Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Ottawa Valley

Last week I flew to Ontario to spend a few days with my Mum. I visited with her shortly after we arrived home in the spring, but wanted to spend a bit more time with her before we headed south again, to our other home, in Mazatlan. This visit was special for Mum, as my brother, who lives in Banff, Alberta, was able to join us.

My parents were both born and raised in the Ottawa Valley. My father, however, had a lifelong career in the Canadian Air Force and after their marriage they travelled far and wide (including four wonderful years in Germany) and it was not until his final posting to DND Headquarters in Ottawa that they found themselves close to 'home base' again.

I really don't think they expected it, after all their travels, but after Dad's retirement, they bought a home in Almonte, a lovely little town in the Ottawa Valley. I seem to remember some talk about the Annapolis Valley, in Nova Scotia, which was our posting after Germany, but there was one final move for them, to Ottawa, and I guess the Valley just felt like home.

Mum was raised on a farm just outside of Almonte, an hour outside Ottawa, and attended High School in town. My Dad was born and raised in a very tiny village, Clyde Forks, about an hour from Almonte. Mum and Dad didn't meet until after the War, in Ottawa. We've heard stories about how our grandfathers met at one point. Sure wish I knew the details of that visit as their lives were worlds apart it the '30s!

Almonte and Clyde Forks were where we went for summer holidays. We would spend 2 weeks at the "Farm" and then another 2 weeks at the "Forks". I guess the Valley felt like, and still does, a little bit like 'home base' for us as well. I refuse to use the term Air Force Brats, but I guess we were. Home was where our family was from, even if we had never lived there. Actually, in retrospect, home was where Mum and Dad lived, even after I grew up, moved to another Province and got married!

My brother and I decided to play 'tourist' one day and headed out with our cameras. My Mum's parents sold the homestead where she was born and raised and moved into Almonte in the 70's and although I would have loved to make the trek out to see the farm, Mum said that it has changed so much we wouldn't recognise it. Next visit, I'm heading out the Golden Line anyway to see if I can find it! As we weren't sure exactly how to get back out to the farm, we explored Almonte and made the drive out into the country to visit Clyde Forks once again.

Almonte was established in 1819 and is a perfect example of an Ottawa Valley town. The architecture and homes are outstanding. The Falls are an integral part of the town and have provided a source of power since it's inception.

Many of the homes in Almonte are truly lovely. These are a few of my favourites.

Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was born in Ramsay Township, just outside of Almonte, in 1891.

Almonte was a booming metropolis compared to Clyde Forks. When Dad called the Forks home the population might have totalled 100. The road into town was almost impassable in the winter and the hardy Scottish folks who settled there in the mid 1880s supported themselves by working at the lumber mill, or hunting, fishing and trapping. The village is surrounded on three sides by water (the Clyde River) and although it was originally accesible by railway, the line has line been removed, or covered to form a road, of sorts.

The last time I visited Clyde Forks, with my Dad, there were perhaps 2 occupied houses. My brother and I were shocked, and so pleased, to find on our visit this year that people are returning to the village. I think Dad would be happy as well.

Clyde Forks is one of the most isolated and beautiful places I have ever been to. I could never live there, but I also can't wait to go back.


  1. Wow, who knew? Good on ya for playing tourist at home. I should do the same thing one day if I ever make it back to Grand Coulee Dam, Washington. Lots of awesome things there too, but never appreicated them while I grew up there.
    Very nice posting.
    Safe and lovley journey back to Mazatlan.

  2. Thanks - it has been a lot of fun over the summer. And other than paying for gas and wearing out shoes, most of it has been free!