The Quebec Side
LE GRAND CIRCUIT NAUTIQUE
Leg 4 - OTTAWA RIVER
--- T For us, this was the fourth leg of Le Grand Circuit Nautique -- 800 nautical miles of scenic waterwayy that encircles northeastern New York and southern Ontario.
--- T The fourth leg of the Circuit is a 100-mile downriver cruise on the Ottawa River, from the city of Ottawa to Montreal. There are two locks, the first about seventy miles downriver at Carillon and the second at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, adjacent to the Isle de Montreal.
--- T The Ottawa River is impounded into the large Lac Des Deux Montagnes just before Montreal. It then breaks into four channels as it threads its way through the islands of Montreal before entering the St. Lawrence. The two northern channels, and the southernmost, have rock-studded rapids. The Sainte-Anne lock drops one into Lac Saint-Louis and the St. Lawrence. Then, you head to Lachine and the canal around the Lachine Rapids.
--- T The last time Halcyon floated on the Ottawa River was September 10th, 2001. We had been traveling down the upper reaches of the river along the Temiskawa Waterway, and had pulled out to 'jump' a dam before continuing down river. The tragic events of the next day terminated our voyage on the river, and we returned to the United States.
-Our Return To the Ottawa
--- T Equipped with ancient charts, borrowed the day before from a Canadian boater met at a lock, we drifted out of the last lock of the Rideau's Flight of Eight. We turned to appreciate the view of Ottawa before vectoring the bow northerly and into the slow current of the river.
--- T--- T Samuel de Champlain --- T --- T --- T--- T-T--- T Chateau LaurierT --- T --- T --- Ottawa Locks - The Flight of Eight
Views of Ottawa From the River
A TOUCH OF GEOLOGY
--- --- T The Ottawa River follows a geologic border. To the north lie the hard, resistant rocks of the Canadian Shield. These are rocks from the early history of Earth, in excess of 2.5 billion years in age (the dark area in the middle picture, an aerial photgraph, below). They make the Laurentian Highlands of Québec, and stand as hills on the north side of the river (left picture). To the south of the river, are the limestones (right picture) and other sedimentary rocks of much more recent age (less than 600 million years old). These rocks have been discussed in Rideau Geology.
--- --- T Such a pleasant 'summer' afternoon. The temperature was in the eighties, no wind and sky clear. We were soon tied off at a riverside restaurant. We watched a tourist boat pass by, and after a hearty lunch, we were a tourist boat.
A RESORT SPECTACULAR
--- --- Since the start of our Canadian legs of the Grand Circuit, we had been hearing about Montebello. "Oh, you must stop at Montebello," was the usual comment. When we asked what was there, the answer was almost always the same, "Oh, you must stop there." Well, that is enough to pique our curiosity, so we did stop. It is a fine old classic resort, in a large wooden building with beautiful tennis courts and fine dining. When we inquired about staying overnight at the marina, it became immediately obvious that this stay would be somewhat beyond our usual marina tie-up. Instead of tying at the high-priced marina, we walked the grounds, enjoyed the ambiance, and spent the marina money on a pair of ear rings to commemorate our cruise down the Ottawa.
A NATURE SPECTACULAR
--- --- TThe Carillon lock lay below us, and the lock will accept no boats for lockage after 1500 hours this late in the season. So, we decided to anchor for the evening, in time for the first morning lockage between 0930 and 1000. Our chart showed a sinuous white path of 10+ feet of depth wandering southerly in an embayment in Lac Dollard des Ormeaux, just above the lock at Carillon. Just at sunset we set our hook into the weedy bottom, and within moments we were overwhelmed.
--- --- TNo, not by mosquitos - by Canada Geese - by the tens of thoussands. El and I have traveled to the far corners of Earth to witness nature spectacles -- the migration of the wildebeest across the veldt of the Serengeti, the clouds of caribou shimmering in movement across the tundra of Nunavut, the February aurora from the shores of Hudson Bay, the salmon migration up the Kenai, the volcanic eruption of Fernandina. Those trips were carefully researched and planned. This display, on the Ottawa River, caught us by surprise. As the sun set into the shoreline reeds, the sound of thousands of wings, and the cackle of tens of thousands of birds surrounded us. Geese came from every direction, folded their wings and slanted to our cove. It was difficult to speak above the sound. We sat in the cockpit until darkness and still the geese arrived. Obviously excited about their journey to the south, they never seemed to tire of discussing their plans. A strong cold front, bearing snow and strong northerly winds bore down on us all from the northwest, and it was evident that they were enthusiastically discussing plans of departure. About ten that night a fever pitch of noise swept through the huge flock and, as though on a signal, most lifted off with an incredible thrashing of wings on water. They were headed south.
--- --- TWhen we awoke, the next morning, to a thick fog, the last stragglers waited, with us, for visibility to lift before they also headed southerly.
A HUMAN SPECTACULAR
--- --- The Ottawa river courses over 600 miles, and is a major tributary to the St. Lawrence. It has been an avenue of commerce since humans first settled in this area of Québec. Native Americans plied these waters in canoe; voyageurs trading fur traveled in their great freight canoes from the tributaries of Hudson Bay; military goods were transported to support French, British and now Canadian armies; more recently, timber, cement, gravel, and grains traveled by barge. Rapids required arduous portages around the Long Sault. Military requirements, after the War of 1812, made the construction of canals necessary. Begun in 1819 and continuing until the 1880's, three canals with eleven locks were built to bypass the rapids.
--- --- Competition from roads and railroads spelled the doom for commercial traffic, and today, the river is used primarily by pleasure boats. In 1963, Hydro-Québec built a major dam and power station, replacing the previous canals and locks with one short canal and a major lock - Carillon Lock and Canal. The drop of almost 20 meters is the largest in Canada, for such a structure. The gate is a 200-ton guillotine and is most impressive!
--- Aft (Before and After)
Ahead (Before, During, and After)
Views Up and Out
And a View Back Upriver - Most Impressive
END OF THE RIVER
--- --- Near the confluence with the St. Lawrence, Cistercian monks settled and built an impressive monastery. They also carried with them the secrets of great cheese-making, and we have relished their skill.
OKA - Home of Great Cheese
--- --- -A private canal in the Vaudreuil Channel, today's navigable route along the west side of Isle de Montreal, was an all-wooden structure built in 1816. The owners barred transport for all competitors, and thus controlled all trade between Montreal and the Ottawa (then called Bytown). Prices were outrageous and merchants in Upper and Lower Canada repeatedly petitioned the government for the construction of a public canal. Finally, the lock at Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue was constructed in 1843, and was rebuilt in 1882. Toward the end of the 19th century, Saint-Anne became a holiday center for Montreal, and still has a marvelous assortment of restaurants, some with docks.
--- --- We approached the Vaudreuil Channel and the following Lac Saint-Louis, of the St. Lawrence River, with trepidation. We were unable to buy charts of the St. Lawrence at marinas or lock stations along the earlier legs of our cruise through Canada. Lock stations are prohibited from selling, so as not to compete with private dealers. Private marinas are charged $250 by the government to handle charts, so they don't! Catch 22! So, as the lock gates opened at St. Anne-de-Bellevue we made one last attempt to find a chart. The lock master couldn't sell any, but he had one on the wall. Never has a chart been memorized more quickly. And soon, we were across the Bay and securely tied off at Lachine.
Opening of the Lock at Saint-Anne -- -- -- A Happy Man with a Memorized Chart
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