Life on the Mississippi – in Ontario

We have been killing a few days in the Ottawa area, waiting for a service appointment with the local Mercedes dealership, and have been following the Ottawa River downstream and southeast for the last few days as we approached the city.

The Ottawa is a large river which goes north and west from the St. Lawrence Seaway up into the interior of Canada, so of course the early explorers canoed up it, looking for the shortcut to China, as explorers are wont to do. Samuel de Champlain got up as far as the town of Cobden, and was persuaded by the local chieftain that all this Great Northern Sea stuff was a bunch of hooey, so he turned around and went back downstream, but not before he lost his astrolabe, an early navigational instrument for determining latitude.

A farmboy discovered it in the 1860s, and it eventually ended up in a museum once they retrieved it from the speculators.

Our riverside setup. The limestone slabs are great to park on, and create the falls and rapids on the river.

Further downstream near Arnprior, rivers join the Ottawa River from the south side, and one of these is named the Mississippi River.

I think the original name was similar in sound to Mississippi, and the locals got tired of correcting people who had heard of its more famous namesake. Since I grew up on the banks of the other Mississippi River, I was intrigued by this, and we picked out a day spot on this river at Pakenham while we waited a few days for our appointment. Many water-powered textile and grain mills were located along this stretch back in the mid-1800s, many of them at Pakenham and Almonte, and there's still a small hydroelectric generating facility at Almonte.

Looking downstream – there we are on the left, in the shade of a willow.

Originally we set up right on a slab of limestone right on the riverside, but picked a shady spot under a willow tree a bit further back from the water as the temperature climbed up into the mid 80s the next few days.

We watched the locals fishing, boating, and wading in the rapids here – it's a laid-back, slow-paced enjoyment of the last warm days before fall sets in. The weather is warm enough for swimming (yes, you can swim in this river) but the leaves are changing, and people who live here know the days of summer will be a fading memory soon enough.

Our overnight spot in Arnprior at Robert Simpson Park, looking across the Ottawa River at Quebec.

As nice as this place at Pakenham is, it's also signed for no overnight camping, so we went to Arnprior or Almonte, both about ten miles away, and stayed in city parks for the night. The police dropped by and were curious about our setup, but were cool with us spending the night. Most of the locals we encounters were also curious about the Roadtrek and satellite dishes, so I gave them the five minute tour, explaining our fulltiming lifestyle. Many of them were intrigued. It's nice to get a chance to slow down and talk to the people who live here.

There are

3 comments

  1. Colleen Gander

    I thought I recognized that spot in your photograph. Our first home was just south on that highway and we frequented that very spot with picnic lunches on Sunday drive excursions with our then young son. Nice to know that you enjoyed it there. We loved the community while we lived there. The colours will be stunning shortly and the spring draws many for the sweet taste of maple syrup. You would have to go out to the Perth area for a provincial park to camp in or perhaps Fitzroy Harbour near Arnprior.

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  2. Bill Mains

    The story and photos brig back lots of memories of summer picnics near the historic 5-arch bridge in Pakenham and at the park in Arnprior. The high school I attended is on the shore of the Mississippi a few miles upstream.

    Reply
  3. Charles Catron

    Great Article. Have been in all 50 plus across the world. Starting the heart land tour, soon. Head waters of Mississippi to the Gulf. Then the Ohio Headwaters to Gulf. If I’m still young enough start New England…. I have enjoyed these post. I can follow the bill boards to Visit ROCK CITY or see The Drive along the river in Charleston, WVA.

    Reply

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