Friends and Neighbours
Travel up the north shore of the Ottawa River, and down the south side for an inter-provincial excursion.
From Hwy 17 east of Arnprior, travel east on Galetta Rd 22 and turn onto Ferry Rd.
1. Fitzroy Harbour
Board the Quyon Ferry and cross the Ottawa River, to the province of Quebec.
2. Lake Temiskaming / Ottawa River Waterway
Stretching from Fitzroy Harbour in the south to Notre-Dame-du-Nord above New Liskeard, the Lake Temiskaming/Ottawa River Waterway is a boater's paradise, home to an abundance of wildlife including moose, deer and bald eagles. Lift stations along the route transport boats and boaters to clear sailing along 500km (300mi) of charted waters.
3. Quyon and the Province of Quebec
Incorporated in 1875, the town of Quyon is said to be named after a game played by the Native peoples. Similar to lacrosse, it was called "le jeu des couillons" by the early French who settled here along the Ottawa River.
Welcome to La Belle Province! The scenery of Pontiac County stretches across the Laurentian Plateau: lakes, rivers and rapids, rolling farmland, and dramatic elevations. The Pontiac's heritage is based on the Ottawa River - and a colourful history it is. Colonization, fur trading and harvesting the tall timber were all influenced by the powerful whitewater of the Rocher Fendu canal, and the spectacular rapids encircling Ile-aux-Allumettes and Ile-du-Grand-Calumet.
From Quyon, head west on Hwy 148 toward Shawville, passing Lac des Chats along the way.
4. Lac des Chats
At the turn of the century, numerous steamboats plied these waters: tug boats towed giant white pine down-river, while bigger steamers were used for transportation and cruise boats. In 1847, the Union Railroad was established at Chats Falls. Passengers were treated to a horse-drawn railroad trip of three miles through the dense forest skirting the rough waters. Today, catfish lovers flock year-round to Lac des Chats (lake of cats), one of the best catfish holes in the Ottawa Valley, to fish for this perennial favourite.
Continue travelling west on Hwy 148 to Shawville.
Shawville was established as an agricultural trading centre in the early 1800s, and flourished when the Pontiac and Pacific Junction rail line came through in 1886. It was an event which "sparked perhaps the largest party in the village's history. The grand banquet that night at Hynes' Hall was talked about decades later." Stroll Shawville's main streets on a self-guided walking tour of the town's historic sites including the train station, Mill Dam Park and several stately churches.
Continue westward along Hwy 148 to Bryson.
Originally called Havelock, but renamed in honour of George Bryson, the village was the county seat until 1916. Pontiac's first courthouse, constructed in Bryson in 1891, was destroyed by fire in 1914 and rebuilt three years later in neighbouring Campbell's Bay. The most infamous guest of the adjoining prison, which was used until 1970, was Michael Bradley who was hung in 1935 for murdering five members of his family.
From Bryson, take Wilson Rd to Ile-du-Grand-Calumet.
To learn more about local lore, visit the monument to Cadieux on Ile-du-Grand-Calumet. Legend has it that this courreur des bois, won the heart of an Algonquin maiden and lived here with her people. During an ambush by marauding Iroquois, Cadieux held off the enemy while his wife and her tribe escaped downriver, praying to St Anne for protection as they fled. Miraculously, a white-robed figure appeared and guided them to safety. Unfortunately, Cadieux was not so luck; he died soon after of wounds and exhaustion.
The Ottawa River west of Ile-du-Grand-Calumet is called Le Rocher-Fendu. Backtrack to Hwy 148. Turn left and continue west on Hwy 148 to Campbell's Bay.
8. Campbell's Bay
As with many of the communities of the Pontiac, the boom times for Campbell's Bay were during the 1920s when it served as a bustling commercial centre for the logging industry. The community, which has served as the county seat for almost a century, retains its historic character.
Continue west on Hwy 148 to Fort Coulonge. Turn left onto Chemin de la Chute, then right onto rue Principale and follow it through town.
The distinctive wrought iron gate on your right marks the entrance to Spruceholme, where modern amenities are provided with Victorian grace in this historic mansion which was built by George Bryson Jr and his bride, Helen Craig. Built in 1875, Spruceholme served as the winter refuge for the Bryson family and their friends, including Sir Wilfred Laurier, Canada's Prime Minister at the time.
Continue along rue Principale to the north end of town and the covered bridge at the intersection with Hwy 148. Across Hwy 148, note Bryson House, the distinctive white building.
From the third storey balcony of this strategically placed house, logging entrepreneur George Bryson was able to survey both the Coulonge and Ottawa Rivers. The building's unique style and wooden structure, unlike the stone homes throughout the Pontiac during the 1850s, resembled those constructed by wealthy Scots between Montreal and Windsor at the time. The spacious front section served as living quarters for the family, servant's quarters were at the rear, and a smithy, stables and ice room were attached to the back. The Bryson family lived here until 1943; today, it houses a public library and is open for tours.
