Last week’s Cast YOUR Vote determined what we should do in Ottawa, Ontario. Students chose that we should visit Victoria Island. We will visit Victoria Island, which has been a gathering place for First Nations people for centuries. This week, I will share what I know about the Ottawa River with you.
Dave and I are paddling on the Ottawa River now. We took the Mattawa River to the town of Mattawa in Ontario. Here the Mattawa River pours into the Ottawa River. As we began to paddle on the Ottawa River, we noticed that it is three or four times wider than the Mattawa River. Looking down the river, we were seeing two Canadian provinces. A province is kind of like a state in the United States. We saw Quebec on the north side and Ontario on the south side. The Quebec side is much steeper. Large hills and cliffs drop into the river. The Ontario side is much flatter. The trees on both sides are full of color. Some evergreens are mixed in with the yellows and reds of birches, maple, oak and ash.
The Ottawa River is 790 miles (1,271 km) long. It forms the border between Ontario and Quebec. The headwaters of the Ottawa River are in the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec. The mouth, or end, of the river is where it pours into the St. Lawrence River. The First Nations people of the area, the Algonquins, named the river Kitchissippi, which means “Great River”. The Ottawa River will take us to the city of Ottawa, the capital of Canada. We will then paddle to its mouth at Montreal, Quebec.
The Algonquin people historically lived along the Ottawa River. They had been living along the river for 6,000 years before the first Europeans came. The Algonquin people controlled trade along the river. Things like copper, obsidian, flint and whalebone made their way throughout North America thanks to the trading of the Algonquin people.
The Ottawa River was important for early European explorers and then the voyageurs. In the early 19th century logging became an important industry in the area. Trees were cut and floated down the river to sawmills. In the 20th century the need for timbers decreased, but the need for wood pulp and paper increased. As we paddle down the river, we will look signs of how the river was used in the past.