150 Years of History in the Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the August 09, 2017 issue. Reprinted with permission.

This is the sixteenth in a continuing series of photo essays celebrating our Gatineau Valley history and heritage during Canada's sesquicentennial year. The series was created by the Gatineau Valley Historical Society (GVHS) in collaboration with The Low Down to Hull and Back News. All images are courtesy of the GVHS.

Life on the Gatineau River

Before its damming in the mid- 1920s for a major hydro-electric project, the Gatineau River was a dangerous body of water for the foolish or unwary. Although there were pleasant stretches of sandy beaches and tranquil waters, inexperienced swimmers and boaters risked injury or death in this once fast-flowing river.

150 Years of History in the Hills
Picnicking at the Cascades rapids, circa 1920, which disappeared with the flooding of the Gatineau River. Courtesy Lillian Walton.

Bertha Wilson Holt recalled the early days: "We all learned to swim at an early age in this treacherous river. We knew of the dangers and always respected the river for what it was. The logs floating downstream added to our enjoyment. Log-rolling until we were flung into the water, swimming to sandbars, and timidly looking into black swirling waters where eddies had eaten away the sand and there was a sheer drop into the bottomless river - these sights put fear into us."

"Crossing the river to pick raspberries on the mountainside was a yearly expedition. And it was done not without risk. The perilous current on the far side, floating logs, undertows, and swirling eddies had to be taken into account before attempting to cross. Boats had been known to be swept over the falls below the crossing. This happened to strangers who did not know the river."

From Volume 1 of 'Up the Gatineau!' by Mrs. C.R. Holt (Bertha Wilson).

150 Years of History in the Hills
Out for an excursion on the Cantley side of the Gatineau River near Blackburn Creek, circa 1920. Left to right: Kathleen Hickey, Anna Lynott, and her niece Patricia Lynott. Courtesy Marilyn Liddiard.
150 Years of History in the Hills
Running the rapids on the Gatineau River - a favourite Sunday pastime, circa 1920.

150 Years of History in the Hills
Balancing on logs on the shore of the Gatineau River, with the rapids nearby, circa 1910.
150 Years of History in the Hills
Tibbit family members attired in bathing costumes in the style of the day, 1920. Gatineau River at Farm Point. Courtesy Ian Crane.

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