Continue west along Hwy 148 and turn right onto Bois-Franc Rd to reach les Chutes Coulonge.
10. Les Chutes Coulonge
The history of the Coulonge Falls dates back to the Napoleonic era, when Europeans, in search of timber after several destructive wars, came to harvest the tall pines of Canada's virgin forests. The Gillies, McNabs and Brysons came to Pontiac and changed the landscape forever.
To ensure safe transport of his valuable square timber down the Coulonge River, lumber baron George Bryson built a 915m (3,000') log slide at La Grande Chute, near Fort-Coulonge. Constructed in 1835, the slide carried the massive logs over a series of rocky cascades which mark this river canyon. Once through the chute, the timbers were assembled in rafts and floated downriver to Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City for transport to America and Britain. Portions of Boston, New York and Chicago were built with timber from the Coulonge River.
Today, the site is an interpretive park with footbridges, lookout points, logging artefacts, guided tours and shaded picnic areas. As you stand on one of several belvederes surrounded by the cascading whitewater you gain a new appreciation for the power of nature.
Backtrack to Hwy 148, turn right and wind your way to Chapeau.
11. Whitewater rafting
More water flows down the Ottawa River than in all the rivers of Great Britain combined. Through its rock-walled channels, the deep blue water turns white and navigation turns to adventure, making the river Ontario's premier rafting and kayaking destination. Several outfitters offering a variety of rafting experiences operate along both shores of the Ottawa River at Rocher-Fendu.
Continue towards Chapeau. In Waltham turn right onto Hwy 8 and follow it to Chapeau. At Chapeau, turn right onto St James St and proceed to the church at the top of the hill.
St Alphonse du Liguori Church is a magnificent stone structure built in 1888 by Montreal architect Victor Roy. It has served the people of the area for well over a century, though it never was named the diocesan cathedral as originally planned. The building has two rood-lofts - the upper houses a grand pipe organ which was designed and built by the Casavant Brothers of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec. The entire building is one of painstaking craftsmanship, including the hand-painted murals, a pulpit that is the duplicate of that in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, and stained glass windows which are true works of art.
From Chapeau, follow the Pembroke Rd to Hwy 148 and exit Allumette Island by crossing the bridge over the Ottawa River into Ontario. Proceed right to 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.
From Pembroke, Travel southeast on Hwy 17 to Cobden
Although timber was first harvested here in the early 1820s, the boom years arrived with the railroad in 1876. Cobden was named after Richard Cobden, a British visionary who fought to repeal unfair tariffs and guarantee free bread for the poor. His work inspired people around the world to name communities in his honour, and in recent years the Cobden Connection has brought together Cobdenites from the USA, New Zealand and Australia.
Samuel de Champlain charted the upper Ottawa River in 1613, losing his navigational astrolabe along the way near present-day Cobden. The artefact was found in 1867 by George Edward Lee, as he was clearing land for Captain Overman of the Union Forwarding and Railway Company. Today, the astrolabe is housed at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec.
Continue south on Hwy 17 to Renfrew.
Renfrew was incorporated in 1858 and became industrial and commercial hub of southeastern Renfrew County, much as it is today. Raglan Street, its vibrant main thoroughfare, is lined with century-old commercial buildings, stately homes and towering church steeples.
Feel like walking over water? Take the swing foot bridge across the Bonnechere River in Renfrew - it's one of only two in all of Ontario. Built in 1895 to provide workers access to the industrial area around the mill, the bridge eventually fell into disrepair, but was rebuilt in 1983. The adjacent McDougall Mill Museum tells the history of Creamery Town, as Renfrew has come to be known since the first creamery was built here in 1895. Production was so significant that by the early 1900s butter was being shipped through Eastern Ontario and overseas to Britain.
Return to Hwy 17 and travel easy to Arnprior. At the traffic lights turn left and follow Daniel St to Madawaska Blvd and turn left. The Arnprior and District Museum is on your right at John St.
Once a bustling logging town, The Prior (as it is known locally), is a quiet community on the Ottawa River where Victorian-era homes and a variety of shops border tree-lined streets. To learn more about local history, visit the Arnprior and District Museum in the former post office - one of the town's most recognizable landmarks. Artefacts include Laird McNab's walking stick, King Edward VII's tie pin, and a collection of 19th century bedroom furniture which once belonged to Arnprior's first mayor, John Bradley.
Gillies Grove can be accessed from the end of Ottawa St. Follow John St to Ottawa St and turn left.
Explore this woodland cathedral of 175-year-old white pines, massive hardwoods and basswood, including the largest basswood in Canada. For 135 years people have enjoyed the flora, fauna and tranquility of this complex ecosystem. If you're lucky you may see rare red-shouldered hawks which nest in the ancient hardwoods.
Mussie, a 6m (20') hapxelor monster, is said to reside in the Muskrat Lake at Cobden.
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