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WalkExplore the Ottawa Valley on foot. This guide offers walking trails through hamlets, towns and...
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A Trail of Two Rivers

We recommend using this guide in conjunction with the Official Ottawa Valley Road Map, available free of charge from OVTA Visitor Information Centres or by calling the OVTA.

Toll Free: 1-800-757-6580

Explore the watersheds of these two rivers by traveling 'round the Bonnechere Valley and up into the Madawaska Highlands.

Approximate Distance: 292km (181mi)

Depart Pembroke
Pembroke to Bonnechere
Bonnechere to Wilno
Wilno to Barry's Bay
Barry's Bay to Combermere
Combermere to Rockingham
Rockingham to Denbigh
Denbigh to Dacre
Dacre to Eganville
Eganville to Pembroke



1. Along the Little Bonnechere River

For its size and class, Bonnechere Provincial Park has one of the best interpretive programs in the area. A clean sandy beach beckons and the woodland campground provides a quiet family atmosphere. Several woodland trails and a riverside wildlife viewing platform provide great opportunities to view blue herons, mallard ducks, beavers and rarely seen wood turtle in their natural habitats. The Friend's Bookstore has several nature and local history books for youths and adults.

From Bonnechere Park, head up Turner's Camp Rd to Basin Depot.

Bonnechere River Provincial Park hugs the shoreline of the Bonnechere River from Round Lake Rd 58 to the Algonquin Park boundary. This protected waterway links a number of natural areas and public lands to explore by foot, canoe or auto.

At Basin Depot are the remains of a thriving logging depot circa 1800 to 1920: a log cabin, a few grave markers and a fast-running creek. If you stand quietly you can imagine the sounds of the loggers and river-drivers transporting massive white pine logs down this pint-sized river.

Return to Round Lake Rd 58, and wind your way to Killaloe. At Killaloe, turn right onto Hwy 60 and travel west. Watch for the scenic lookout sign on your left as you climb the hill into Wilno.

2. Wilno

Armchair historians have a wealth of books to choose from when exploring the rich cultural heritage of those who settled the Bonnechere Valley. However, the Bonnechere Valley Ecotour looks at this land in a different way - it focuses on our natural history. This ecotour will help you understand the role nature played in the settlement an human history of the Ottawa Valley. It explains how nature has influenced settlement patterns and how we in turn have affected nature and the environment along the way.

It's and ear-popping motor climb to the scenic lookout at Shrine Hill and one of the most stunning views in the Valley. From here one can see Round Lake straight-ahead and Golden Lake to the far right. An historic plaque commemorates the Kazubian pioneers who settled this rocky landscape, so reminiscent of their homeland. Pack a picnic and your camera for a high elevation lunch and photo op.

This hillside hamlet is Canada's oldest Polish settlement - a thriving village with real character. Established in 1864, the community flourished when the railroad was built through the Wilno Pass in 1865. Today, anchored by the towering spires of the village church and an historic roadside tavern, Wilno is a mixture of traditional farmers and loggers, and colourful musicians and artisans. As they say in these parts, if you don't know about this place - soon, you Wilno!

From Wilno travel west on Hwy 60 to Barry's Bay.

3. Barry's Bay

Barry's Bay was established as a rough and tumble lumber town on Lake Kamaniskeg, at what was to become the terminus of the Ottawa Opeongo Road. The Bay was the site of several sawmills which drove the town's economy. Today, this Irish/Polish community is a hub of tourism and government within Renfrew County.

Of the many railway stations that once dotted the Ottawa Valley, only the one at Barry's Bay has been faithfully restored. It serves as an Ottawa Valley Visitor Information Centre; be sure to drop in for travel information and Ottawa Valley souvenirs: t-shirts, sweatshirts or fleece mitts. The original railway hotel and water tower stand nearby.

