Les Chemins d'eau: amazing Pontiac!
Since the dawn of time, water has shaped the landscapes and history of the Outaouais. Whether it was the Algonquins using Kitchissippi as a highway, log drivers sending timber downstream on the Gatineau and Ottawa, the Brysons building a sawmill by the majestic Coulonge Falls or people sailing for leisure all over our waterways, water has palyed a major role in our region's development. This is the first of four texts to explore each part of the territories through which the Chemins d'eau passes. Featured this week: the Pontiac!
The Pontiac truly is beautiful. The Outaouais' far west is a land of natural wonders, but also home to a rich heritage link to the timber industry. The name Bryson is everywhere for a very good reason; George Bryson is in many ways responsible for the region's economic growth.
Let's take a look at what the Chemins d'eau have in store for you in the Pontiac, shall we?
Culture and heritage
As we already established, George Bryson has left quite a mark on the Pontiac. His residence is now the George Bryson Cultural House, located in an enchanting setting (like much of the Pontiac, to be honest), giving a glimpse at life in the 19th century in these necks of the woods. There is also a genealogy centre there and, just across the 148, majestic Félix-Gabriel Marchand Bridge.
Not far from there, a natural site of great beauty also has a capital importance froma heritage point of view: the Chutes Coulonge Adventure Park. If the park truly highlights its potential as an outdoor destination with the aerial park, the ziplines, and trails, it is first and foremost the site where Bryson built his sawmill and a big slide so the logs going downstream could avoid the gigantic Coulonge falls.
In Fort-Coulonge, the Pontiac Heritage Road Trip will take you through the history of the people and places you will encounter. Further south in Portage-du-Fort is the Stone School Gallery, where the region's artists show their work.
Nature, the outdoors, and nautical activities
Apart from the Chutes Coulonge Adventure Park, the Pontiac is known for another adrenaline-fuelled activity: whitewater rafting! The Ottawa River has an international reputation for the quality of its rapids. Amongst the companies operating in the area are Rafting Momentum in Bryson and Esprit Rafting in Davidson, near Fort-Coulonge. By the way, the patio at Esprit will give you a view on the Ottawa like nowhere else!
You prefer exploring on two wheels? Take the 92km long Cycloparc PPJ! it's flat and accessible to all! It will also provide spectacular views on the river.
Hiking is your thing? At the western end of the Chemins d'eau, stay on the 148, go through Isle-aux-Allumettes and reach Sheenboro to Oiseau Rock Trail. This 5km trail will show you the river like you've never seen it while learning about the Algonquin culture, the rock itself being a major site of rock painting in North America, the First People having left numerous drawings. They are accessible only by canoe.
The beach in Norway Bay, in the town of Bristol, is superb! Perfect place for a picnic with, once again, a dazzling view of the Ottawa. Be advised that there are no lifeguards on the premises.
Eating and sleeping
During your stay in Fort-Coulonge, grab a bite at Bryson's Bistro du Bucheron, a beautiful restaurant located in the patimonial Spruceholme Inn, that also belonged to the Bryson family. You can also rent a room there to saty an extra day or two in the area.
Thirsty? Try a locally-brewed beer made from Pontiac hops at L'Ancienne Banque, on l'Isle-aux-Allumettes. It's a brand new restaurant/brewery promoting local talent.
In the magnificent little town of Shawville, Café 349 is THE place to grab a bite. The healthy menu and decadent desserts are to die for!
To find all you need to know about the Chemins d'eau, head to www.cheminsdeau.ca/en!