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First Came the Rocks

The paths of the Mattawa and Ottawa Rivers follow a major fault in the earth’s crust as they course through the Canadian Shield, one of Canada’s most important landforms. The rocks comprising the shoreline of these rivers range from 600 million to 4.2 billion years of age. They were created as continents collided and magma oozed from the earth’s molten core. During cooling, rocks crystallized into various formations and sizes.
More recenty – over the past 10 000 years – glaciers scraped and eroded the rock of the Canadian Shield. The movement of ice and water reshaped some mountains into high rounded hills – clearly visible in the Mattawa area – while other rock faces and jagged outcroppings were left completely exposed. As the ice retreated, a thin layer of rounded boulders, silt, sand and clay was deposited in its wake.
These melting glaciers created such a massive release of water that before the land rebounded, the Great Lakes flowed eastward through the Mattawa area and numerous lakes and rivers were formed – including the immense watershed of the Ottawa River Valley.

Where Two Rivers Meet

Ten thousand years ago the once massive ice sheets that covered the Mattawa area receded north, but it would be several thousand years more before humans occupied this region. The late-prehistoric Shield Archaic peoples [A.D. 500-1600] lived here prior to Eurpean contact as evidenced by recovered stone implements, arrowheads and fire-cracked rocks. These artefacts show they were intimately aligned with the natural world upon which they depended for survival – their lives evolved around hunting, fishing and gathering. Legend has it that many important spirits also inhabited the landscape at prominent lookouts and rock faces along these rivers.
Long before the arrival of the French and English fur traders, the confluence of the Ottawa and Mattawa rivers served as a natural meeting place for the well established Amerindian trading network. This ‘meeting of the waters’ became an important trading destination for Cree from the north, Hurons of the south and west, and the Algonkians of the east.
Ultimately the fur trade was the start of 300 years of change for the Native peoples. Alignment with the two competing European powers created both opportunities and conflict, forever altering the nomadic lifestyle.