An estimated 15,000 canoeists and kayakers paddle the Madawaska River each year. The mix of flat and whitewater above Griffith appeals to beginners and experience paddlers alike. Portages are clearly marked to assist the less experience. Paddlers can access the Madawaska River at Palmer Rapids point, paddle through Madawaska River Provincial Park, and on to Griffith - a 40km (25mi) trek. For a shorter excursion, put in at Aumonds Bay, Buck Bay or Highland Creek. Along the way, river travellers will see the legacies of the logging era. At Slate Falls the names of several rivermen who lost their lives in these fast-running waters are chiselled into the rocks on shore. Campsites are available along the river within Madawaska River Provincial Park.

From Barry's Bay, follow Combermere Rd 62 to Combermre. Turn left on Old Barry's Bay Rd and watch for signs to Crooked Slide Park on your left.

4. Crooked Slide Park

So just how was all that tall timber transported down these pint-size rivers? By log chutes - an engineering marvel of the logging industry in the 1800s. To see how one works, visit Crooked Slide Park. This faithfully restored chute on Rockingham Creek is a fine example of those used carry logs over the rock waters of several Ottawa Valley rivers including the Madawaska, the Bonnechere, and the Ottawa.

Backtrack to Combermere Rd 62 and turn left towards Combermere.

5. Combermere

The wreck of the Mayflower, a sternwheeler steamboat that sank in Lake Kamaniskeg on a stormy November night in 1912, is such an implausible story that is was featured by Ripley's Believe It or Not. The boat went down in a snowstorm soon after leaving Barr's Bay, and of the twelve people aboard, only three survived - by clinging to a floating coffin! The wreck rests 8m (25') underwater where Lake Kamaniskeg empties into the Madawaska River, not far from Combermere.

Hidden Gems
From the 1880s to circa 1920, mining was important source of income for the early settlers who watched the lumbering operations move further and further from their homesteads. The most valuable minerals were rose-tinted quartz and blue-green six-sided beryl crystals; molybdenite, graphite, and crystals of corundum - the hardest mineral next to diamond. The largest corundum deposit in Canada was at the Craig Mine in Robillard Mountain at craigmont, 11km (7mi) south of Combermere. The buildings have vanished, leaving little evidence of the hardy people who excavated the massive cuts in the Canadian Shield. Today, these rock cuts are frequent by mineral collectors (rock hounds in local jargon).

The Hudson House Restaurant, on your right just before the bridge in Combermere, was the home of Captain John Hudson who sank with the Mayflower.

Today, a refurbished logging tug plies the waters of Kamaniskeg Lake and the Madawaska River into the Conroy Marsh, one of the richest marshlands in southern Ontario. Take a boat cruise to view waterfowl nestings and aquatic habitats. You might recognize this vessel - she's featured on the last issue of our Canadian one dollar bill. Tours depart from the bridge.

Turn left on Dafoe Rd in Combermere.

A few hours surrounded by the peace and tranquility of the Catholic lay community at Madonna House, might be just what your family vacation needs. Located down a quiet lane in Combermere, this cluster of buildings includes a gift shop, wool shop, bookstore, and a pioneer museum featuring an extensive Canadiana collection based on the life of an ordinary farm family.

Backtrack to Combermere Rd 62 and turn right. Turn right again onto Palmer Rd, and immediately left onto Rockingham Rd. Wind you way to Rockingham.

The Remittance Man
History has it that John Watson was a "remittance man" from Rockingham Castle in Northhampshire Castle, England. Banished from his home for marrying beneath his station to scullery maid Mary Martin, Watson was given £10,000 and set sail for Canada in 1860 with a group of settlers and tradesmen. Harnessing the water power of Rockingham Creek, these pioneers established a grist mill and sawmill. A general store, blacksmith shop, tavern, tannery, hotel, school and St Leonard's Anglican Church soon followed, and the population rose to 60 in 1888, and 110 in 1899.

6. Rockingham

The only landmarks left standing as a reminder of many of the original 18th century settlements along the Opeongo Line are the churches. Built in 1867, St Leonard's Anglican Church in the tiny community of Rockingham is a perfect example of such stalwarts. Imagine the story that this beautiful wooden structure and the surrounding tombstones could tell. Established in 1860 by its first postmaster, John Watson, Rockingham thrived under his direction. Be sure to stop by the scenic falls on Rockingham Creek, at the north end of the hamlet.

