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Oiseau Rock

Oiseau [wazo] Rock is a 46 m sheer rock face rising out of the Ottawa River, across from the AECL Chalk River Laboratories about 16 km upriver from Petawawa. What makes this outcrop unique is that Oiseau Rock possesses many of the attributes typical of sites deemed sacred to Native peoples. A vertical wall rises directly out of the water: sky, land and water meet so that manitous – spirits - can travel from this world to the next. Natives also believe that spirits dwell in people, animals and the components of land including rocks such as Oiseau.
Here, as at other sacred sites, Natives left behind an enduring legacy in the form of pictographs – picture writings – that give testimony to their spiritual experience. These Algonkian pictographs were drawn using red ochre, a mineral mined at sites across the Canadian Shield including nearby Mattawa.
The following is one of several Algonkian legends associated with Oiseau – which means ‘bird’ in French: A maiden was standing atop the cliff when she accidentally lost hold of her baby. As the child fell an eagle flew in and caught him – returning him safely to his mother. From this experience the baby grew through life with the strength and spirit of the eagle.

The Point

In 1870 a survey to establish the Town Plot encompassed The Point where the Petawawa River empties into the Ottawa River. The growth of the logging industry meant good things for the area, and the increased need for transportation services saw the development of a wharf at the Point to accommodate three large steamships. Skipped by Captain Tessier, the prestigious S.S. Oiseau carried passengers and freight, while the rugged C.B. Powell and E.H. Bronson were used solely for pulling log booms. Passengers and freight were carried to and fro between Rapides des Joachims and Pembroke.
All this activity spurred more in return. Jack W. MacLean built the MacLean Hotel – better known as the Dew Drop Inn – as a stopover for men heading to the logging camps on the Mattawa River. James Davis operated a sawmill at the end of River Road where the Johnson cottage now stands. A popular dance hall provided entertainment for the many loggers and their sweethearts who enjoyed many a steamboat soirée. Alas, the S.S. Oiseau sank in the late 1920s signalling an end to the romantic era of steamboat travel. The development of the Town of Petawawa shifted inland to the King’s Road/Hwy 17 and the railroad, today’s Petawawa Boulevard.