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The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the November 17, 2010 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Positives arise from Gatineau Valley flooding

Foreword by Louise Schwartz

The damming of the Gatineau River in 1926-27 for a hydroelectric project would result in the significant raising of water levels. Many, but not all, shoreline property owners were opposed to it. Alex Grant, then a cottager in Kirk's Ferry, had a contrasting view. His letter to the editor appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on Feb. 3, 1927. Grant's own cottage on Hellard Rd. had been expropriated, forcing him to rebuild further up the road. His son, 91-year-old Gordon Grant of Ottawa, still visits the family cottage now owned by daughter Betty Lidington and her husband, Bill. His other daughter is Larrimac resident Shirley Grant Brown. The letter has been edited for length.

The Way We Were
The dramatic churning of the Gatineau River at Eaton's Chute in Kirk's Ferry, before the 1926 construction of dams at Low and Chelsea calmed its waters (1920). Photo courtesy Gatineau Valley Historical Society.

"The Gatineau Valley is being flooded." Such is the headline which will someday soon appear in the daily papers, and the news will be read with a tinge of sadness by many who roamed through the picturesque valley as children and know its every nook and cranny.

But a certain great English poet has said "The old order changeth yielding place to new."

Yes the old order changeth, the Eton (sic) Chutes will no longer command admiration as the swirling waters toss the saw logs about, and hurl them on the rocks below with a booming sound, which to the uninitiated is mistaken for thunder. The trailing arbutus, with its hairy leaves and fragrant flowers, which grows around the rocks near the foot of the Chutes will disappear. The adjoining Chutes hill which many a vain tourist attempted to climb in high gear will be unrecognizable after the railway rock-cut is made through it, and the peaceful alluvial valley, known as Kirk's Ferry, will be but an expanse of water.

The Sheeps falls where the lads congregated from far and near for a shower bath on a warm summer evening will cease its shimmering. The Skunk valley, where the most luxuriant berries grow will be submerged, and the bathing beaches which appear on this side of the river this year and next year on the other side will cease their shifting. But there is one landmark which will survive. The Wishing Rock, which now commands a view for miles up and down the valley remains intact. The heap of stones is mute testimony that many wishers have visited the place and thrown their stones on the place as they made their wishes. But the old order changeth yielding place to new.

The new railway location will skirt the shore of the lake which the dam will create and consequently avoid many of the dangerous old grades.

The motor highway is located further up the slope, and commands a more extensive view of the valley, as well as avoiding the deep valleys created by the railway.

Old tumble-down shanties, built of logs or slabs by pioneers, and patched up and classified as summer cottages, will be consigned to oblivion, no longer to mar the landscape.

Boating and canoeing, which heretofore had been considered dangerous owing to the treacherous currents and backwaters, will now be rendered safe over an expanse of still water extending from Chelsea to Wakefield.

The dilemma of visiting your cottage in the spring and finding it surrounded with water will disappear as the river will be maintained at a uniform level throughout the year thus preventing flooding. Neither will the railway trains be compelled to crawl along at a snail pace over a portion of submerged track. The children will select new haunts to spend their happy childhood hours and in a short while the old Gatineau Valley will be forgotten.

May the new Gatineau bring with it a generous portion of comfort, health and happiness.

Signed A.W. Grant, BA


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