The River of Dreams

The Bonnechere River, a winding tributary of the Ottawa River, is the subject of a photo exhibition August 6 and 7 in the visitor centre at Bonnechere Provincial Park.

The River of Dreams exhibit is part of the Passport to the Past Festival and features the works of Ottawa-area photographers Victoria Alexander and Richard McGuire. The photos include pictures of the Bonnechere, as well as scenery from its 2 400 square-kilometre watershed – a drainage area half the size of Prince Edward Island.

Alexander, who runs Springtown ArtWorks near Burnstown, is an artist who works primarily with paints, but is also an accomplished photographer. Her work in this exhibit is exclusively photography. McGuire, from Chelsea, Quebec, is an internationally published photographer and former journalist.

The Bonnechere River flows 145 km through many different landscapes on its journey from its headwaters in the rocky McKaskill Lake in Algonquin Park to the flat wetlands where it enters the Ottawa River near Castleford. It winds through forests of the Canadian Shield, marshes, limestone outcroppings, pastoral farmland, and deep valleys. Over its course, it descends a number of waterfalls, rapids and dams, some of which provide power for small hydro generating stations.

The lands of the Bonnechere have been inhabited by Aboriginal people for about 5000 years. In the early 19th century, European fur traders entered the area, establishing trading posts at Golden Lake and into Algonquin Park. The Bonnechere became their main transportation route, and later became a major corridor for loggers and settlers.

The Bonnechere winds through thick bush from McKaskill Lake and several other branches in southeast Algonquin Park, accessible only by canoe and bushwhacking. It flows near to Basin Depot, an old settlement where a log trading post and a few wooden crosses of graves remain. Down river, a section known as the Little Bonnechere is made up of several small lakes. From there, the river meanders through marshes, entering Round Lake at Bonnechere Provincial Park. Golden Lake is the other major lake on its course. The river also passes through several towns and communities, the principle ones being Eganville, Douglas and Renfrew.

During spring runoff especially, the river makes a dramatic descent of several waterfalls and rapids. The fourth chute, near the limestone Bonnechere Caves, and the first chute, between Renfrew and Castleford, are particularly scenic.

The name “Bonnechere” comes from the French words “bonne” (good) and “chère” (dear). Whether this referred to a young woman, the abundant food provided by the area’s wildlife, or perhaps some other meaning, is a matter of debate and speculation.

Victoria Alexander is a graduate of Ontario College of Art and the Fine Arts program at University of Guelph. Raised in the Ottawa Valley, she also lived for more than a decade in New York City, where she was involved in the art scene in the Lower East Side. www.victoriaalexander.com
(613) 796-1025

Richard McGuire has travelled to more than 50 countries of the world, often on a shoestring, and also worked as a journalist for 13 years. He currently works for a Member of Parliament, and is a photographer in his spare time. His website is: www.richardmcguire.ca
(613) 762-7232

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