Les Chemins d'eau: the riches of Petite-Nation
Since the dawn of time, rivers have shaped the geography and history of the Outaouais. Whether it was the Algonquins who used the Kitchissippi (the Algonquin name for the Ottawa River) as a “highway,” the loggers who drove logs down the Gatineau and the Ottawa, the Brysons who set up their sawmill beside the majestic Coulonge Falls, or the modern-day boaters who tie up at the wharves that line our rivers, water has always played a crucial role in the development of our region. This blog post is part of a series of four that explore each of the territories crossed by the Chemins d’eau (“waterways”) tourist route.
THIS WEEK: La Petite-Nation La lièvre
La Petite-Nation la Lièvre (aka the Papineau RCM) is the eastern end of the Outaouais. From Montreal, this is the area you’ll encounter first on your way to visit us. You may already be familiar with it without even knowing it, at least in part! If you’ve heard of the Fairmont Le Château Montebello or Parc Oméga, that’s it! You’ve just made the connection.
In this sector, the Chemins d’eau route follows the Ottawa River along Route 148, with stops in Montebello, Papineauville and Plaisance. Along the way, there’s lots to interest foodies, history buffs and adventure seekers alike!
We’ll explore the region from east to west, if that’s OK with you.
This is probably the best-known village in the area, largely because of its well-deserved reputation as a resort. It’s home to the world’s largest log building, now the Fairmont Le Château Montebello luxury hotel, whose fine dining, multitude of activities and rustic charm captivate everyone who visits. Its neighbour, the Manoir Papineau National Historic Site, will take you back to the days when Louis-Joseph and his family reigned over the seigniory, as you learn about the historical importance of this character. You can also explore the surroundings of the Château and the Manoir with family or friends, on an electric motorbike while solving puzzles with Geo-Explora or on foot along the Montebello Heritage Tour.
If it’s nature that appeals to you, Parc Oméga is a must-see. This unique wildlife park lets you get up close to many species of North American animals, making it a favourite destination for families all year round. Just north of the village is Kenauk Nature, a huge private reserve where you can take it easy in a cottage beside YOUR lake, go fishing, shoot clay pigeons, and learn to drive a Land Rover. An unparalleled relaxation getaway!
Calling all gastronomes and epicureans! Fromagerie Montebello and ChocoMotive offer high-quality, house-made products for your delight. For a memorable meal, the Bistro Montebello and its wood-fired pizzas are a sure bet, and Délice Champêtre serves gourmet fast food with an authentic local flavour that justifies the “Délice” (delight) in the snack bar’s name.
On the way to Plaisance, you’ll go through Papineauville, and there’s a curiosity here that’s worth a stop: the 75th meridian sundial. “What the heck is that?”, you ask? Well, it’s Papineauville that determines the time for all the eastern time zones. So when the sundial here indicates noon, it’s REALLY noon, Eastern time. Cool, huh?
Let’s continue on our way. Plaisance is a happy blend of history and natural riches. The best place to find a combination of the two is definitely Plaisance Falls, north of the village. Near these majestic falls, the village of North Nation Mills sprang up around the lumber trade, with a sawmill, a dam, and all the facilities required for the industry. All this is gone today, and the falls are revealed in all their splendour.
At the Plaisance Heritage Interpretation Centre, located in a beautiful ancestral home in the village itself, you can learn about the region’s centuries of history, and the evolution of Plaisance and the Petite-Nation to what they are today.
The Ottawa River is lined with wetlands teeming with an incredible diversity of fauna and flora, much of it concentrated in beautiful Plaisance National Park. Frogs, turtles, and hundreds of species of birds live there, and several miles of hiking and biking trails run through it. It’s also a great place to camp!
I can also suggest an alternative route, if you want to venture a little farther afield. From Montebello, take Route 323 north and turn left on Rang Ste-Julie towards St-André-Avellin, the largest village in the Petite-Nation. It's home to the charming Pioneer Museum, rich in artifacts relating the history of the village since its origins. Behind the Auberge Petite-Nation is the Louis-Joseph-Papineau trail, which you can explore on foot or by bike. Along the trail are several works of art installed in the heart of nature. Beautiful!
As you can see, this sector is rich in discoveries. Stroll and explore the charming villages and bucolic landscapes! Taste the local flavours, sample the local culture! You’ll definitely want to come back. A whole world awaits you—just follow the canoeist!