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For centuries, Ontario’s Ottawa River Waterway has been the gateway to Northern Ontario. PWC enthusiasts looking for the ultimate adventure can do the four-day, 700-kilometre expedition from Pembroke (pop. 14,360) to Temiskaming Shores (pop. 10,400) as we did. But if time is short, there are two overnight rides: Pembroke/Mattawa (330 kilometres/200 miles, return) or the 338 km/210 mi round trip between Mattawa (pop. 2,033) and Temiskaming Shores.
I started this Mattawa – Temiskaming Shores Sea-Doo ride from the riverside Valois Motel & Restaurant on Highway 17. The Valois offers waterfront housekeeping rooms, tasty home-cooked meals (fabulous desserts!), and also has its own boat launch and ample parking. Alternatively and just north under the railway bridge that spans the Ottawa, you can fuel up, dock or launch at the Mattawa Marina. It’s located near the Mattawa & District Museum and the History of Trading Post on Explorer’s Point. The downtown of historic Mattawa is also within walking distance, as is the Clermont Duvals Art Gallery, which displays historic paintings and art of the Ottawa River. Other Mattawa sights to take in from the river include the three white crosses on the Quebec hill facing the marina, Moose Mountain and the Otto Holden Hydro Dam, both located upriver.
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It’s necessary to transfer around this dam via Highway 533 and a concrete launch located on the north side. This was easy for us since we brought a support vehicle towing an empty PWC trailer. But Mattawa Sport & Marine also provides transfer services for a fee.
From Mattawa, it’s an easy 56 km (38 mi) ride to the next transfer at Temiscaming (This is the name and spelling of a Quebec town, not to be confused with Lake Temiskaming or Ontario’s Temiskaming Shores.) This portion of the ride is mostly wilderness and the river runs deep and open all the way. The only spot requiring care is after Highway 63 comes into sight on the port side and as you can glimpse Temiscaming ahead. Proceed straight ahead and you may run into stumps, but a veer to starboard at the island loops you out of danger and back into the main channel.
As far as I know, Temiscaming does not provide a transfer service anymore. That’s why we brought out own trailer. The transfer sites on both sides of the rapids have good launches and docks (the one on the north side has good washroom facilities too). While our PWC were on the trailer, we gassed up at a nearby station and convenience store.
Not long out of Temiscaming, we were back into Ottawa River wilderness again. Aside from a few isolated cabins and the dam at the Montreal River, the next civilization is about 83 km (52 mi) up stream: farms located just south of Ville Marie, Quebec.
The river widens considerably from its juncture with the Montreal, as it starts to open up to Lake Temiskaming. The actual entrance to the lake is a point of land where old Fort Temiskaming & Mission St-Claude are located. From here, we steered to the starboard into the large bay at the southeast corner with the Ville Marie Marina located at its end. It’s necessary to fuel up here, because Temiskaming Shores (the amalgamation of Dymond, Haileybury and New Liskeard) is another 20 klicks (12 mi) or so up the lake on the other shore.
We docked at the Haileybury Marina and the stayed overnight at Presidents’ Suites, who shuttled us from and back to the marina. This is a grand and historic lakeside mansion, lovingly re-furbished as a classy, charming and spacious bed & breakfast. Presidents’ Suites offers superb cuisine, warm hospitality and a fabulous hot tub.
If you have time, a quick tour around Lake Temiskaming is worthwhile. From Devil’s Rock on the west side to New Liskeard on the northwest corner, this 26-kilometre (16 mi) long lake has lots of shore, islands and history to explore. Snowmobilers that have travelled the frozen Wabi River at New Liskeard might get a kick out of taking a summer cruise up there – you can go quite a ways by PWC!
Because this overnighter is a round trip, you can start (and finish) at either Mattawa or Temiskaming Shores. Either way, you’ll be as awed by the majesty of the waterway, impressed by its spectacular scenery and inspired by a pervasive feeling of going back in time to be one with the voyageurs of yesteryear. The navigation is easy; the water is deep; and there’s no worry about getting lost – just follow the shoreline. It’s like following a water trail all the way! Best of all, the terrain on each side is quite different, so if you ride up one side, you’ll have a whole new experience coming back down the other. Whichever way you choose, one thing is certain: you’ll be raving about this Ottawa River Waterway PWC overnighter for years to come!
Ontario’s Awesome Ottawa River PWC Tour – Video
Ontario PWC Riding Between Pembroke & Mattawa – Video
Go Ride Ontario on Your Personal Watercraft
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