Victoria Day is our distinctly Canadian holiday which we celebrate on the Monday between the 18th to the 24th of May, in honour of Queen Victoria who was born on May 24, 1819. One legend says she chose Ottawa as the nation’s permanent capital by jabbing a hat pin into a spot on a map between Toronto and Montreal to stop the two cities from squabbling over which one deserved it the most. Another suggests her appreciation of landscape paintings of the region inspired her to choose this location. There may be an element of truth to both when she acted on the reccomendations of Sir John A MacDonald and made the final decision. A big statue of the sovereign is installed on Parliament Hill to commemorate the occasion, so that’s where our tour begins.
At present the statue can only be admired from afar, as it is located in the midst of a construction site while the refurbishment of the West Block continues, however the surrounding view is still quite impressive.
The road along the southern edge of Parliament Hill goes down infront of the West Block. Our route turns right once off the Hill beyond the RCMP retractable bollards.
Hugging the western edge of Parliament Hill leads to a service road that winds its way down through a series of parking lots to the edge of the Ottawa River.
Once at the rivers edge our route heads left along the Ottawa River Pathway, then right at the exit up onto the Portage Bridge.
The Portage bridge leap frogs across Victoria Island. You can bike down onto the island from the bridge where there is lots to explore and discover. 123
Once across the bridge we got onto the Voyageurs Pathway and circled under the Portage Bridge. The path heads up stream along the Ottawa River, which we followed all the way to the exit with a little sign pointing to Gatineau Park, just in front of a hydro site.
This took us to Rue Belleau, a quiet street with bike lanes leading to the intersection at Boulevard Alexander-Taché. The start of the Gatineau Park Pathway is immediately across this intersection.
We followed the beautiful Gatineau Park Pathway up through the park all the way to Chemin de la Mine.
We accessed Chemin de la Mine from the pathway and headed north. Chemin de la Mine is a two lane winding road with little or no shoulder and often speedy traffic.
It eventually intersects Notch Road. We turned right onto Notch Road, a two lane straight-away with packed dirt/gravel shoulders.
Notch road ends at Chemin de Kingsmere which has a bike lane leading in to Old Chelsea.
We turned right and followed Chemin Old Chelsea east heading over the Gatineau Autoroute, all the way to Route 105. There is a bike lane along Chemin Old Chelsea however an extended section near the bridge over the autoroute was filled with sand left over from the winter. Hopefully the town will sweep that up soon.
We then headed north along the 105 which has a paved shoulder. Many drivers do tend to speed along this road, however on the early weekend morning we rode it was fine.
We followed the 105 to the entrance to the small and intimate Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery where lay the remains of Private Richard Rowland Thompson who in the Boer War Battle of Paardeberg saved the life of a wounded colleague and stayed with him throughout the heat of battle. He also attempted to save another as the fighting raged about him. For this he was the sole Canadian recipient of a Queen’s Scarf of Honour, one of eight scarves crocheted by Queen Victoria in her final year of life. The scarf is now at the Canadian War Museum.
Exiting the cemetery we continued north along the 105 before turning onto Chemin Scott, which has bike lanes as well, a section of which becomes segregated as one enters Old Chelsea.
We stopped for a very yummy brunch at the restaurant Tonique. If ice cream is what you crave La Cigale is right next door.
Chemin Scott intersects Chemin Old Chelsea which we hopped back onto and retraced our route in reverse back to Ottawa.
There is an amazing display of trilliums in a section of forest near the southern edge of Gatineau Park. Here’s the route I biked to get there.
This ride begins on the Portage Bridge over the Ottawa River and travels along a combination of surfaces, from paved pathways, to roads, stone dust paths, and packed dirt trails through the forest.
If anyone needs a route to get to the starting point please let me know.
On the Gatineau side of the bridge I took the link to the Voyageurs Pathway off to the right, and then turned left under the bridge. At present there is no option to do otherwise as the section of the Voyageurs Pathway down along the river is still closed due to last Spring’s flooding.
The path continues alongside Rue Laurier before veering closer to the river’s edge through Parc des Portageurs.
I continued along the Voyageurs Pathway which weaves up and down through trees with great views towards the Ottawa River. The path is named after the Voyageurs who portaged their canoes past this section of rapids.
Just beyond the small beach in Parc Moussette I took the exit off the path to Boulevard de Lucerne, then to Rue St-Dominique, which I followed across the intersection of Boulevard Alexandre-Taché.
