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This is about the river in Canada. For other uses, see Ottawa River .

The Ottawa River (French: Rivière des Outaouais) (Algonquin: Kichisìpi) is a river in the Canadian provinces of Ontariomarker and Quebecmarker. It defines for most of its length the border between these two provinces.


The river rises from its source in Lake Capimitchigama in the Laurentian Mountainsmarker of central Quebec, flows west to Lake Timiskamingmarker, where it begins defining the interprovincial border with Ontario.

From Lake Timiskaming the river flows southeast to Ottawamarker and Gatineaumarker where it tumbles over the Chaudière Fallsmarker and further takes in the Rideau and Gatineau Riversmarker.

The Ottawa River drains into the Lake of Two Mountainsmarker and the St. Lawrence Rivermarker at Montrealmarker. The total length of the river is ; it drains an area of 146,300 km2, 65% in Quebec and the rest in Ontario, with a mean discharge of 1,950 m3/s. The average annual mean waterflow measured at Carillon dammarker, near the Lake of Two Mountains, is 1,939 m3/s, with average annual extremes of 749 to 5,351 m3/s. Record historic levels since 1964 are a low of 529 in 2005 and a high of 8190 m3/s in 1976.

Major tributaries include:

Communities along the Ottawa River include (in down-stream order):


The Ottawa River lies in the Ottawa-Bonnechere Graben, which is a Mesozoic rift valley that formed 175 million years ago. Following the retreat of the glaciers from the area at the end of the last ice age, the valley was flooded by an arm of the Atlantic Oceanmarker known as the Champlain Sea. Fossil remains of marine life have been found in marine clay formed during that time. Sediment deposits from this period have resulted in areas of poor drainage and the presence of large bogs in some ancient channels of this river. Another consequence was the formations of large deposits of a material commonly known as Leda clay; these deposits become highly unstable after heavy rains. Numerous landslides have occurred as a result. The former site of the town of Lemieux, Ontariomarker collapsed into the South Nation Rivermarker in 1993; however, the residents had already been relocated because of the suspected instability of the earth in that location.

Large numbers of Canada Geese, ducks, gulls and shorebird take advantage of spring flooding and wetlands in the Ottawa River valley during migration. Ducks also overwinter in sections of the river that do not freeze over.


An Algonquin Family
As it does to this day, the river played a primordial role in life of the Algonquin people, who lived throughout its watershed at contact. The river is called Kichisìpi, meaning "Great River" in Anicinàbemowin, the Algonquin language. The Algonquin define themselves in terms of their position on the river, referring to themselves as the Omàmiwinini, 'down-river people'. Although a majority of the Algonquin First Nation lives in Quebec, the entire Ottawa Valley is Algonquin traditional territory. Present settlement is a result of adaptations made as a result of settler pressures.

early European explorers, possibly considering the Ottawa River to be more significant than the Upper St. Lawrence River, applied the name River Canada to the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River below the confluence at Montreal. As the extent of the Great Lakesmarker became clear and the river began to be regarded as a tributary, it was variously known as the Grand River, "Great River" or Grand River of the Algonquins before the present name was settled upon. This name change resulted from the Ottawa people' control of the river circa 1685. However, only one band of Ottawa, the Kinouncherpirini or Keinouch, ever inhabited the Ottawa Valley.

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 Lakesmarker. For the following two centuries, this route was used by Frenchmarker fur traders and voyageurs to Canada's interior. The river posed serious hazards to these travelers. The section near Deux Rivières used to have spectacular and wild rapids, namely the Rapide de la Veillée, the Trou, the Rapide des Deux Rivières, and the Rapide de la Roche Capitaine. In 1800, explorer Daniel Harmon reported 14 crosses marking the deaths of voyageurs who had drowned in the dangerous waters along this section of the Ottawa.

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 Canalmarker was completed. Together with the Rideau Canalmarker, the Carillon Canal was constructed to provide an alternate military supply route to Kingstonmarker and Lake Ontariomarker, bypassing the route along the Saint Lawrence Rivermarker.

Several hydroelectric dams have been constructed on the river. In 1950, the dam at Rapides-des-Joachimsmarker, was built, forming Holden Lake behind it and thereby submerging the rapids and portages at Deux Rivières. As an economic route, its importance was eclipsed by railroad and highways in the 20th century. It is no longer used for log driving, however, it is still extensively used for recreational boating. Some 20,000 pleasure boaters visit the Carillon Canal annually.

Today, Outaouais Herald Emeritus at the Canadian Heraldic Authority is named after the river.

Hydroelectric installations

Hydroelectric installations on the Upper Ottawa (in downstream order):
Installation Type Generating cap. Year built Name of reservoir Operator
Bourque Dam Dam n/a 1949 Dozois Reservoirmarker Hydro-Québec
Rapide-7 Generating station 48 MW 1941 / 1949 Decelles Lake Hydro-Québec
Rapide-2 Run of river g.s. 48 MW 1954 n/a Hydro-Québec
Rapides-des-Quinze Run of river g.s. 95 MW 1923 n/a Hydro-Québec
Rapides-des-îles Run of river g.s. 147 MW 1966 n/a Hydro-Québec
Première-Chute Run of river g.s. 130 MW 1968 n/a Hydro-Québec

Lower Ottawa (in downstream order):
Installation Type Generating cap. Year built Name of reservoir Operator
Otto Holden Run of river g.s. 243 MW 1952 n/a Ontario Power Generation
Des Joachims Run of river g.s. 429 MW 1950 Holden Lake Ontario Power Generation
Bryson Run of river g.s. 61 MW 1925 n/a Hydro-Québec
Chenaux Run of river g.s. 144 MW 1950 n/a Ontario Power Generation
Chute-des-Chats marker Run of river g.s. 185 MW 1931 Lac des Chats Hydro-Québec and OPG *
Hull-2 Run of river g.s. 27 MW 1920 n/a Hydro-Québec
Carillonmarker Run of river g.s. 752 MW 1962 n/a Hydro-Québec
* ) Ontario Power Generation operates generators 2, 3, 4, and 5 with a capacity of 96 MW; and Hydro-Québec operates generators 6, 7, 8, and 9 with a capacity of 89 MW.

See also


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