The Ottawa River an Historic Life Line to Valley People
The Ottawa River is one of the most scenic and historically important rivers in North America. It flows west for 1,271 kilometres from its source in Lake Capimitchigama in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec through Ottawa and Gatineau, where it cascades over the Chaudière Falls to its final destination pouring into the St. Lawrence River and the Lake of Two Mountains in Montreal.
The River runs through the Ottawa Valley, a 2.4 million-hectare area of land formed by glaciers 13,000 years ago. The Valley contains large areas of forest populated by maple, beech, oak, ash, pine and oak trees that line the banks of the River. It is also covered by large areas of biologically diverse wetlands.
The Ottawa Valley is traditional Algonquin territory. The River played a significant role in the daily lives of the Algonquin people, acting as a transportation and fur trade route. It was also used for log driving by European settlers. Today, the Valley is home to approximately 1.3 million people, with about 80 per cent of those in Ottawa.
Travelling up the Ottawa River used to be a very risky and almost impossible journey but thanks to a reliable dam by-pass system of marine hydraulic trailers, it can now be done by small boats. Several hydroelectric dams have also been constructed on the river.
Today, the Ottawa River is used for recreational boating. Approximately 20,000 pleasure cruisers use the waterway each year to enjoy the Ottawa Valley’s picturesque banks dotted by small towns and villages amid the forest and wetlands.
Parliament Hill back’s onto the Ottawa River, as does the Supreme Court of Canada and the Canadian War Museum. There are several islands in the Ottawa River that are part of the city of Ottawa, including Victoria Island, Nichols Island, Upper and Lower Duck Islands, and Chaudiere Island.