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Valley Explore
WalkExplore the Ottawa Valley on foot. This guide offers walking trails through hamlets, towns and...
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DriveThe following tours, designed for the independent traveller via car or bike, will escort you along...
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Up the Mighty Ottawa


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

Trace the shoreline of this historic waterway up-river, as it skirts the edge of the picturesque Laurentian Mountains.

Itinerary
Approximate Distance: 310km (192mi)
 

Depart White Lake

White Lake to Arnprior
Arnprior to Castleford
Castleford to Beachburg
Beachburg to Westmeath
Westmeath to Pembroke
Pembroke to Petawawa
Petawawa to Deep River
Deep River to Rolphton
Rolphton to Deux Rivieres
km

14
33
43
55
50
20
25
19
51
mi

9
20
27
34
31
12
15
12
32

 


 

Start your tour at the Waba Cottage Museum in White Lake.

1. 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.

2. Arnprior

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

THE HORSE RAILWAY
"Certainly this is one of the last things you dare to hope for in the heart of the wilderness far away from either a road or a cow-path - and you must almost doubt whether it is a reality, or like the palace of Aladdin, you are not under the mysterious influence of some kind genii for your present position."

James Poole, editor of The Carleton Place Herald, writing about the Chats Falls horse railway; 1853.

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.

6. Castleford

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.

Le Rocher-Fendu
This is whitewater paradise! Over a distance of 7 km (4mi), the Ottawa River of Le Rocher-Fendu descends 16m (50') through seven set of rapids, then threads its way through an archipelago of thirty islands including the Calumet, Lafontaine, Green and French. It is a veritable wilderness teaming with wildlife and vegetation, surrounded by the prehistoric rock-walled channels of the chameleon-like river.

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

From this hilltop lookout, enjoy a 360 panoramic vista of farmland, forests and waterways. A must-stop for photography buffs!

Continue south on Lookout Rd 31 and turn right a Lapasse Rd 49 to reach Beachburg.

11. 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.

12. Pembroke

The Cockburn Pointer Boat
To ease navigation on the rough log-filled water, circa 1850 Pembroke native John Cockburn designed the Cockburn Pointer Boat. Despite a dead weight of half a ton or more, the empty pointer boat draws only 4 cm (1.5in) of water, prompting river drivers to maintain that "she'll float on heavy dew". Man's muscle provides the propulsion, and the V-bottom construction rounded down the length of the chine, pemits the boat to be pivoted completely about with on tug of an oar. Built exclusively by three generations of the Cockburn family, these boats were used extensively to establish the Arctic Deww Line and develop riverways and ports across Canada.

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 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.

11km (6.8mi) west of the Park gate is the marked trail leading into the Barron Canyon. It's an easy uphill hike (0.8km/0.5mi) on a wide forest path to the edge of the cliff. To extend your tour, canoe through the rock-walled canyon with Esprit Rafting.

Backtrack to Hwy 17. Cross Hwy 17 and proceed west on Doran Rd 26 to Petawawa.

14. Petawawa

Early settlement a Petawawa served lumbermen, the relatively few settlers in the area, and travellers on the Pembroke and Mattawan Road. In 1905, the Department of Militia and Defence acquired the necessary land (187km2/116mi2) to establish a suitable site for the Camp Petawawa Military Reserve. Over the years, as Camp Petawawa developed, so did the neighbouring community. To learn more about local military history visit the Canadian Forces Base Petawawa and Airborne Forces museum.

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 River

The 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.

18. Rolphton

Brent Crater
Studies by the Dominion Observatory suggest this 3.4km (2mi)diameter crater was formed by a falling meteorite. While rocks surrounding it are Precambrian, the Ordovician rocks found within the eroded crater indicate ancient seas flooded this area 400 million years ago! The Brent Crater is located north of the town of Brent, on Cedar Lake in Algonquin Park. The huge depression is partially occupied by Gilmour and Tecumseh Lakes.

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.


Famous Citizens

J.A.D. McCurdy flew the Silver Dart from CFB Petawawa in 1909; it was Canada's first military flight.

Two of the original Ottawa Valley lumber barons were Daniel McLauglin and John Gillies. McLaughlin, who represented Bytown (now Ottawa) in the first Canadian Assembly after the 1841 Act of Union, established the town of Arnprior. Gillies first erected a small sawmill on the Clyde River in 1840, and in 1873 set up a square timber operation at Braeside which still thrives today. Mr. Gillies was apparently a determined man. Legend has it that he once carried a 40kg (90lbs) saw on his back 88km (55mi) from Brockville to Lanark.

Pembroke, known in sports circles as Hockey Town Canada, boasts three native sons who are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame: Frank Nighbor, Harvey Cameron and Hugh Lehman. Their images are immortalized in one of Pembroke's heritage murals.