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Matthew Farfan

Autumn at the falls, from the lookout. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)The Chutes de Plaisance, or Plaisance Falls, are located about five kilometres north of the village of Plaisance, along Route 148. An exceptional natural and historic site, for over a century, the falls were the site of a thriving mill town known as North Nation Mills.

In its heyday in the late 1800s, North Nation Mills boasted over 300 residents. Most of them worked at the large sawmill that was powered by the raging torrent of the Plaisance Falls. The village that grew up around the mill had a general store (owned by the mill), churches, a schoolhouse, a cheese factory -- all kinds of activity, in fact. But all of that is gone now; and the site is virtually a ghost town.

Plaisance, c.1910. (Photo - Museopolis)Established at the very beginning of the 19th century, the mills (and falls) changed hands several times over the next century. Joseph Papineau (the father of Louis-Joseph Papineau, the politician) was the first person to develop the site. Following him, it passed to a series of different owners, until it was purchased by the W. C. Edwards Company. In the 1920s, the site was acquired by the Gatineau Power Company so that that company could build a hydro-electric plant. It was at this time that most of the buildings in the village were demolished or relocated. Tests were conducted by the company on the rock around the falls, and surprisingly, the site was deemed inappropriate for the installation of a power plant. The project was abandoned.

Autumn at the falls, from the lookout. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)

Today little remains of the village’s bustling past. However, the site is now home to the Parc des Chutes de Plaisance (Plaisance Falls Park). The falls, which plunge 188 feet (67 metres), are a spectacular sight, particularly during the spring, when melting snow raises the water to a breathtaking level.A lookout, observation points, and a hiking trail allow visitors to enjoy the natural splendour of the site. The park is an excellent spot for a walk or a picnic, and during the summer plays are performed. The reception area contains a scale model of the old village of North Nation Mills.

Parc des Chutes de Plaisance is located at 100 Rang Malo, 5 km north of Plaisance village. From Plaisance, turn right onto Montée Papineau, and then left on Rang Malo.Opening hours are from mid-June to Labour Day, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The park may also be open at other times of year, but hours vary. Admission is $4.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors, $2.00 for students, and free for children under 10 years old. Season passes are available for $30.00. For groups of 20 or more, admission is $3.00 per person (reservations required). For more information, call (819) 427-6355 or (819) 427-6400.

Plaisance Heritage Centre (Photo - Matthew Farfan)

Included in the Chutes de Plaisance entry fee is admission to the Centre d’interprétaion du patrimoine de Plaisance (Plaisance Heritage Centre), at 276 rue Desjardins, Plaisance. The interpretation centre, which occupies the former Catholic presbytery, has the same season and business hours as the Chutes, and the two sites complement each other well.

Displays at the Centre, which include artifacts excavated at archaeological sites in the area, focus on local life during three distinct periods: the time of the Algonquins; the heyday of North Nation Mills; and the modern village of Plaisance, which was settled around 1900. A separate exhibition spotlights the timber industry in the Outaouais region. Guided tours are available, as are visits to local cemeteries. For more information, call (819) 427-6400.