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.
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.
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.
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.