Bonnechere Museum | Eganville Ontario

The Highway 60 Corridor

Choose a route less traveled. Soak up the feeling of stepping into a rural past set apart from cell phone or computer chip. Create your own self-directed tour of the Bonnechere and Madawaska River Valleys where timber makers cut and squared logs and sent them down the slides and rapids to the Ottawa and St. Lawrence. Whether you approach from the headwaters in Algonquin Park or from Chats Lake on the Ottawa River, you will be steeped in the lore of pristine white water and flat water where descendants of the pioneer loggers have built settlements and small businesses.

Renfrew, located at the second log chute boasts the O’Brien Theatre, home of an operational Theatre Organ, along with the McDougal Mill Museum. To the pioneers, the rivers were the first roads. Today, if you start at the east from Highway 17, you can travel parallel to the Bonnechere along the Highway 60 corridor, passing from Renfrew through the settlements of the founding Scots, Irish and Polish to Douglas, the leprechaun capital, a centre for crafts, a general store, and bed and breakfast accommodation.

In Douglas, take the road to the world famous Bonnechere Caves and be a spelunker. From the Caves it is a short run to Eganville, namesake of Ottawa Valley timber king John Egan, site of the fifth chute on the river, and the location of Bonnechere Museum, which presents the story of the river, its people, and a model log chute. A walk in the park above an outlier of Ordovician limestone is refreshing and there are several good restaurants.

Highway 60 west leads to Golden Lake’s Aboriginal site, the Algonquin Culture and Heritage Centre, and to a craft store at Deacon called the Algonquin Trading Post. Beyond lies Killaloe, named by James Bonfield, timber king of the Bonnechere. You can head north to Round Lake and the relaxation of Bonnechere Parks, or search out the spirits of the Little Bonnechere. Westward again on 60 takes you to the Wilno lookout where an historic plaque describes Wilno as Canada’s first Polish settlement; it is also the home of Stone Fence Theatre, presenters of the lore and talents of the Ottawa Valley on stage in small community performances.

Still to the west, lies Barry’s Bay. If you stay on 60 west, you can relax and dine at Madawaska Valley Inn. By now, you will have retraced many of the steps of timber giants O’Brien, Barnet, McDonell, McKay, Egan, Bonfield and Turner, McLachlin and McRae, Omanique, and John Rudolphus Booth who had the contract to supply the timber for Canada’s first parliament buildings and built a railway to American markets. The timber makers searched out the great pineries that extended into the reaches of what is now Algonquin Park where you can visit Loggers’ Museum.

Travelers may approach the valleys from the Park as well as coming north on 62. Regardless of the arrival point, there is another ‘must see’ route with stone and rail fences and a mix of rolling and abrupt hills and hilltop views. From Barry’s Bay, go south on 62. Enjoy the South of 60 arts Centre and proceed along Kaminiskeg Lake, where a dead man saved three from drowning when the Mayflower sank.

To continue your journey parallel to the Madawaska, watch for Highway, which leads to the white water of Palmer Rapids or to Aqua Rose Gems and Minerals in Quadeville. This is an astounding trip amid the glory of autumn colours. An option at this point is the road to Rockingham to visit the historic Anglican Church. You will notice that many of the rural communities still have lumbering as a main part of their economy.

Traveling east on 515 leads to an intersection with Highway 512. You have another choice here. Heading north takes you to a village of past-greatness, Brudenell, which once boasted three hotels, a race track, blacksmith shops, and the Costello store which provided winter supplies to the loggers heading into the lumber camps, and ran a tab for their families. If you go south on Highway 512, you come to Foymount, the highest populated point in Ontario, site of the Pine Tree Line radar station, Black Water Designs factory outlet, and the Whip-poor-will Tea Room – a great place to have lunch and enjoy the view.

If time or endurance is an influence, following 512 will bring you back to Eganville. However, you should not miss the historic Opeongo Line which swings south about a mile east of Foymount. The Opeongo Line leads you along the south side of Lake Clear, down Plaunt’s Mountain overlooking Turner and Blueberry Island to the sparkling waters of Opeongo Mountain Trout Farm. The famous Opeongo settlement road leads south and east to The Stopping Place. At this point you can take the McGrath Road to 41 and Eganville or advance through Esmonde to intersect with Highway 41. Travel south on 41 brings you to Dacre where you can turn east to visit the Balaclava mill and return to Douglas, or continue south through Shamrock, returning to Renfrew. Memories are made of such rural routes, exploring the historical roots and landscapes of the Bonnechere and Madawaska Valleys.