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Across the Canadian Prairies
Ottawa to Fort William

Leaving Ottawa for the West, it is possible to travel by two routes, either direct by the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Ottawa Valley, or by the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, or that of the Grand Trunk Railway, via Toronto and Western Ontario. If the latter is adopted, the main line route may be reached again by way of the Grand Trunk Railway and North Bay. On our outward journey, however, we took the first of the two routes, branching off on our return at North Bay, and visiting Toronto and other places in what is known as the “Garden of Canada.”

The line from Ottawa goes by way of Carleton Junction and Renfrew, and enters the Ottawa Valley at the latter place. From Renfrew to Mattawa, a distance of 120 miles, it is continually in view of the Ottawa River. As already mentioned in previous letters, the scenery in this district is exceedingly picturesque. The river is broad and its banks are well timbered, and in many places it is below the level of tho surrounding country. In the autumn time, when the leaves are beginning to change their colours, the sight is exceedingly beautiful. The railway crosses many streams, along the banks of which may be found perfect paradises for the angler and sportsman. Between Ottawa and Pembroke, a distance of 124 miles, the country is fairly well settled with British and other European immigrants, and satisfactory progress is apparently being made, judging from the appearance of the farms, the excellent quality of the cattle everywhere to be seen, and the additional clearing that is annually taking place. Westward of Pembroke the country is not thickly inhabited ; indeed, houses are few and far between, although in the near future the attractions of the country, when the emigration movement revives, will doubtless lead to a further accession of population. From Mattawa to Sudbury the Scenery is of the same character as that already described, a well-timbered, rocky country, with valleys here and there capable of cultivation, and watered by rushing streams, in which the maskinonge, trout, bass and other fish abound. On this stretch of line the principal place is North Bay, the junction with the Grand Trunk Railway already referred to; and Sudbury has sprung into importance in recent years, not only on account of the nickel deposits in the neighbourhood, said to be the most extensive in the world, but from its position as the junction with the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Sault Ste. Marie Railway, the line running from Sudbury through Algoma along the shores of Lake Huron to Sault Ste. Marie, over which it is conveyed by a bridge to the United States.

The ride from Sudbury to Heron Bay, where tho first sight of the magnificent Lake Superior is obtained, is not particularly inviting. The line traverses a more or less wild region, similar in character to that already described, but here and there very interesting and picturesque views are obtained. From Heron Bay the railway skirts the shores of Lake Superior to Fort William, a distance of nearly 200 miles. Not only are the views of the lake that are obtained singularly grand and interesting, but the scenery inland along the line of the railway merits a similar observation. No one who has not travelled over this piece of road can appreciate the immense difficulties that were encountered by the engineers in building it, and it quite justifies the remark that has been made, that the Canadians, in determining on the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, must not only be credited with enterprise, but with considerable audacity. The railway curls about in some places almost like a corkscrew, and viaducts, tunnels, bridges, and cuttings occur rapidly one after the other along nearly the whole route.

The country through which the railway passes, between Ottawa and Fort William, has not yet yielded much return to mankind, for the simple reason that its wealth is not yet either appreciated or probably known. For a portion of the way, however, agriculture is gradually developing, and in favourable places indications of the lumber industry may be seen in floating logs and in occasional sawmills. The principal towns are Almonte, with a population of 3,500, a manufacturing centre, and tho site of largo woollen mills. Pakenham (population, 2,200) and Arnprior (population, 3,500) are also manufacturing centres. Then there is Pembroke, with a population of nearly 5,000, the most important town between Ottawa and Fort William, the centre of the lumbering trade on tho Upper Ottawa. Mattawa, with a population rather under 2,000, is an old Hudson Bay trading post, and is a place from which sporting expeditions are arranged, facilities being found there for tho supply of all materials and the necessary guides. Sudbury has already been referred to, but there are practically no further places of importance except those which obtain their populations by being railway divisional points, until Nepigon is reached. This is another favourite centre for sportsmen, especially those who seek the speckled trout, which is found in great abundance, and in all sizes, both in the Nepigon Lake and in the rivers which run out of it. Port Arthur, with a population of 3,000, was formerly a more important place than it is now, but, the Canadian Pacific Railway having lent its influence to Fort William, another town on the lake 5 miles away, its position has been somewhat eclipsed. It is likely, however, to develop in the future more than it has hitherto done, as the iron mines in the neighbourhood are exploited. Fort William derives its importance from the fact that it is the port of arrival and departure of the magnificent steamships of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, which ply to and from Owen Sound. It is also noted for its immense elevators, where the grain from the wheat fields of the West is stored prior to its shipment to the Eastern markets.

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