The Ottawa River is indeed known worldwide for its great white waters and I couldn't wait to move here to try them myself. Whitewater guides from the four corners of the Earth come to play in its rapids. Staying at a rafting camp or in one of the many chalets in the area around Ottawa city is an excellent way to relax and unwind before hitting the waves. With Adirondack chairs lined up on the lawn overlooking the quiet side of the Ottawa River, a sandy beach and an all-inclusive meal package, it's the perfect weekend getaway for those looking to escape from the capital.
But let's put aside my experience to tell you more about this amazing river.
The Ottawa River has in fact played a fundamental role in the development of the Capital Region, as it has in the history of North America, from the beginning of time.
In the past centuries, the fur traders used to camp on the wild banks of the Ottawa River which is part of a 5,000-kilometre system of waterways that, for thousands of years, carried native traders across the continent. In the 17th century, European explorers and traders followed the footsteps of the natives and travelled on huge fur-trading canoes to hunt on its banks.
From the beginning of Canada as a French colony, the great explorers travelled along the Ottawa River to discover and colonize new areas and, in the 19th century, Hull's founder, Wright, gave birth to the development of the wood industry along its banks.
In the 20th century, Ottawa began a major program to modernize its wastewater treatment plant, and the Ottawa Urban Community inaugurated its own in the 1980s. After years of intensive exploitation, the Ottawa River is now slowly becoming a place for outdoor activities such as camping and white-water rafting adventures. Many are also the hiking trails along its banks and many are the opportunities to practice bird-watching and fishing here.
It's impossible not to feel good when you arrive close to the Ottawa river. Its atmosphere is soothing thanks to its omnipresent greenery. Traffic and chaos are quickly forgotten. This is probably thanks to the over 500 kilometres of bike paths here. Ottawa city is famous for being Canada's two-wheeler capital and it's best visited by bike. After contemplating the different neighbourhoods, it is essential to walk the Ottawa River Trail at the foot of Parliament Hill, which connects natural areas, parks, gardens and historic monuments for over 20 kilometres. Commemorative plates retrace the history of the birth of Canada, in 1867. The Ottawa river route also offers an unrivalled view of the Canadian Museum of History and the War Museum which I visited and 'blogged about' last time.
The most striking are the locks built with a technique which consists of flooding the river rapids thanks to high dams thus reducing excavations. The locks are maneuvered by hand and the best place to observe them is between Parliament Hill and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this river hosts canoes, kayaks or paddle boats which are fun and a truly exceptional way to visit the capital!
During the summer the heat takes over Ottawa, and to escape from the sun nothing is better than strolling along the canal under the shade of the trees. If, on the other hand, you visit the city in winter, the cold is so intense that its waters freeze and the canal becomes an ice skating rink.