Traditions on the Gatineau River

Trapping Trade

The many rapids and waterfalls of the Gatineau River rendered it unsuitable as a significant fur trade route, but local trappers with smaller canoes paddled down to where it met the Ottawa River and sold furs to agents and merchants from Europe. I found signs that the local trapping trade continues.



For over 150 years, millions of logs floated down the Gatineau River in massive booms. The log drive forms part of the collective memory of local residents – they ceased only in 1993. Boaters still must keep an eye out for partially submerged logs floating in the river – many gather at the end of shallow bays and inlets along the river.



To escape the heat and humidity of Ottawa, 19th century tourists ‘summered’ in the Gatineau. Cottages and summer hotels followed the Ottawa and Gatineau Valley Railroad as it pushed north toward Maniwaki. Swimming and boating were – and still are – popular pastimes for migrants from Ottawa.


Sources …. and interesting reads:
Three Centuries of the Fur Trade, Passing by the Gatineau Region, by Carol Martin in Up the Gatineau! Volume 24.
Pine to Pulp: The Timber Trade on the Gatineau River by Helen E. Parson in Up the Gatineau! Volume 3.
Logging on the Gatineau, Gatineau Valley Historical Society website.
Summer Hotels of the Gatineau by Ernie Mahoney in Up the Gatineau! Volume 25.

Ma Bell and the Silver Dart

Alexander Graham Bell is best known as the man who invented the telephone, but he also invented the photophone and the telectroscope; he was interested in genetics (he attempted to breed sheep that would consistently birth twins); he was a teacher of the deaf; he collaborated with a team of four young men to develop a ‘flying machine’ (they designed and built the first aircraft to achieve flight in Canada).

It seemed fitting then that the day I was to fly back home I should visit the Bell Museum in Baddeck. There I learned that I only knew half the story. The other half, not told in Canadian history books, is that Alexander’s wife, Mabel, provided the financing for their aeronautical experiments (making her one of the first female venture capitalists!). She set up the Aerial Experiment Association and offered the five men salaries. She got down to business and gave then a mandate: they had one year to fly a heavier-than-air craft.

On February 23, 1909, the ‘Silver Dart’ took off from the frozen Bras D’Or lake, not far from the Bell Museum, and flew at an elevation of about 10-30 feet directly east for a distance of about ½ mile. It was the first controlled powered flight in Canada. It was also a controlled landing. Below is a replica of the Silver Dart hanging in the Bell Museum.


Read more about Mabel Bell
Read more about her husband, Alexander Graham Bell
Visit the Bell Museum

Paddling a long dish of salt water

The Bras d’Or Lake, Canada’s largest in-land sea, is not quite sea, not quite lake. Twelve significant watersheds, with five rivers, drain into it. It is also open to the ocean through two narrow channels at the northern edge of the lake and through a man-made canal at the southern edge. The water has 60 percent the salinity of the ocean, and so supports both salt water and fresh water species.

Early French visitors called it ‘Bras d’Or’, ‘arm of gold, for the sparkling colour of the sun reflecting off its surface. The Mi’kmaq, First Nations who constitute a significant proportion of the current population, called this vast inland waterway ‘Petoo’bok’ – roughly translated as ‘a long dish of salt water’.

In 2011, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the Bras d’Or Lake Canada’s 16th Biosphere Reserve.

Meat Cove Lowland Cove Loop

Start with a map (from Michael Haynes‘ Hiking Trails of Nova Scotia 7th Ed.); go past a wooden gate (of sorts); along a grassy path; explore the Cape St. Lawrence lighthouse (the modern and the old ruins); follow the coast line; wade a cold river; look for the red square way markers; enjoy the fields of iris; and finish with a hot seafood chowder.

Morning on the Water

A quick kayak around North Harbour – Aspy Bay before breakfast.