La Chaudière Falls
Champlain navigated the Ottawa River between 1613 and 1616 in order to explore the area and to arrive in Huronia.
The Amerindians who were supposed to bring Champlain to trade furs and explore all corners of New France that were still unknown by explorers in 1610, decided to postpone the voyage to 1611 or 1612. Champlain was disappointed but decided to make the most of his voyage to New France. Savignon, a Native ally who became Champlain's confidant, offered to act as his guide. Champlain accepted and after a few detours in France he undertook a voyage with Savignon that took them along the banks of the Ottawa River.
There is little documentation on the history of Champlain in the Ottawa River Valley. Champlain took this river because he considered it to be the shortest and least dangerous route to get to Huron country.
During his short trip along the Ottawa River, Champlain noticed some rough terrain but he looked on the bright side :
"It is true that God wanted to give this terrible and deserted land something refreshing for man and the inhabitants of this area. I assure you that all along these rivers there is a large amount of blueberries, a small fruit, delicious to eat and raspberries and other small fruits in such great amounts that it is amazing."
When Champlain travelled the Ottawa River, it was called the Kitchi-sippi, meaning "The Great River." Then it had several other names: "Grande Rivière", "rivière de Prairies", "rivière des Algonquins", "rivière des Français" and "rivière du Nord" before finding the name it carries today. "Ottawa" comes from "Outaouas", the name of an Amerindian tribe. Some claim that they were called the "Outaouak" or the "Ootaooa". Initially it was said that these Amerindians lived on the river bank. Eventually, all agreed that they were the first to navigate the river. In fact, the name of this tribe was given to the great river because they were the first to openly trade on its shores. The French name "Outaouais" was translated to "Ottawa" in English to facilitate pronunciation.
La Chaudière Falls
Champlain reported that certain Amerindian tribes stopped here to perform ceremonies. They used tobacco while singing and dancing around the fire. But, knowing they tended to stop here, their enemies occasionally surprised them here.
Indians Offering Tobacco at Chaudière Falls
National Archives of Canada/C-1279/Detail