Ottawa River power dam at Mattawa

This section of the Trans-Canada follows Highway 17 from the junction with the Mattawa River, which bends the highway westward, southeasterly to the Ontario-Quebec border.

Along the Ottawa River one of the first roads built was The Pembroke and Mattawan Road between Pembroke and Mattawa, built between 1856 and 1863. This was one of the series of Colonization Roads designed to foster settlement in outlying areas of the then-colony of Upper Canada. There was also a road, the Ottawa & Opeongo Road built in 1854–1865, which connected to the Peterson Road  which was built 1858–1863 to get early settlers all the way to Lake Simcoe and Lake Huron.

In 1921, the highway from Ottawa to Arnprior was extended to Pembroke via Renfrew, Cobden and Beachburg. By 1925, the entire route from the Quebec border through Ottawa and up to Pembroke became known as Highway 17.

In 1930, the Pembroke-North Bay Road was completed as well as the North BaySudburySault Ste Marie Road. In 1931, certain roads were designated as “Trans-Canada” and prioritized for improvement. In 1931,

In Ottawa, the original routing of Highway 17 was Carling Avenue, Richmond Rd, Wellington Street, and Rideau Street to Montreal Road. East of Ottawa, The original routing of Highway 17 followed what is now Montreal Road, and the Old Montreal Road eastward out of Ottawa; And from Ottawa east through Rockland (Laurier Street to Hawkesbury (Eliza Street, Front Road and Main Street); and along the shore of the Ottawa River between Hawkesbury and Pointe-Fortune, on the Quebec border

Between Bissett and Deep River the highway passes through the Upland Forest Zone. Across the Ottawa River in Quebec, the hills of the Laurentian Shield rise 300 metres (1000 feet) above the river. These hills are covered with pine, spruce, aspen and birch forests. These gently rolling forested hills continue to the south into Algonquin Provincial Park’s protected wilderness. The 7,600 square kilometre Algonquin Park was established by the Ontario government in 1893. The trees along the Trnas-Canada Highway are second-growth stands of pine and aspen, and there is an active forest industry in the area.

Just east of Rolphton, you pass the Des Joachims Dam, which is the largest hydro generating station along the Ottawa River. Holden Lake is upstream of the dam. McConnell Island, in the middle of the river, was the location of a 1700s Hudson’s Bay trading post. You can also see timber chutting down a channel below the dam. Driftwood Provincial Park, about 8 km west of the dam, features colourful outcrops of gneiss and granite, and has lots of wildlife including chipmunks, rabbits and porcupines.

artillery display at Petawawa
Between Chalk River and Petawawa, the highway passes through a Sand Plain Zone, which was formed by an ancient river delta. When the mile-deep glaciers receded, the land began to bounce back from not having that weight on it (and continues to rise, to this day), and the glacial meltwaters of Lake Huron drained eastward to the Champlain Sea and toward the Atlantic here. The vegetation around Petawawa is mostly jack pine, with lots of blueberry bushes, similar to what is found on the Atlantic seashore at Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The area is well suited to military training, which is why the telephone poles alongside the highway are low to the ground. Corry Lake, by the Petawawa Forestry Station, is popular for bass and muskie fishing.

Pembroke Bypass

Highway 17 follows the Pembroke Bypass, bypassing west of Petawawa and Pembroke, where it intersects Highway 41. The bypass ends at Renfrew County Road 40, north of Muskrat Lake

At Pembroke, the highway westbound climbs a hill which marks the ancient shoreline of the Champlain Sea. From dowtown Pembroke, you see the country’s first hydro electric power dam, which still operates, and is marked with a historical plaque.

Renfrew Bypass

Construction of the Renfrew Bypass began in June 1974 and opened in 1977
Lumber pile just west of Pembroke

Arnprior Bypass

Construction to twin the Arnprior Bypass portion of Highway 17, which included a new interchange at White Lake Road, began during the spring of 2009. The bypass was originally built in 1981 as one of a number of upgrades to Highway 17 between Ottawa and North Bay, to re-directing through-traffic around downtown Arnprior. It was designed for an eventual upgrade to a divided freeway, so all it needed was a second bridge over the Madawaska River (notice the dam just west of Highway 417) and a new 5.6 km (3.5 mi roadway which was completed in late 2012 at a cost of $63 million.

Arnprior was the centre of the 1800s Ottawa Valley lumbering industry, being located at the junction where the Mississippi and Madawaska rivers flowed into the Ottawa River. The virgin stands of white and red pine were harvested and floated down the rivers to the lumber mills at Ottawa. Today only second-growth (replanted) stands remain.

Trans Canada Highway Itinerary Map

Use mouse to drag/move map. Click on “+” or “” to zoom in or out. “Satellite” combines map & photo.