The Timber Route

The  Ottawa River timber trade was the nineteenth century production of squared timber along with other wood products. As the major industry of the historical colonies of Upper and Lower Canada, the trade was instrumental in establishing communities on both sides of the river that became Ottawa and Gatineau. This 3km ride along bike paths and multi-use pathways visits various interpretive displays along the Ottawa River that help describe the history and significance of the timber trade in the region.

Our ride begins just off the Ottawa River Pathway behind the War Museum. Here you will find an interpretive display describing the 19th century origins of the local lumber industry. You can stand on a crib, multiples of which formed a timber raft. Interpretive panels describe how in the 1800’s you would have seen giant rafts made up of cribs in the river before you. The interpretive panels also describe how these timber rafts, composed of hundreds of logs, would become temporary floating villages for the Raftsmen delivering the timber down the Ottawa River.

Interpretive display along the Ottawa River Pathway behind the War Museum

Further east along the Ottawa River Pathway you will happen upon Mill Street Brew Pub located in an old grist mill built in 1842. On the east side of the building, looking out across the river, you will see a timber slide. This is where the aforementioned cribs would float down to avoid the Chaudière Falls. In 1972 the V shaped slide visible from this spot replaced the wider square shaped slide that originally accomodated the width of the cribs. More on the history of the slide can be found here.

Timber slide visible

Ride under the Portage Bridge and follow the paths that circle up and onto the bridge. Take the segregated bike lane across the bridge to the Gatineau side of the river, then turn down to the right along the Voyageurs Pathway that runs along the waters edge.

Along this pathway you will happen upon this interpretive panel describing the history of this shoreline, providing context to when the lumber trade was dominant.

History of the shoreline

A short distance further along the path you will find this vertical display celebrating log drivers whose job was to break up piles of logs to avoid log jams.

Log Drivers

Continue along the Voyageurs Pathway under the Alexandra Bridge into Jacques Cartier Park. A short distance into the park you will find a display of three interpretive panels, one of which hi-lites the story of Big Joe Mufferaw, a legendary lumberman from the era of the timber trade.

Big Joe Mufferaw

Further along the pathway beside a small heritage house called Maison Charon you will find another display of three panels, one of which describes Philemon Wright the first settler who started up the local lumber trade. Included in this display is a scale reproduction of a broad axe. This important tool was used to square logs so that they may be assembled into crips and rafts before floating down river.

Philemon Wright

For those who would like to read more about the era of the Ottawa River timber trade I recommend checking out this link.

Et voila! Happy trails.

Author: ottawavelo


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