Bears in the Capital! An Ottawa Bike Tour

Canada is home to one of the largest populations of bears in the world. I have yet to come across one on my cycling exploits (like these guys) however there are some fine sculptural interpretations of members of the family Ursidae throughout the nation’s capital. So, if you are a lover of bears, or sculptures of bears, this tour is for you!

We begin at the intersection of Sparks Street and Metcalfe Street where stands this big bronze statue of a fishing grizzly by artist Bruce Garner (for tours of other sculptural works by Bruce throughout the capital, click here).

Territorial Perogative

I then rode along Sparks to Elgin Street, then past the WarMemorial and down around the National Arts Centre via the ramp off Elgin Street. I then cut through Confederation Park to the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, sculpted by Lloyd Pinay. A life sized bear is one of four animals depicted in the base of the bronze sculpture, each representing spirit guides. The bear symbolizes healing powers.

National Aboriginal Veterans Monument
National Aboriginal Veterans Monument

Our next stop is located in the Jeanne d’Arc Courtyard in the Byward Market. To get there I cut through the plaza in front of City Hall, then along quiet residential streets to the bike & pedestrian bridge over the canal at Somerset Street. I then rode along the Rideau Canal, and crossed Colonel By Drive at Daly Avenue. The stretch of Colonel By/Sussex St between Daly and George where it intersects Rideau Street does not have a bike lane and most times of the week it is filled with cars, trucks and buses jostling their way through this busy intersection. The safest time to try this tour would be early Sunday morning when biking through this area isn’t so dangerous.

To access Jeanne d’Arc Courtyard from the south requires walking along the York Street sidewalk just off Sussex for a short distance. Within the courtyard you’ll find Dancing Bear by Inuit sculptor Pauta Salia.

Dancing Bear
Dancing Bear

Our last destination is Green Island located in the middle of the Rideau River. To get there I made my way from the Jeanne d’Arc Courtyard over to St Andrew Street which crosses busy King Edward at a signalled crosswalk. I then took Rose Street to the path through Bordeleau Park.

The path through the park pops out onto Union Street and over the white bridge onto Green Island. The Old City Hall covers most of Green Island, and in the central open space sits this sculpture of a polar bear perched on a metal pyramid engraved with star constellations. It is one of a grouping of three sculptures by Catherine Widgery titled Objective Memory. The pieces are surrounded by water in the summer months.

Objective Memory by Catherine Widgery
Objective Memory

As I was riding home snowflakes started to fall. Unless we experience another freak thaw such as the one we just had between Christmas and New Year’s, this tour may have to wait until Spring. No worries, lots of great winter riding to come. All very bear-able.

Author: ottawavelo


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