For the uninitiated (or unfamiliar), Mattawa Voyageur Country is a historic region in Northeastern Ontario comprising Bonfield Township, the Municipality of Calvin, the Town of Mattawa, Papineau-Cameron Township and Mattawan Township. It’s located about 4 hours north of Toronto, or just about 45 minutes east of North Bay. And it's also one of the best places in the province (and, dare we say, the country) for outdoor attractions and activities. From incredible hikes and historic sites to great eats and spectacular statues, it’s the perfect destination for nature enthusiasts of all ages and abilities.
Below, we take a look at some of the top things to do in Mattawa Voyageur Country this summer.
1. Visit the Mattawa Museum
Yes, this is an indoor attraction. But we couldn’t list the top things to do in Mattawa Voyageur County without suggesting a visit to the incredible Mattawa Museum. The museum hosts a significant collection of Indigenous artifacts, items, and tools from the local fur trade, and a CPR railroad exhibit. Notably, the museum has an exhibit devoted to Dr. Saint-Firmin Monestime, a Haitian immigrant who established a medical clinic in the area, and who was later elected the mayor of Mattawa, making history as Canada’s first Black mayor. Visitors can also discover a traditional birch bark canoe—one of two built for the museum by local Indigenous canoe maker Mahigan.
2. See the Wooden Statues
You’ll have to do a bit of travelling around the Mattawa Voyageur Country region if you want to see all of the area’s 23 incredible wooden statues — but trust us, it’s worth it. Statues depicting significant historical figures from the Mattawa area, including iconic explorer Samuel de Champlain, fur trader and Hudson’s Bay Company co-founder Pierre-Esprit Radisson (more on him here), and Indigenous writer and conservationist Anahareo, among others. If you only want to cross one wooden status off your list, perhaps make it the 17-foot statue of local folk hero Big Joe Mufferaw, which sits outside the Mattawa Museum.
3. Paddle the Ottawa River
The historic Ottawa River, which meets with the Mattawa River (Mattawa means “meeting of the waters” in Ojibway), is one of the most historic waterways in Canada: decades before de Champlain and other explorers traversed the river on their maiden voyage into what is now known as Canada, the region’s Indigenous peoples used the Ottawa River for fishing, travel, and commerce. Today, you can paddle the Ottawa River in a canoe or kayak, and stop at the many campsites that line the river’s shores.
The Three Crosses are located on the crest of the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec, on the other side of the Ottawa River from Mattawa. The original three white crosses were erected in 1686 by order of Sieur de Troyes, during his trip up the Ottawa River to mark the place where two rivers met. Today, you can view the wooden crosses from across the river in Explorer’s Point Park, or visit them up close after a three-kilometre hike (mostly uphill!) that gives you an excellent vantage point to view the town and everything beyond.
5. Explore the ATV Trails
There’s a massive, all-season ATV trail system throughout the Mattawa Voyageur Country region, allowing you to take in plenty of the area’s incredible boreal forests and scenic views—be sure to check out the defunct Purdy Mica Mine. The Voyageur Multi-Use Trail System (VMUTS) comprises challenging climbs, leisurely trails, and muddy, rugged sections, while the municipality’s ATV-friendly by-laws allow riders passage on local roads from their accommodations to the trail system. Many lodges and resorts here are ATV friendly, including the Mattawa River Resort and the Mattawa Adventure Camp. Grab your permit and hit the trails!
With hiking trails ranging from 2.5 to 9 kilometres in length, incredible kayaking, canoeing, and portaging opportunities, and campsites with plenty of amenities—not to mention the opportunity to spot some remarkable local wildlife, including moose, deer, and bald eagles (be sure to keep your distance from all wild animals!)— Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park is one of the province’s most incredible places to pitch a tent and spend the night.
This 1.9 km looped trail features one of Mattawa’s hidden gems: The Eau Claire Gorge. Here, the Amable du Fond River drops down a steep gorge within the Eau Claire Conservation Area. The highlight of the gorge is the incredible waterfall that cascades 40 feet downwards before it meets the river again. In addition to the falls, the Eau Clair Gorge’s hiking trail features plenty of scenic vistas, a challenging workout, and includes Godin’s Cabin, a reconstructed log cabin that marks the place where a squatter lived in the early 20th century. The trailhead includes parking, picnic areas, and washrooms.
No trip is complete without some great eats. Rolly’s Pitstop is a classic snack shack, serving up hot dogs and burgers—which we recommend enjoying with a side of poutine or a freshly deep-fried pickle. Or maybe both!
For those looking for a taste of the region’s other famous hot spot, check out the iconic chip stand Turcotte’s, which has been serving up delicious grub for the last 77 years.
9. Mattawa Voyageur Days
The area’s famous four-day festival held at the end of July is a much-loved event that attracts visitors from all over Ontario, Quebec, and beyond. Attendees come for the concerts, fishing derbies, canoe races, great food, and family-friendly fun. The festival is currently on hiatus until 2022, but check their website for updates.
Whatever you plan to do in Mattawa Vogeageur Country, it's sure to be an adventure.