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Visiting Portage-du-Fort, Quebec: Remembering Famous Francophone and Anglophone Historic Visitors to Pontiac

Updated on January 30, 2020
Flag of Quebec
Flag of Quebec | Source
Imaginary portrait of Samuel de Champlain by Edmote-Joseph Massicotte (1875-1929)
Imaginary portrait of Samuel de Champlain by Edmote-Joseph Massicotte (1875-1929) | Source

Distinguished visitors, centuries back

In the the Municipalité régionale de comté de Pontiac / Pontiac Regional County Municipality, Portage-du-Fort is a Municipalité de village / Village Municipality, situated on the Rivière des Outaouais / Ottawa River.

In past centuries. this locality has been the scene of visits from some well-known historical figures, whether Francophone or Anglophone, in the context of France and Great Britain having vied with each other for influence in what is now Canada.The distinguished navigator and explorer Samuel de Champlain (1567/74-1635), who served as Governor of Nouvelle France / New France under Louis XIII from 1627 until 1635, is recorded as having stayed at what became Portage-du-Fort on June 6, 1613. De Champlain at the time was travelling up the Rivière des Outaouais / Ottawa River with a view to meeting representatives of First Nations who had lived in the region for centuries (1).

Another visitor, well-known in her day, was Anna Maria, Lady Head (1808-1890). Married to Governor-General of the Province of Canada Sir Edmund Walker Head (1805-1868), she was interested in exploration and in 1856 she notably travelled up the Rivière des Outaouais / Ottawa River in a bark canoe, landing at what was soon to be the municipality of Portage-du-Fort. A monument commemorating Lady Head's 1856 visit stands today close to the water's edge (see below)(2).

The monument also serves as the local war memorial for Portage-du-Fort.

January 30, 2020


(1) Another prominent Francophone visitor came in 1694; he was military engineer Louis d'Ailleboust, Sieur de Coulonge (c.1612-1660). Governor of Nouvelle France / New France under Louis XIV from 1648 until 1651, he was responsible for establishing a fur trading post at what became Portage-du-Fort.

(2) Lady Head was an artist, and it is noted that a few weeks before Queen Victoria decided to establish Ottawa as Capital of the Province of Canada in 1857 a painting of the area by Lady Head from Major's Hill was presented to Queen Victoria, which may have played a significant role in the decision. The United Townships of Head, Clara and Maria is in neighbouring Renfrew County, Ontario; Head is named for Sir Edmund Walker Head, while Maria is named for Maria, Lady Head.

Monument in Harbour Square, Portage du Fort, Quebec, Canada
Monument in Harbour Square, Portage du Fort, Quebec, Canada | Source

Also worth seeing

In Portage-du-Fort, Quebec, itself there are various heritage properties, some of them of built of stone, which surround or are close to Parc Brosseau; the town hall dates from 1855; the spired Eglise St.-James / St. James's Church dates from 1850; the village has become well known for artistic exhibitions.

In Gatineau, Quebec (distance: 88.3 kilometres), the Musée canadien des civilisations / Canadian Museum of Civilization is Canada's most visited museum. Gatineau's Masion du citoyen / Citizen's House has a noted art gallery and the Hall des nations / Hall of the Nations containing valuable cultural artifacts from around the world. Parc de la Gatineau / Gatineau Park has exceptional recreational and scenic possibilities.

In Ottawa, Ontario (distance: 91.1 kilometres) possesses cultural treasures, structures of architectural excellence and noted museums which are too numerous to mention properly here; but a few of these include Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall, the Chateau Laurier, Laurier House, the Rideau Canal, and the Bank of Canada's Currency Museum.


How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa (distance from Portage-du-Fort, Quebec: 103.3 kilometres), where car rental is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.


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