Unfortunately Alexandre-Taché is one of the worst roads to bike along in the entire region. It’s a four lane arterial speedway with no bike lanes. Fortunately there’s only a short section to bike along to get to the start of the bike path into the Moore Farm. By the time the red light at the intersection had changed I had made it to the path before the trucks and cars overtook me. Otherwise, there is the sidewalk. It would be a huge benefit to the Moore Farm if there was a safer bike link to the Voyageurs Pathway.
I then rode up along the stone dust path through the farm. The restored farmhouse has a very nice bistro open from Thursday to Sunday if one wanted to stop and have a drink or snack.
A bit further along the path just beyond the barn I turned onto a smaller dirt path that dips down to the right.
A short distance further along it becomes a packed gravel path. My guess is that it once was an railway bed.
After riding across a patch of concrete over a stream the gravel path veers left and becomes a a dirt trail through the woods. There are a few roots and rocks to negotiate along this path, but for the most part I found it to be well worn and easily negotiable on my hybrid bike.
I started to notice a few trilliums immediately upon turning onto this dirt path. Gradually more and more appeared as I rode along, as they began to spread out on either side of the path. Absolutely magical.
Eventually the path arrives at an intersection. Unfortunately these paths aren’t marked. By heading straight ahead the path becomes more rugged and there’s a fenced off compound on the right. That’s a prison. Don’t want to go that way. Instead I turned left at the intersection.
The trail continued under some power lines. This monstrous hydro pole confirmed I was heading in the right direction.
Not too far along from the hydro lines the path gets a little rocky. I walked my bike through this short section leading down to the paved Pioneers Pathway.
I continued along the Pionniers Pathway under the bridge and up to where it intersects the Gatineau Park Pathway. I turned left onto the Gatineau Park Pathway and followed it all the way back down to Boulevard Alexandre-Taché.
There are lights to get across Boulevard Alexandre-Taché to Rue Belleau, which has bike lanes.
At the end of Rue Belleau there is a link to the Voyageurs Pathway . I then followed Voyageurs Pathway back to the Portage Bridge and across the river.
For this year’s Ottawa Children’s Festival, one of the plays, The Legend of Swan River, will be performed at Remic Rapids Park, located 3 km’s upstream from the main site on Lebreton Flats. There will be a shuttle bus to transport audience members from Lebreton Flats to Remic Rapids Park, however one can also bike to the site along the very pleasant Ottawa River Pathway. Here’s how. UPDATE: May 18 – This year’s Children’s Festival has come and gone, but this route remains a great ride from Lebretton Flats to Remic Rapids Park.
Starting from the entrance arch to the Children’s Festival along Sir John A MacDonald Parkway, follow the path to the western end of Lebreton Flats where it joins the Ottawa River Pathway.
Continue heading west and upstream. You’ll soon go over a little bridge before continuing along the edge of the Ottawa River.
The path also passes under the Prince of Wales train bridge, then meanders pleasantly all the way to Remic Rapids Park.
There is a fork in the path just before arriving at the park. Stay to the right along the water’s edge.
A short distance from the fork you’ll notice a concrete lookout. Take the gravel exit opposite the lookout. This is where the play commences.
I didn’t notice any bike racks at the Remic Rapids site, however there are many sign posts around the edge of the parking to which one can lock your bike.
This morning I found out via a tweet sent out by nature enthusiast James Wilson that ‘One of the biggest and most floriferous Magnolias in Ottawa is this Merrill Magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’) is on the horticulture grounds at Algonquin College. It is 30 feet tall and 30 feet wide. It is in full bloom today.’. Oooh, gotta check that out!
Then I thought of another wonderful bunch of Magnolias in the Arboretum. So, for lovers of these wonderful smelling flowers, here’s a 10km bike route starting from the amazing display in the Arboretum to the Merrill Magnolia at Algonquin College. The ride is almost entirely along multi-use pathways.
The Arboretum magnolias are just off the gravel path at the northern end of the Arboretum near Prince of Wales Drive.
After checking out the beautiful display in the Arboretum, I followed the gravel road that heads up the hill alongside Prince of Wales Drive. The gravel along this dirt road is usually packed, but can be a bit unpredictable throughout the year. Alternatively one could cross Prince of Wales at the signalised pedestrian lights and ride along the paved shoulder/unprotected bike lane along Prince of Wales, as noted by the purple line on the map, but car and truck traffic along Prince of Wales is pretty speedy as it’s a popular commute route.
From the traffic circle at the top of the hill I headed west along the National Capital Commission (NCC) Scenic Driveway. Unfortunately the Experimental Farm Pathway only starts a few hundred meters along the NCC Scenic Driveway, just in front of the big red barn, and there is no shoulder or bike lane along the section between the traffic circle and the barn. However the sidewalks are paved.
