Imagine you are deep in the wilds of Quebec following a tiny stream just outside La Vérendrye Wildlife Refuge. The stream grows larger, flowing through lakes and reservoirs on its way into Lake Temiskaming. Now a fast-moving river, it takes you past rocks and trees, then cottages and marinas. On one side is the province of Quebec and the other side is Ontario. As you pass Pembroke, you come to “Rocher Fendu” (split rock), a 12-kilometre stretch of wild whitewater. There you’ll find daring canoeists, kayakers, and rafters from around the world trying their luck in the rapids. At Arnprior you pass Gillies Grove old growth forest, home to the tallest White Pine in Ontario – 50 metres tall!
Continuing down the river past the Chaudière Falls, the towers of Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings come into view. Pleasure boats and tourist cruise ships fill the river in the summer months. Past Hawkesbury, you move back into Quebec on your way to Montreal, where the Ottawa River meets the St. Lawrence.
You’ve traveled over 1200 kilometres on what the Algonquin First Nations, who lived along its banks, called Kichi Sibi – the great river. By 1650, smallpox and conflicts with the Iroquois had decimated the Algonquin population. The Ottawa First Nations, their allies to the west, took over the trading route along the river; the river became known as the “rivière des Outaouais” – the Ottawa River.