Cyclo Tourist Ottawa: Part II: River riding
Laura Allardyce is a cultural observer with an overactive imagination, who is always insisting the glass is half full. She has lived in Ottawa her whole life and says she will only leave once she has smelled all the roses. She is currently training for the ride of her life. And don’t forget to check out Part I of her LTOttawa Cyclo Tourist series.
I love cycling next to the water so I consider myself very lucky to live so close to the Ottawa River. But really, with 220 kilometres of bike paths in the Ottawa region, anyone can be close to water in fairly short order. The following is my favourite ride because it’s only about 40 minutes (depending on your riding speed) and you stay on the water practically the entire time.
Ottawa River Parkway – Across Champlain Bridge at Island Park Drive – Through Parc Mousette – Across the Chaudière/Booth Street Bridge
This path contains some of my favourite things:
- The old Prince of Whales train bridge. You may recall in the early days of LTOttawa, I wrote about the Prince of Whales Bridge. At the time I went across, it was considered trespassing. I’m happy to report that the giant gate blocking the bridge has been taken down. It seems we won the war. Be warned, however, if you attempt to walk across the whole bridge to the Gatineau side, you will be stopped by a QC cop stationed at the mouth. So don’t do it. But do wave hello when you bike by – the bike path takes you right by the officer guarding the bridge.
- The rock piles – Though what they are, I’m not exactly sure. They used to be rocks piled like Inuksuit but now there’s a guy out there stacking them in whatever formation they will take. They’re still cool. And it’s one of the most perfect spots to watch the sunset. The rock piles are behind the Health Canada Tunney’s Pasture campus, between Little Chaudière Rapids and the lookout tower/parking lot.
- Champlain Bridge – What an amazing view. Stop and straddle the Ontario/Quebec border. One direction you can see far down river towards the Deschenes Rapids, the other way is a beautiful view of downtown Ottawa and the Chaudière. You can occasionally spot kayakers on the rapids by Bate Island (which you cross on Champlain Bridge and worth a detour to take a spin around).
- Parc Mousette – A small park with a beach. There’s also a baseball diamond, volleyball court, playground, and community building with washrooms, changing rooms, and outdoor showers. There isn’t a canteen like you will find at many public beaches but a quick trip up to Alexandre-Taché will reward you with a Dairy Queen and there’s a Quickie convenience store over by the baseball diamond.
- On your way out of Parc Mousette – You’ll pass some lovely water-front apartments on the left and run across this interesting statue on the right. Take a minute to go read the plaque and find out why he’s holding a cross and a canoe paddle. Intrigued?
- Follow the path back into the woods – This is where the ride gets really fun. There are some steeper climbs that take some getting used to for the pre-season cyclist and a couple of excellent downhills that can be exhilarating. Use caution on steep hills with turns at the bottom though. There are signs on the pavement indicating upcoming steep incline and u-turns. I’m always tempted to blast down the hills without touching my brakes but then, not wanting to be thrown off the path down a cliff side or into on-coming cyclists, I think better of it. After going around Squaw Bay and down the river a bit, you arrive to find yourself at the other side of the train bridge where you get a great view of downtown Ottawa and the aforementioned QC cop gets a great view of you. (Say hello, they don’t bite).
- The path emerges onto Alexandre Taché – Exit the park on the path and stay right. Head down to the Chaudière Bridge (first lights, turn right). This is an easy bridge to cross in this direction because it is a single wide lane. I get slightly disoriented when I try to look at the water rushing under the bridge while riding – which is cool – but I’d recommend pulling over safely for any extended viewing. I snapped this picture of one of the old buildings on Philemon Island. Am I the only one who thinks that one open window is a little creepy?
Next time, we’ll take a trip out to Aylmer. You’re going to love it!
Laura will cycle across Vietnam in September to raise money for CARE Canada, an international humanitarian NGO whose work focuses on empowering women and girls in emerging nations. If you want to help, you can make a donation here.