After riding a short distance along the pathway beyond the barn I turned onto quiet Morningside Lane and then west again along equally pleasant Cow Lane that cuts through fields on either side.
Then it’s back onto the pathway, on the other side of Ash Lane.
One confounding little spot for those travelling along the Experimental Farm Pathway for the first time is the continuation of the pathway across Fisher Avenue. This is because the path on the west side of Fisher is not alligned with the path on the east side. Instead it starts a short distance north, and is very poorly indicated or noticeable from the east side.
Beyond this little navigational mess the Experimental Farm Pathway continues merrilly through a myriad of wonderful landscapes, all the way to Woodroffe Avenue.
Across Woodroffe the path takes on a different name – the Pinecrest Creek Pathway – which I followed for a short distance down a hill around a curve before taking the exit that traverses the Transitway.
Once across the transitway the path curls up and under Baseline Road. I got off the path at College Ave and headed over the bridge towards Woodroffe Avenue. Unfortunately there are no bike lanes over this bridge but the sidewalks are extra wide.
the Algonquin College horticulture grounds are right across Woodroffe on the southeast corner of Woodroffe and College Avenue, but there isn’t even a sidewalk, let alone a bike lane or paved shoulder along College Avenue to get you to the horticulural grounds official entrance. Traffic along this short stretch of College Ave is often speedy as drivers take the wide curve coming off the 6 lane Woodroffe Ave. Fortunately there is no fence blocking access onto the horticultural grounds so I rode along a short stretch of grass directly from the corner of Woodroffe & College to the very nice brick path that meanders through the horticultural gardens.
I followed this path around to the east side of the green houses, where sits the glorious Merrill Magnolia.
I highly reccomend checking out this multi-sensory beauty. The gentleman on site said there may be a week left of bloom as long as there is no overnight frost before then. Sheer coincidence, that gentleman happened to be James Wilson, who’s initial tweet inspired this ride! Turns out James teaches horticulture at the college and was just starting a class when I arrived.
One can also follow this same route throughout the summer to visit the Horticultural grounds which are quite beautiful.
Back at the turn of the 20th century Ottawa had it’s own Elon Musk character by the name of Thomas Ahearn. He achieved a myriad of ground breaking technological achievements in his time. For example he brought electric lighting to all our city streets way before the rest of the country caught on. With his business partner Warren Soper he created the Ottawa Electric Railway Company, building a network of streetcars and tracks whose routes opened up the city. He also designed and patented a number of electronic products, like the first electronic oven. He also drove an electric car. This bike tour visits a few sites in memory of Ahearn’s contributions to the development of Ottawa.
For a more detailed description of Thomas Ahearn I recommend checking out this Ottawa Citizen link . I have also included a number of other links at the bottom of this post.
Our tour begins in Lebreton Flats where in 1855 Thomas Ahearn first arrived on the scene. His parents were Irish immigrants who lived on the Flats where his father worked as a blacksmith. At the age 15 or 16 Thomas went from his home on the Flats to the J.R. Booth Company to offer his services in exchange for learning the exciting new technology of telegraphy.
On the Southwest corner of Booth and Sir John A MacDonald (SJAM) Parkway, across the street from the War Museum, sits an interpretive display on the history of Lebreton Flats. A heritage, non-functioning, public fountain acts as it’s introductory focal point. The original working fountain was commissioned in part by Ahearn himself in tribute to his mother-in-law Lilias Fleck, and was re-discovered when the soil in Lebreton Flats was being de-contaminated in the 2010’s. Further within this interpretive exhibit are two panels that touch on Ahearn and his many exploits. Lebreton Flats is where Thomas’ adventures began!
After working for a few years in New York City, the hi-tech hub of the era, Ahearn re-settled in Ottawa and in partnership with his old friend from the Flats, Warren Soper, he built up a number of successful companies which they managed from their headquarters on Sparks Street, which is our first stop. To get there our route passes through the Garden of the Provinces and Territories park. At the south/east end of the park there is a ramp to get up to Sparks Street but it is quite narrow so we carried our bikes up the short flight of stairs.
Ottawa Electric Railway Company streetcars used to travel along Sparks Street.
