Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Hwy 7 from Kaladar to Carleton Place

On Easter weekend I drove east from the farmhouse to Ottawa along Hwy 7. The road runs along the edge of the PreCambrian shield. While the boundary is not a clear edge, generally speaking south of the highway is rich fertile farmland and north an unforgiving topography of solid granite, valleys of swamp and muskeg and bush.

Solid granite along the north side of Hwy 7

Low lying valleys of muskeg and swamp 

There had been an incredibly successful effort to populate southwestern Ontario in the 1830's and 40's. A key to that success had been the building of colonization roads. The other ingredient was the rich and fertile glacial till. Hoping to to expand that colonization effort to the Ottawa valley and over to Georgian Bay, the Public Lands Act was passed in 1853. Pioneers were encouraged to move north to settle this area. There were conditions to receiving title; at least 12 acres had to be cleared within four years, within a year a house had to be built and settlers needed to live on the land for at least five years. For many it was a heart and back breaking effort. Unlike southwestern Ontario this area had little arable land and often it was just a thin layer over solid rock. By the turn of the century 60% of the settlers had abandoned their land.
A settler's log building still stands
A stone fence, the result of the back breaking work of clearing the land
One of the colonization roads built to facilitate settlement was the Frontenac Road.  Frontenac County was one of the original nineteen counties of Upper Canada. While some of the original colonization roads became the skeleton of our modern highway system Frontenac Road is not one of these. Today it is a winding gravel road running through bush dotted with farms.
Frontenac Road Historical Plaque
A settler who devoted his life to building the Frontenac Road
A pioneers' cemetery on the Frontenac Road
A simple but effective way of indicating a pothole on the Frontenac Road
South of Hwy 7 a tract of fertile farmland on the Frontenac Road
The highway is crossed by the Salmon and Mississippi Rivers and bordered by Silver and Sharbot Lake. There are provincial parks on both these lakes and a few cottages but no Hollywood movie stars will be buying property here.
Flooding of a rest stop on the Salmon River
Ya think?!
Silver Lake with its dotting of cottages along the shore
To this day the area remains sparsely populated. And for those who choose to live here life seems like a hard scrabble affair. In the summer the highway sports clusters of wooden sheds selling passersby wild blueberries. And in the winter heating with wood is common.
Blueberry shack

A beautifully stacked wood pile
While the area he describes is a little farther west the feeling of this area is captured beautifully and so poignantly by Al Purdy in his poem, The Country North of Belleville.

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