Sunday, February 18 was a gorgeous winter’s day for the Friends of Chats Falls (FCF) snowshoe tour of the Horse Railway. Fifty people came to Pontiac Bay to learn more about this unique railway inspired by the leading lumber baron of the Pontiac, John Egan, who with Ruggles Wright and Joseph Aumond constructed and ran it for 30 years between 1847 and 1878. Although only 5.5 km long it allowed steamboat passengers to bypass the Chats Falls in relative comfort in order to continue their trips upstream as far as Pembroke and Rapides-des-Joachim.
In spite of the snow cover, there were signs of the railway everywhere. There was a section of rail bed resembling a gigantic ”baguette” and cuts in the rocks that will remain visible for many thousands of years. But the gigantic wooden trestles that allowed the railway to run level have been reduced to the odd rusty nail.
The snowshoe outing was the fourth public event organized by FCF since its founding in August 2017. The group’s mission is to promote the cultural,
historical and natural wealth of the Chats Falls region of the Ottawa River watershed through interpretative programs and sustainable
recreational activities respectful of the area’s native biodiversity.
“It’s great to see a grassroots movement working to raise the profile of this area that is so rich in natural and cultural heritage”, said Marc Godin, VP at Les Brasseurs du Temps microbrewery and restaurant in Gatineau and one of the forces
behind Gatineau Plein Air Outaouais.
The French tour was led by Maude-Emmanuelle Lambert with Bob Baser leading the English tour. Participants in the outing included municipality of Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie, counsellors Susan McKay, Scott MacDonald, Bristol municipal councillor Debbie Kilgour, people from around the region including several children and a 4-month old baby. When the tour was over, participants headed to Le Domaine de Pontiac Village for refreshments and socializing.