will let you off at Cavendish and St Jacques;

Bike: Take the de Maisonneuve bike path and head south on Madison to go over the bridge which leads to St. Jacques;

On foot: walk along St Jacques or along de Maisonneuve and cross over the train tracks from Cavendish or Madison.

By car: Park behind Quilles G Plus.

Look for Quilles G Plus in Google maps or your favourite map app so you can find the best way there for you.

Where is the entrance to the falaise?

Once you are at the far east end of the bowling alley building, turn to face east. You will see a bunch of trees. Walk towards them. You will see a big piece of wooden furniture with a sign on it saying Falaise St. Jacques. That marks the starting point. There are two ways down, and it is a little steep for about 50 feet. Once you get down you will be on a road and then the walking is quite easy.

Resources and activities in the Nature Fun Kit:

Select the activities you like or download the whole kit here!

UrbaNature and Sauvons la falaise! have created a bird feeding station consisting of four birdfeeders, which are being refilled weekly by volunteers. Each one contains a different type of food, which attracts a different type of bird. By the garbage can, there is a pink folder that contains a copy of the nature fun kit as well as a small pink book for putting down bird and animal observations. Make sure you disinfect your hands before using these resources or print out and bring your own resources.

Sit quietly by the bird feeders for a while and count how many birds you see.

In the little book, mark down the date you were there, your names and the types of birds you saw. When they are eating they will be staying pretty still and come back often, so you can use these bird identification cards to see what kinds of birds they are.

There is also an amazing app by the Cornell University called Merlin Bird ID which can help you easily identify birds by sight and sound.

These are all fall leaves and most of them can be found in the falaise.

How many can you find?

What kind did you find?


Take pictures and put them on social media using the #falaisewalk @Urba_Nature or mark where you found them on the map below or on your own map.

To create your own small falaise pocket map:

1. Print out the file double sided and landscape

2. Fold it in half lengthwise so that the map is on the inside

3. Make a cut in the middle, lengthwise along the fold, the length of the middle two panels (11,10 and 10,9)

4. Fold 11,10 and 10, 9 (the panels you cut the line on top of) so they are pointing outwards.

5. Push all of the panels to the right so that the title, Falaise St Jacques, a field guide is the front of it.

Now you have made a book out of your map!

Take pictures at the different spots designated on the map during your walk. You can post them on social media with the tags #falaisewalk @Urba_Nature . What would your names for these spots be?

Make your own map

Make your own map! Name the spots you find or point out interesting things along the way and plot them on your map. Take a picture of the map and legend and share it with the tags #falaisewalk @Urba_Nature

Which of these kinds of animal foot prints do you think you could find in the falaise? Why do you think there are no beavers on the falaise?

Tracking Down Winter Wildlife

You are very likely to see most of these tracks in the falaise in the winter. Deer, however, are not present on the Falaise these days – but they have been and they might be again! What do you think is needed to support deer in the escarpment?

Mark which number on the map is closest to where you found the print! See which footprints you can find. Take pictures of them and upload them to social media using the tags #falaisewalk @Urba_Nature

This beautiful book is a Masters thesis in Art in the form of an illustrated journey in the falaise St. Jacques. You can print the book or read it on your computer .

  1. Print the pages in landscape view (you can print them either double or single sided).
  2. The first page is the center of the book and all other pages go behind.
  3. Fold everything in half and you will have a book.
  4. Create your own title page with drawing of what you saw in the falaise and then put two staples in the center.

We have lost 5 billion birds since 1970 – that is half of the birds in North America! Here are 7 easy ways to help birds survive.

Try using some of these in your home! Let us know what you have done by sending us an email at urbanature.education@gmail.com or sharing it on social media using @Urba_Nature

The falaise is very steep, being the side of an ancient lake: Lac St-Pierre or Lac à Loutre (otter lake). This very short video (also at the top of this post) shows how the lake dried up when the Lachine Canal was built. (in French) .

Stand at the top of a steep slope in the falaise and look down and across. Can you see where the lake would have been? How did the disappearance of the lake affect the ecosystem in the falaise?


Virtual walk video (short version): C Rod Fishing

Virtual walk video (full version): Patrick Barnard

Virtual walk guide: Lisa Mintz

Winter Birds/les oiseaux des hiver – Canadian Wildlife Federation Leaf types – education.com

Falaise Map by Lucie Lederhandeler

Footprints Animals – https://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vector/animal tracks-north-american-animals-vector-8955597

Tracking Down Winter Wildlife – Canadian Wildlife federation – https://cwf fcf.org/en/resources/DIY/outside/tracking-down-winter-wildlife.html

La Falaise St. Jacques by Lucie Lederhandeler

Simple Ways to live a Bird-Friendly Life Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/seven-simple-actions-to-help-birds/ Translation: Jean-Pierre Duford and Jacques Cloutier

This project was made possible thanks to the Canadian Red Cross and the Government of Canada.

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About the author
UrbaNature Education teaches environmental education in urban and suburban settings. We facilitate the human connection with nature, wherever it is found, ensuring our programs are available to all, especially vulnerable populations.