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Birds of the Shoreline

A rich variety of bird life is found in the area due mainly to the diverse habitats associated with the Ottawa River. The young deciduous woodlands on several of the small islands and along the shore are home to numerous open forest birds such as Baltimore orioles, warbling vireos and brown thrashers. The beautiful orange, black and white Baltimore oriole builds a nest that hangs from drooping branches of an elm or poplar tree. Year after year dozens of cliff swallows stick their gourd-shaped mud nests to the underside walls of the Long Sault Interprovincial Bridge. This is the renowned swallow that every March 19 heralds spring in San Juan, Capistrano. The ring-billed gulls – our most common gull – and the rarer great black-backed gulls often rest on large rocks jutting out of the river or on the manicured lawns of Confederation Park. The great black-backed gull is the largest of its species in North America. In the calm waters of the small bays families of mallard ducklings find shelter among the cattails.

Lumber and Power

In 1796 Nathaniel Treadwell purchased the Seigneurie of Longueil. In 1803 he sold some of this land plus two islands to fellow American Thomas Mears who operated Canada’s first paper mill at St-André d’Argenteuil. Along with Dr. David Pattee and a certain Mr. Shuter, Mears built a sawmill between the two islands and operated it using power from a hydroelectric dam which was built across the ‘Chenail écarté’ [remote Chenail].
George Hamilton, an Irishman from Lower Canada, purchased Mears’s business in 1808. According to Canada’s first official census in 1871, Hamilton’s Hawkesbury Mills were the largest in the country. More than 1000 employees produced as much as 70 000 board feet of lumber per day. Red and white pine from the forests of la Rouge, Gatineau and Mattawa was shipped to Liverpool. In 1888 the death of the last surviving member of the Hamilton family marked the decline of the lumber industry in the region.
Between 1959 and 1964, Hydro expropriated 14 streets, 80 houses and several other buildings at the Chenail in order to build the Carillon Dam. The Maison de l’Ile and Confederation Park are the only remaining vestiges of the community’s industrious past. In 1995 the Maison de l’Ile was designated a historic and architectural heritage site.