Up the Mighty Ottawa
Trace the shoreline of this historic waterway up-river, as it skirts the edge of the picturesque Laurentian Mountains.
Start your tour at the Waba Cottage Museum in White Lake.
White Lake derived its name from the white calcium carbonate, or marl, which covers 280 hectares (700 acres) of the lake's bottom.
The Waba Cottage Museum tells the tale of one of the Ottawa Valley's most notorious characters, Archibald McNab, the thirteenth Laird of McNab who created the first and only feudal system ever to exist in Canada. In 1843 he was sent packing by disgruntled landowners; fortunately, many of his possessions were left behind and have been faithfully preserved in this reconstructed stone cottage. An 1878 school and 1868 log church complete this picture-postcard setting along the Madawaska River.
Turn right on Burnstown Rd and left on White Lake Rd 2. Cross Hwy 17 into Arnprior and follow Daniel St to Madawaska Blvd. 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.
Backtrack on Ottawa St and turn right onto Harrington St. Turn right again onto Madawaska St (which eventually becomes Elgin St W). Proceed west along the Ottawa Valley Parkway to Braeside and Lac des Chats.
3. The Ottawa River
During the 17th century, French explorers, missionaries and fur traders attached names to various Ottawa Valley landmarks while cruising its wilderness. The Ottawa River was first called "riviere des Algoumequins" by Samuel de Champlain, and "la grand riviere" by others. Once the British took control of New France, after the 1763 Treaty of Paris, it was referred to as the "River of the Utawas".
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 Rail Road was established at Chats Falls. Passengers were treated to a horse-drawn railroad trip of 5.0 km (3.0mi) through the dense forest skirting the rough waters. While the roof sheltered passengers from rain and sun, the sides were open to mosquitoes, which brought complaints from many of the river travelers. 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 west on River Rd 1 to Castleford. Turn left onto Thomson Rd and travel 1.4km (0.8mi) to the driveway beyond the spruce plantation on the right. Walk up to the next driveway on your right to access the First Chute via a tree-lined lane.
5. The First Chute
You'll hear the rushing waters as soon as you turn off the ignition. Follow the wooded path to the rocky shore, but be careful, ambling along the steep grade requires caution. This is the First Chute of the Bonnechere River, which flows 145km (90mi) from its headwaters near McAskill Lake in Algonquin Park. A great place for photography and fishing.
Backtrack to River Rd 1. Turn left to the Castleford bridge and boat launch.
Just west of the bridge on your right, look for the plaque commemorating Lt Christopher James Bell, a veteran of the War of 1812, who settled on the Bonnechere in 1829. In the time when rivers were the highways of trade and commerce, those making the trek up the Bonnechere River from the mighty Ottawa used Farrell's Landing (a few kilometres up-river) and the village of Castleford as jumping-off points to the interior. Timber barons, loggers, teamsters, and the pioneer squatters who established farms up-river to supply the logging camps disembarked here.
Continue west on River Rd 1, then turn right onto Storyland Rd.
7. Storyland Lookout
Hike to the scenic lookout to enjoy a sweeping view of the Ottawa River Valley and the Laurentian Mountains.
Continue west on River Rd 4 and along Queen's Line 4. Turn right onto Foresters Falls Rd to reach Foresters Falls.
8. Foresters Falls
The whole family can time-travel at the Ross Township Museum. Housed in the former fire hall, authentic displays include a general sotre, one-room schoolhouse, railroad room, and reading room. The restored log home of James Ross stands alongside.
From Foresters falls, proceed north on Grants Settlement Rd 43 and watch for signs of OWL Rafting and River Run.
9. White Water Rafting
While high-adventure rafting appeals overwhelmingly to some, local outfitters also offer a variety of gentle and family float trip packages .Several operators provide first-class equipment, professional guides and après-rafting activities.
Continue along Grants Settlement Rd 43. Turn left and travel on Gore Line 50 to Westmeath. Turn left onto Westmeath Rd 12 and left again onto Lookout Rd 31. The Westmeath Lookout is located just north of Desjardins Rd.