In 1927, Thomas Ahearn was chosen by Prime Minister MacKenzie King as the first chairman of the Federal District Commission, the predecessor to the National Capital Commission (NCC). In this role he greatly influenced the development of Ottawa’s parkway network, including the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. The Rideau Canal Western Pathway runs along the Driveway which we followed to our next destination – Lansdowne Park. That’s because the inaugural run of the Ottawa Electric Railway Company travelled down Bank Street to Lansdowne with Ahearn piloting one trolley and Sopper at the helm of another, with an impressive list of dignitaries along for the ride. It was also at Lansdowne where in 1892 Ahearn exhibited a number of his patents and won the first gold medal ever awarded by the Central Canadian Exhibitions Association.
At the extreme north-west corner of Lansdowne, where Holmwood and Bank Street meet, sits the second non-functioning water fountain on our tour. This one is dedicated to Ahearn himself. A history of the fountain pre-re-installation can be found at this link.
After visiting the Ahearn Fountain we cut through the Glebe to the path that runs along the O-Train and followed it all the way to the Ottawa River. We then rode west along the Ottawa River Pathway to Britannia Bay. Ahearn’s streetcar tracks were extended to Britannia Beach where he built an amusement park to encourage users of the streetcar to travel on weekends. The Ottawa River Pathway now follows the old streetcar line from where the path leaves the edge of the SJAM Parkway. The streetcar terminal structure at Britannia Bay is a reminder of this popular service.
There is a short quiet residential street just a few blocks west of the old terminal station named in hounour of Ahearn. Our bike route includes the length of it.
In 1899 Ahearn formed the Metropolitan Power Company to build a hydro electric power house where the Ottawa River narrows, just east of Britannia Bay. This included a 2000-foot canal extending to the lower end of the Lac Deschênes Rapids. This endeavor did not prove to be financially viable, so the top of the canal was converted into moorings for the Britannia Boat Club.
Vestiges of the old canal can also be viewed by following Cassels Street and cutting across the grass to the waters edge at the spot indicated on the above map.
Heading back along the Ottawa River Pathway, our tour crosses one of the few local bridges across the mighty Ottawa River, the Champlain Bridge. In his role as chairman of the Federal District Commission Ahearn played an instrumental role in promoting and financing the construction of the original Champlain Bridge. In 2002 it was rebuilt and this section of the original bridge was put on display on Bate Island, midway across the bridge with interpretive panels on the history of the bridge.
The tour continues across the bridge along the bike lane to the Quebec side of the river, and then east along the Voyageurs Pathway beside the river as far as the Portage Bridge. Normally the route would continue along the Voyageurs Pathway all the way to the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge but unfortunately the NCC closed the section along the river between the Museum of History and the Portage Bridge ever since this spring’s devastating flooding, and will not complete the repairs until next spring. As such, our route detours along the extra wide sidewalk along Rue Laurier infront of the museum, and then along the new bike lanes along the northern edge of Jacques Cartier Park. There are bi-directional bike lanes along the eastern side of the Macdonald-Cartier bridge which we followed back over to the Ontario side of the river.
Our route continues along the Sussex Drive bike lane to the round-a-bout to the north of Rideau Hall. In the centre of the round-a-bout the NCC has installed a short section of streetcar tracks reminiscent of the original ones that brought passengers to and from Rockcliffe Park.
The little heritage canopies one can observe while travelling along the Rockcliffe Parkway were shelters for passengers waiting for the streetcar.
Rockcliffe park was a popular destination for weekend streetcar passengers including skiers.
Our final destination is the resting place of Thomas Ahearn in Beechwood Cemetery. To get there we cut through Rockcliffe and then rode a short distance along the Beechwood Avenue bike lane before turning up into the cemetery where one can find this headstone identifying his and his loved one’s resting place.
Et voila, thus concludes our bike tour commemorating the phenomenal achievements of Thomas Ahearn. The following links lead to more in depth stories on the man.
Deschênes is a small community on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, right where the river narrows into the Deschênes rapids after it makes a big swing past Aylmer. The Ottawa River played an important role in the rich history of our community.
Whenever a big river narrows, it creates a powerful current, especially attractive to capitalist entrepreneurs in the late 1800’s, a procession of which built various mills at this location.
The most noticeable feature while riding along the Voyageurs Pathway through Deschênes are the ruins of some of those old mills still holding their own in the middle of the river. But there is even more to discover in the immediate environs, as I learnt on a Jane’s Walk tour of the communtiy earlier this year.
Here is a bike route from Ottawa to Deschênes and back, along with stops at some of the spots described on the Deschênes Residents Association map that are accessible via velo.
This ride begins in Ottawa where the bike lanes along Laurier and Bay meet. I made my way north along Bay to Wellington before crossing over to Quebec along the Portage Bridge bike lane. I then got on the Voyageurs Pathway and followed it all the way to Deschênes. First stop is at Simard Bay below the Deschênes rapids, with a fine view out over the river.
