Mattawa is a tiny town of 2000 people (2021) in Northern Ontario on the Trans-Canada Highway between North Bay and Algonquin Provincial Park. Mattawa sits at the junction of the Mattawa and Ottawa rivers and serves as a point of departure for canoeing or boating on the Ottawa River. The drive along Highway 17 is pretty in the fall when the leaves are changing colours. The area offers fishing, camping, and hiking, numerous motels, campgrounds, and retreat centres.
Mattawa means "Meeting of the Waters" in the Algonquin language.
The town's population is about one third French-speaking.
The area was first inhabited by Indigenous people who used the Mattawa River as an important transportation corridor for many centuries. In 1610, Étienne Brûlé and in 1615, Samuel de Champlain were the first Europeans to travel through the Mattawa area. For 200 years thereafter, it was a link in the important water route leading from Montreal west to Lake Superior. Canoes travelling west up the Ottawa turned left at "the Forks" (the mouth of the Mattawa) to enter the "Petite Rivière" ("Small River", as compared to the Ottawa), before continuing on to Lake Nipissing.
The Mattawa House was established by the Northwest Company in 1784. In the 1820s and 1830s, the Hudson's Bay Company (after it had merged with the Northwest Company) sent canoe brigades from their Fort Coulonge Post to the Mattawa River junction in order to trade furs. In 1837, a permanent post was established, but was moved to a new site in the centre of present-day Mattawa in 1843.
In the 19th century, Mattawa became a hub for the logging industry, which would harvest large untouched stands of white pine in the area and use the Mattawa River to transport logs to sawmills. In 1881, the railway was built to Mattawa. It was mostly built by French Canadian labourers. After the railway's completion, some of these labourers and their families settled in Mattawa (and surrounding areas), bringing with them their culture and heritage.
Logging is still an important industry in this region, and nearby provincial parks and wilderness support the camping, hunting, fishing and tourism industry in Mattawa today.
Mattawa elected Canada's first-ever Black mayor, Firmin Monestime, in 1963. He served until his death in 1977.
Get in Edit
By bus Edit
- Ontario Northland, toll-free: . Operates primarily in Northern Ontario. Between Ottawa and Sudbury including stops in Kanata, Arnprior, Renfrew, Pembroke, Petawawa, Mattawa, and North Bay. Travel time to Mattawa from Ottawa is 4.5 hours ($61-70 as of Sep 2021) and from North Bay is 45 min ($14-16 as of Sep 2021).
Get around Edit
- There are many large wooden statues placed widely throughout Mattawa, and in two locations outside the town on nearby Highway 17. They depict local historical figures, such as Champlain, Pierre-Esprit Radisson, Médard des Groseilliers, and others. The Mattawa District Museum prominently features a 17 ft (5.2 m) statue of Big Joe Mufferaw, a regional folk hero.
- 1 Mattawa Museum, 285 First St (in the historic Mattawa House), ☏ . Th-Su 10AM-4PM.
- 1 Explorer's Point Park (at the west end of town, over the Mauril Belanger bridge). A small city park on a point where the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers meet; it is a lovely spot with a beautiful view.
- 2 Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, 6905 Highway 17 E, Mattawa, ☏ . Hiking trails, scenic views, Voyageur canoes, Mattawa River Visitor Centre and Canadian Ecology Centre, an eco-friendly retreat centre.
- Mattawa Voyageur Days Festival, toll-free: . Last weekend of July, four days (Th-Su). Live music, regional talent night, lumberjack competition, canoe race, fireworks at dusk on closing day. Past headline acts include April Wine, Trooper, Saga, Loverboy, Honeymoon Suite, Chuck Labelle, David Wilcox, Peter Frampton, Heart and Tom Cochrane. $40/person.
- Voyageur Multi Use Trail System, 119 Argo Run, Mattawa (Hwy 533 to Murphys Rd), ☏ , toll-free: . Over 300 km (180 mi) of year-round ATV, horse, bike, motorbike and snowmobile trails. $12/day (trail pass includes map).
- Algonquin Provincial Park can be accessed from the north side in Kiosk or the east side in Brent.
Eat and drink Edit
- 1 Mattawa Chicken, 1240 John St, ☏ . W 4-8PM, Th Su 2-8PM, F Sa 2-10PM, closed M Tu.
- 2 Myrt's Restaurant, 610 McConnell St, ☏ . 8AM-8PM, closed Tu W. Burgers, sandwiches, chicken fingers, pizza.
- 3 Moon Cafe, 312 Main St, ☏ . Summer only: Tu-Sa 11AM-8PM. Cafe and bar. Diverse menu. Sometimes has live music in the evening.
- 4 Tai Pan China Café, 385 Main St, ☏ . Tu-Su 4-8:30PM.
- 1 Mattawa Adventure Camp, 4601 Hwy. 17E, Mattawa, ☏ . Swimming, fishing, snowmobiling, hunting, skiing, cottage and room rental.
- 2 Valois Motel, 701 Valois Dr, Mattawa, ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Licensed restaurant (7AM-9PM, nothing fancy, but tasty and good value for the money; worth a stop for lunch if you're driving the Trans-Canada Highway), 42-room motel, two seasonal cottages on Ottawa River, wi-fi, a/c, higher rates and restrictions apply during Voyageur Days. $80-110.
- 3 The Canadian Ecology Centre, 6905 Highway 17, ☏ , toll-free: , email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Beautiful cabins in a wooded environment. Located at the Canadian Ecology Centre at the Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. Book ahead as many conferences take place here, and space can be limited. Medium-sized function facilities also available.
Go next Edit
- Algonquin Park ― the northern periphery of the park is mostly backcountry, accessible by canoe. Two rustic drive-in campgrounds also serve car campers looking for a taste of Algonquin's wilderness near Mattawa.
- North Bay ― the next city on the Trans-Canada Highway heading west, and the gateway to Northern Ontario.
- Ottawa ― Canada's capital, about 300 km (190 mi) east along the Trans-Canada.
- Pembroke ― down the Ottawa river, near the eastern edge of Algonquin Park. This part of the river offers whitewater rafting opportunities.
|Routes through Mattawa|
|Sudbury ← North Bay ←||W E||→ Petawawa → Ottawa|