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  • The Low Down

Gatineau River is for all, but we all need to do our part

The beautiful Te-nagàdino-zìbi, now known as the Gatineau River, had flowed wild and free through the Algonquin/Anishinàbeg territory for centuries. It was only in the 1820s that the river became dominated by the logging industry and clogged with logs. The Gatineau River was one of the last Canadian rivers to give up logging in 1992. In the 1920s, large corporations were given a monopoly to all river rights, including the construction of three hydroelectric dams. This flooded many villages and farms, displacing people and wildlife, but made the lower Gatineau grow wide and calm. “Deadheads” (logs so waterlogged they float vertically) floated for many years after logging ended, but as they became sparser, the motorboat traffic steadily increased.

During the summer of COVID-19, the Gatineau River has become an extraordinarily popular location to marvel at the breathtaking scenery, take a cool dip, float carefree with the current, catch a diversity of fish and explore via paddling or motorboating. The river is still one of the cleanest in Quebec and is for everyone to share and enjoy in different ways. However, if we are not all careful, we will put the river’s health in danger, as well as our own safety. 

Given that the river and its access remains largely unregulated and uncontrolled, how long before there are drownings or injuries due to collisions? When will the Gatineau River and its biodiversity no longer be able to sustain the garbage, invasive species, chemicals from motors, fertilizer and