10. Westmeath Lookout
Continue south on Lookout Rd 31 and turn right a Lapasse Rd 49 to reach Beachburg.
You may think that is community was named by the local tourist operators based nearby along the Ottawa River, but in fact it was established in the early 1800s to serve the logging industry. In its heyday, several hotels and stopping places were located here. Union House, the last of these, burned to the ground in 1933.
From Beachburg, turn right onto Beachburg Rd 21. At Greenwood Rd 40, keep right and proceed to Pembroke. The Champlain Trail Museum is on your left at Angus Campbell Drive.
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 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 west on Hwy 17. Turn left onto Doran Rd 26, and take an immediate right onto Barron Canyon Rd 28. Travel to Algonquin Provincial Park.
13. Barron Canyon Trail
Like life on the edge? Hike the Barron River Canyon Trail to the point where sheer cliffs drop 30 storeys (100m/300') to the silent black waters below. Pack your camera and binoculars for a memorable view of this spectacular Ice Age gorge. These towering red rocks are home to bald eagles, swallows, phoebes and red-tailed hawks.
Backtrack to Hwy 17. Cross Hwy 17 and proceed west on Doran Rd 26 to Petawawa.
Petawawa Point, on the shores of the Ottawa River, offers a clean sandy beach for family swimming, shaded picnic area and boat launch.
Proceed west on Hwy 17 and watch for signs between Petawawa and Chalk River for the Petawawa Research Forest.
15. Petawawa Research Forest
Canada's oldest and largest research forest is this 100km2 woodland estate established in 1918 for the study of advanced forest science. The Canadian Forest Service, in partnership with the Township of Rolph, Buchanan, Wylie and McKay, hosts a summer interpretive program at the square-timber Visitor Centre showcasing local forest science, history and culture. Learn more about forest bugs, plant identification, edible forest plants and forest fires. Glide along groomed cross-country ski trails in winter, and savour the flavour of maple syrup at the spring Maplefest.
16. Deep RiverThe cluster of classic 19th century log buildings on the right as you approach Deep River was owned by John King from 1930 to 1968. His maternal grandfather, John Ferguson, established this stopping place circa 1876. Throughout the late 1800s, Ferguson's son George erected many of the well-preserved buildings which stand today. The renowned Silver Spoon cross-country ski and hiking trails back onto this property.
Continue west on Hwy 17 to Meilleurs Bay. The School House Museum is on your left and the Meilleurs Bay picnic stop is on the right.
17. Meilleurs Bay
An historic plaque here tells about steam navigation on the Upper Ottawa River. The water traffic which was crucial to the timber industry in the early 1800s, was all but replaced by a faster and more efficient railway service by the 1880s.
This cluster of three pioneer buildings - schoolhouse, log house and church - is maintained by the Historical Society of Rolph, Buchanan, Wylie and McKay. Exhibits reflect local family history, construction of the Rolphton power dam, and logging along the upper Ottawa River. Seasonal or by appointment.
From Meilleurs Bay, proceed west on Hwy 17 to Rolphton.
The town of Rolphton was established in 1947 to house construction workers for the Des Joachims (Da Swisha) power development. To truly understand the power of the mighty Ottawa River, visit the hydroelectric dam and scenic lookout. At 43m (135') --- this dam is higher than Niagara Falls!
In 1895, the fare on the side wheel steamboat Ottawa for the round trip from Pembroke to Des Joachims, was one dollar. She travelled at 23km (14mi) an hour and could carry 250 passengers.
Continue travelling west on Hwy 17. Proceed to the lookout, about 3.0km (1.9mi) west of Deux Rivieres.
19. Deux Rivieres
The historic plaque at Deux Riveieres (two rivers), at the confluence of the Maganasipi River and Ottawa Rivers tells of the Upper Ottawa River Rapids. For early settlers travelling from settlements along the St. Lawrence River northwest of the vast Canadian interior, the sole source of transportation around these rough waters was by canoe and portage.
J.A.D. McCurdy flew the Silver Dart from CFB Petawawa in 1909; it was Canada's first military flight.
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