A short distance up stream one arrives at the rapids with great views of the ruins.
The area is also good for bird watching. There are interpretive panels with french descriptions of a few fine feathered friends one might spot while visiting as well as why this site is an important bird habitat.
Next stop along the Voyageurs Pathway is the wooden bridge that crosses over the marsh just west of the rapids. It is magical riding through this short section. Definitely worth a pause to take it all in.
I continued along the Voyageurs Pathway and then turned east along the old track bed that runs parallel to Boulevard de Lucerne.
In the late 1800’s an electrical generating station was built at the rapids in part to run trams between Ottawa and Aylmer. One of the oldest remaining buildings in Deschênnes is associated with this endeavour. The long stone building at the corner of Lucerne and Vanier was the tram way car barn. I believe this is where they were stored. A fine historical reference photo can be found here.
This is what it looks like now.
After checking out the old tramway barn I rode back to the Voyageurs Pathway along the brand-spanking-new Chemin Vanier bike lane!
I then rode back to Ottawa via the Voyageurs Pathway, crossing the Ottawa River over the Island park Drive bridge. Once across I followed the Ottawa River Pathway towards downtown.
I’ve described just a thin slice of the many layers that make up the rich history of the Deschênes community. The Jane’s Walk tour of the area given by Howard Powles is definitely worth checking out if he decides to give it again next year.
The RA Centre is a great big wonderful exercise facility on the south side of the Rideau River, just west of Billings Bridge. Ironically, it’s a tricky place to bike to. A rider was looking for a route from Lebreton Flats to the RA Centre that avoids having to ride along Bronson. And who can blame him? Bronson is a major traffic artery the explodes into a six lane speedway south of the Rideau Canal. Between the Canal and Carleton University flexi-posts are installed in the summer to reinforce the presence of bike lanes along both side of Bronson, but south of Carleton there’s just a faded white painted line, or none at at all, particularly across long on/off ramps that cyclists are expected to coast through as drivers distractedly jostle each other at crazy speeds in their attempts to merge on and off Bronson.
Here is a description of the route identified by the blue line on the following map, which is similar to a previously posted winter route from the Glebe to the RA Centre, but the lack of ice & snow allows for a few shortcuts on the approach to the RA Centre.
The purple line (an option suggested by an old friend) follows the Rideau River Pathway once across Hog’s Back Falls. This more picturesque and less convoluted option has one tricky spot – getting across very busy Riverside Drive. Best place to cross is at the lights to Data Centre Road. Data Centre Road doesn’t have a bike lane but there is a sidewalk one can follow to the entrance of the RA Centre parking lot.
The route begins at the western tip of Lebreton Flats along the Ottawa River Pathway.
After riding along the Ottawa River Pathway for a short spell I turned inland along the Trillium Pathway that runs parallel to the O-Train tracks.
I turned right along the Prince of Wales, which has a painted bike lane, and followed it a very short distance to the lights that took me across to the Arboretum.
I rode through the beautiful Arboretum along gravel paths which brought me to paved Rideau Canal Western pathway that skirts the edge of the canal up to the Hartwell Locks.
I rode up the hill to the furthest set of locks and carried my bike three steps to be able to push it across to the other side. If this crossing is really crowded I cross the second set of locks, but it has rarely been so busy for me to exercise this option.
On the opposite side of the canal the path continues all the way up to Mooneys Bay.
The path curls up and continues to the right alongside Hogs Back Road over the falls. I then continued straight along the path to the intersection at Riverside Drive.
I made my way to the opposite corner from where the path meets Riverside Drive.
That took me to a small desire line that cuts kitty corner away from the intersection into the Canada Post campus.
I followed the road around to the opposite north/east corner of the campus to a path, which in turn leads towards a short switch back heading up to Heron Road. Arrived at Heron, I followed the sidewalk to the lights, crossed there, and headed back a short distance to the path on the opposite side.
This path curls around the now fenced off grounds of the old CBC headquarters. Part way around the curl there’s a sharp turn to the right that leads to a small pillbox shaped building.
That’s the entrance port to a very cool underground passageway beneath Bronson Avenue. It requires carrying one’s bike down a few steps. The passageway pops up in mirror fashion on the other side of Bronson.
Once popped out the other side, I followed a concrete path that traced the contour of a very interesting modernist building.
This eventually brought me to a paved path that went down to the back of the RA Centre.
Once at the bottom of the path one can ride around the building to access any of the many entrances.