a peek inside the fishbowl

02 Jun, 2011

A bike ride to la belle province – part 2

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa

Part one is here.

Sarah assured me that she was good to go, and so we left Bate Island and crossed what was left of the bridge.

Champlain Bridge

There is a bike lane here, but it scares me so we rode on the sidewalk. You’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk, but there weren’t any pedestrians and Sarah has been occasionally known to wobble.

Did you know that the bridge is 1.1 km long, making it the longest bridge spanning the Ottawa River? 1km isn’t very far when you think about it, but when there are cars rushing past you it can seem quite long indeed.

On the other side of the bridge we looked down to our right to see the path we needed to be on. So we guided our bikes down a grassy hill and this is what we found underneath:

Under the Champlain Bridge, Quebec side

Under the Champlain Bridge, Quebec side

Two huge murals! I like surprises like that.

As it turned out we didn’t need to take the shortcut. There’s a little road ahead, just as the bridge ends. Turn right and you’ll find the path.

And with that, we pushed eastwards along the Voyageur Path towards downtown Ottawa. It was a lovely ride; quite hilly in spots. And I realize this might be annoying to my children but I regularly like to use hills as teachable moments. “You SEEeeeee,” I trill. “Pedaling UP-hill is a lot of work, but it’s always followed by a really great ride DOWN.”

I think that applies to many things, don’t you? Hard work has a payoff.

The Voyageur Path is a nice nod to this area’s history. This following is from the Wikipedia entry for the Ottawa River (a good read if you’re interested in this kind of thing.)

In 1615, Samuel de Champlain and Étienne Brûlé, assisted by Algonquin guides, were the first Europeans to travel up the Ottawa River and follow the water route west along the Mattawa and French Rivers to the Great Lakes. …. For the following two centuries, this route was used by French fur traders, Voyageurs and Coureur des bois to Canada’s interior.

The Ottawa River is one of the reasons we are here.

In the early 19th century, the Ottawa River and its tributaries were used to gain access to large virgin forests of white pine. A booming trade in timber developed, and large rafts of logs were floated down the river. A scattering of small subsistence farming communities developed along the shores of the river to provide manpower for the lumber camps in winter. In 1832, following the War of 1812, the Ottawa River gained strategic importance when the Carillon Canal was completed. Together with the Rideau Canal, the Carillon Canal was constructed to provide an alternate military supply route to Kingston and Lake Ontario, bypassing the route along the Saint Lawrence River.

It is cool, literally five degrees cooler along the bike path. The breeze moves across your face and though your (helmeted) hair as you wind your way through shady woods, past little water-filled nooks occupied by the odd fisherman.

All the best adventures have neat things to discover along the way: giant hydro towers, public art, a little park and beach where geese watched their goslings foraging in the grass, a big statue, a dead end, the sound of a group of children screaming the happy birthday song from a house near the bike route.

I had forgotten how much I like to cycle. In fact, I might have to find a way to do it more often. It is just so geedee SATISFYING.

Our next stop was the abandoned railway bridge.


This is the old Prince of Wales Bridge. (There’s a Wiki entry about it here.) We pass by it often, always on the Ottawa side whenever we’re driving along the Ottawa River Parkway. Seeing it up close is a different kind of experience altogether. Methinks it would make a great crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. Can you imagine?

Train bridge across the Ottawa river

The place is totally exposed and especially scorching. It was overcast when we left, and later on I would regret not rubbing some sunscreen into my shoulders. We explored a tiny bit, but not too far. After all, trespassing here is interdit.

Priest vampire? Hmm.

Which way

We didn’t quite make it all the way downtown, although it was often in sight:

Parliament Hill

We’ll do that next time as a family.

Sarah and I made it to the end of Voyageur Path and though a bit of Gatineau.

Navigating through that area with its construction and traffic was a bit of a challenge, but we did ok. We crossed back into Ottawa at the Portage Bridge and started to make our way back home on the Ottawa side, only pausing near the War Museum to get a drink from the fountain and refill our water bottle and to see some goslings up close. (Under the eye of a hissing, watchful mother… which I completely understand, because I too have been that hissing mother.)


Goslings by the Ottawa River

We had one more stop along the way home. More about that tomorrow.

If you’d like to learn more about what’s along this route – facilities and such – do check out the NCC’s Interactive Capital Pathway Map.

6 Responses to "A bike ride to la belle province – part 2"

1 | Bob LeDrew

June 2nd, 2011 at 10:51 am


Andrea, for a follow up, go left towards Aylmer after you cross the bridge and go to the Deschenes rapids. They are quite impressive to watch. I would avoid the swimming though.


2 | andrea

June 2nd, 2011 at 10:57 am


The rapids are really great. Thanks for the reminder… it’s definitely worth a second trip. (And I’d never swim there! It’s scary!)

3 | binki

June 2nd, 2011 at 2:03 pm


Yeah….left turn off the bridge is a super bike ride. Much of it is through forested areas. A stop at Deschenes Rapids is a must. And go a little further west and stop for a walk in the river. The limestone makes for a huge shallow area that folks (kids) can explore wearing water sandals. Flip submerged rocks and discover all kinds of amazing water life. It’s a very cool, hands-on educational experience.

Oh and good birding on the bikepath to Aylmer. Bonus!

Trill. Good word!!!

4 | Kaitlin

June 3rd, 2011 at 10:05 am


I little bit have to wonder if your stop on the way home was at Edgar…because it might be my favourite reason to bike (or run) in Gatineau, and there are lots of reasons! I would seriously recommend checking it out the next time you’re over there.

6 | To ring, or not to ring >> a peek inside the fishbowl

June 29th, 2011 at 11:27 am


[…] girls are fairly competent bike riders now (remember our bike ride to Quebec). It’s always been a dream of mine to be the parent of a family who goes on long rambling […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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