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PORTAGE DU FORT AND THE UPPER OTTAWA

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Church of England, Portage-du-Fort. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)The steamer lands us at the little village of Portage du Fort, at the foot of the series of rapids down which, from over the falls of the Calumet, the Ottawa thunders. The road, up hill and down gully, which replaces the portage path of ancient days, even now suggests the difficulties which caused this carrying-place to be called “Portage du Fort.”

Before the construction of the railway, this bit of stage-road was an important link in the chain of Upper Ottawa communication; but now it is little used except by the river drivers and the few inhabitants of the villages at either end. We pass a pretty little Gothic church perched on the hill which overlooks the Portage du Fort rapids. It belongs to the Episcopalians, and is built in rigidly-correct early English style; there are some good memorial windows, gifts of the Usborne family who owned the mills, which have since been transferred to Braeside, near Arnprior.

The river between Portage du Fort and the Calumet is only navigable by the lumbermen’s boats descending the current in the high waters of spring-time. Even to these, this part of the Ottawa is dangerous, and is the scene of many fatal accidents. Where the river winds under the Portage du Fort church, its course takes a sudden turn, at the northern angle of which there is a projecting arm of sharp-pointed rock, partially submerged by the spring flood-tides. Woe to the birch canoe or even the stouter-ribbed bonne carries, by incautious steering, too near the “Devil’s Elbow.”