Its name is an Algonquin word that loosely translates to “along the path followed by the tribes” — a reference, perhaps, to the Ottawa River. For nearly a century, it was a major staging area for logging operations in the Upper Ottawa Valley. This summer, it will be a hub for a different kind of activity when Quebec’s newest provincial park opens on June 21.
Parc national d’Opémican, which protects 252 square kilometres of forested land between the Ontario-Quebec border and Lac Kipawa, about 400 kilometres northwest of Ottawa, is the realization of a nearly 40-year dream for people in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region who wanted to see the remains of the timber rafting relay station at Pointe Opémican, on Lac Témiscamingue, preserved. In the 1880s and ’90s, squared logs of white and red pine bound for Britain and America were assembled here into enormous rafts of as many as 3,000 individual logs to be driven down the Ottawa River to Montreal or Quebec City.
“Pointe Opémican was a unique place at that time,” says Dany Gareau, the park’s director. “People there were even developing new techniques and tools to improve the job,” including larger-than-normal booms capable of handling the frequent high waves on the lake.
The Auberge Jodoin, one of several historic buildings at the heart of Parc national d’Opémican. Built in 1883, it served as temporary accommodation and an outfitter for the raftsmen who floated logs down the Ottawa River. (Photo: Alexandra Pope/Canadian Geographic)
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Canadian Geographic is a magazine of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society. The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is dedicated to making Canada better known to Canadians, and the world.