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Les Erables (The Maples)


The rapids

Les Erables Rapids

PECO, ca. 1930

The portage, which stood on the Ottawa River, between the La Cave and La Montagne, at Les Erables, was one of four important freighting stations. Historically a native encampment at its southern terminus, numerous explorers and fur traders used this same water route to access and transport furs. By the late 1860's, active lumbering and the beginnings of colonization schemes for northern Ontario and Quebec, contributed to a considerable amount of traffic along the river between Mattawa to the head of Lake Temiskaming.

Eventually "La Societe de la Colonization du Lac Temiscamingue" (The Temiskaming Colonization Society), formed a land settlement scheme, incorporated by Catholic priests from the province of Quebec. To encourage and facilitate the establishment of settlers, the colonization society formed a subsidiary company in 1883. They incorporated "La Compagnie de Chemin de fer de Temiscamingue" (or the Temiskaming Railway Company), obtaining a charter that enabled freighting tramways to be built around the rapids. The tramway at La Cave, Les Erables, and La Montagne portages were all completed that year. The following year in 1884 every obstacle within the Long Sault Rapids were bridged.

A small community quickly sprang up at Les Erables to accommodate the travellers and jobbers who funnelled through with supplies and equipment. The site grew to include a stopping place, a few freighting buildings and a depot. The settlement added a few dwellings, a small store and a post office, which was opened in 1883 by George Wilson. Horses pulled the carts along a narrow gauge track a distance of some 4.2 kilometres (3 miles). Completed that same year it was hailed as a major improvement for transportation.

The steamer Lottie left La Cave rapids and dropped passengers at the small landing at Les Erables. The freight was unloaded packed on a cart, and hauled 4.2 kilometres to the north landing. At this point another steamer, "L'Emerillon," came to the northern end of the portage and picked up the freight and continued to La Montagne Rapids where another portage carried freight to Seven League Lake and on to Beauchenes' landing on the Quebec side of the river further north.

The mouth of Beauchenes Creek was at the foot of the gruelling Long Sault portage, a series of six rapids, which spanned nearly 28 kilometres (20 miles) up to the foot of Lake Temiscaming. This is where another series of rail portages were constructed. The TRC, eventually replaced theses and completed a direct 30.8 kilometres (22 miles) narrow gage rail line by 1890. At Beauchene the freight was then hauled by a steam engine with ease all way the to the small settlements of Gordon Creek (Kipawa Mills), and Lumsden Mills (both present day Temiscaming, Quebec). From there the head of the lake was a mere leisurely 126 kilometres (90 miles) steamboat ride.

The Canadian Pacific Railway purchased the portage railroad in 1891. In 1893 they commenced construction of a standard gauge line from Mattawa to the Long Sault Rapids (Temiscamingue). In 1893 the rails had bypassed the portage trail on the Ontario side, and the following year the 88 kilometres (63 miles) line was finally completed to Lake Temiskaming. At that point Les Erables lost its purpose, and faded to obscurity to become another footnote in the Ottawa River's long history. In 1948 After the Otto Holden Dam was completed and activated, the remains of Les Erables were lost forever under the river.