From Rockingham, follow Guiney Rd. Turn right at Jewellville Rd and travel to Jewellville.

7. Jewellville

Jewellville, named for Toronto financier John H. Jewell, was the site of the Manufacturers Corundum Company established in 1918. Canadian corundum, mined from the Jewellville, Craigmont and Burgess Mines, was regarded as a world standard and for fourteen years Canada was the world's leading producer.

At Jewellville, turn left on Palmer Rd 514; from Hardwood Lake follow Hwy 28 to Denbigh. From Denbigh, take Hwy 41 to Eganville. At Eganville turn right on Queen St to reach the Bonnechere Caves.

8. Bonnechere Caves

Too hot? Go underground for a cool trip back to prehistoric time. The Bonnechere Caves are a twisting labyrinth of limestone passages containing the fossils of thousands of 500-million-year-old coral and sea creatures. Each fall, when Mother Nature's miniature insect control specialists come home to roost, this underground world is transformed into the largest bat roost in the Ottawa Valley. Guided tours.

Backtrack to Eganville along Fourth Chute Rd and Queen St.

9. Eganville

Eganville rests in a deep limestone valley carved at the Fifth Cute of the Bonnechere River. By 1843, river power was being used to drive a sawmill operation, and by 1849, John Egan's grist mill which was credited with stimulating the development of the village. Today, it's a town divided - by the river, that is. The south shore is Gratttan Township and the north is Wilberforce.

In 1911, the great fire destroyed much of Eganville's commercial sector, as well as 75 homes, churches, schools and industries. While settlements along both sides of the Bonnechere River were affected, it was the north shore that was hardest hit. The current municipal building was erected a year later and served as the village post office for over half a century.

From Eganville, travel north on Hwy 41, 13 km north of Eganville, skirting the northeastern shore of Lake Doré, turn right on Bulgar Road (Cty Rd 9), (do not take the Shaw Woods Rd).  About 1 km up the road, on the right, are dual panels for the Shaw Woods. Park in the designated parking area (2065 Bulger Rd).

10. Shaw Woods

Shaw Woods Trail winds through a mixed forest undisturbed by loggers for over 150 years, which means this land has probably never been cleared. Surrounded by trees as tall as a 10-storey building, you sense the uniqueness. In this forest preserve, the lower tree branches shoot out at the height of the average Ottawa Valley tree top! This forest is typical of those which Native Canadians called home for centuries before the dramatic European harvest of the 1800s. Take a memorable woodland hike along the 5.0km (3.1mi) moderately difficult trail, which begins at the Shaw Woods plaque.

Backtrack to Hwy 41. Turn right and travel north to Pembroke.

11. Pembroke

Learn more about Pembroke's pioneers at the Champlain Trail Museum. Exhibits include whale bone excavated from the sands of the ancient Champlain Sea and an original Cockburn pointer boat. Amble through the 19th century pioneer log home, an authentic 1879 church, and a faithfully preserved one-room schoolhouse on this original site. Pack a picnic and shoot a round of historic mini-putt under the shade trees.

The Victorian lady at the door welcomes you to the magic of Butternut N' Lace housed in a restored heritage home. This stunning selection of crafts and giftware is but one example of many shops throughout the Valley offering a mix of contemporary artistry and traditional handiwork.

The Pembroke Hydro Museum celebrates the fact that on October 8, 1889, this community was the first in Canada to generate electric power for commercial and street lighting. The Museum's centrepiece is Big Bertha, which was Canada's largest stationary diesel engine in 1930.

A stroll though the streets of Pembroke is an illustrated walk through time. The walls of many downtown buildings are giant canvasses featuring the works of artists from across Canada who have interpreted and illuminated the rich cultural heritage of the Ottawa Valley. Subjects include Champlain's visit of 1613 and the circa 1950 Grand Trunk Union Station.

While in Pembroke stop by the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association to pick up an Ottawa Valley souvenir. Located in the County of Renfrew administration building at 9 international Drive, 613-732-4364.