Famous Rivers in Ottawa and their Tributaries

rivers in ottawa
Photo by Kyle Mesdag on Unsplash

The rivers in Ottawa have been important to Ottawa and its neighboring areas for eons. In addition to their cultural significance, the rivers have definitely contributed to making Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, the hub for culture, history, and innovation it is today.

Ottawa is located within the province of Ontario and shares a border with Quebec. This city is a unique blend of both urban culture and natural beauty. The rivers in Ottawa City allow the community to thrive and provide recreational opportunities such as boating, snorkeling, and fishing.

Rivers in Ottawa

In this article, we will discuss some of the most important rivers or waterways that flow through the city of Ottawa.

Image by Alex Hu from Pixabay

1. Ottawa River 

The Ottawa River is the sixth largest river in Canada that flows through the provinces of Ontario and Quebec and is named after the term “trade.” One of its major tributaries, the St. Lawrence River, is also the longest river in Quebec.

The Ottawa River passes through various landscapes, from bustling cities to quiet rural areas.

It is a vast waterway receiving numerous tributaries along its course. The Ottawa River and Ottawa River watershed significantly affect the region’s overall state.

On the Quebec side, the major tributaries of the Ottawa River are Gatineau, Du Lievre, Kipawa, and the Rouge River. In contrast, the major tributaries on the right side of the Ontario side include Madawaska, Montreal, Blanche, and Petawawa Rivers.

1.1 Length

The Ottawa River is 1271 km long and has a drainage area of 146,300 square km. Its mean water flow is 1,939 ㎥/s with average annual extremes of 749 – 5,351 ㎥/s. This measurement is recorded at the Carillon Dam near the Lake of Two Mountains.

1.2 Location  

Back in the day, the Ottawa River was a major trade route in Eastern Canada and acted as a border between Ontario and Quebec.

Rising at Lac Des Outauais, north of the Laurentian Mountains of central Quebec, the Ottawa River flows west to Lake Timiskaming. From there, the interprovincial border between Ontario and Quebec begins its route.  The river drains into the Lake of Two Mountains and the St. Lawerence River at Montreal.

1.3 Function

Ottawa River is a source of drinking water for many communities. The city of Ottawa is one of the heaviest users of its resources, drawing about 341 million liters of water from the Ottawa River daily. This makes it one of the most important rivers in Ottawa for resource consumption.

Ottawa River is also a transportation route for native people, fur traders, and the timber industry. This great river also helps in power generation in the lower Ottawa Valley. In later years, this river was also used to produce hydroelectricity for many communities.

Nowadays, recreation is also a major amenity provided by this river.

1.4 Ecology

The flow is almost consistent throughout the year. However, there is high runoff during the springs because of snowmelt. A dry runoff follows during the summer months. However, heavy rains bring it back to a steady and fairly steady flow through the winter.

The lower Ottawa River also experiences two spring flood peaks. Spring comes earlier on the southern tributaries, which causes the Ottawa River to rise at its first peak, and the second peak arises when the snow melts, usually three weeks after the first peak. During this time, large volumes of water flow through the river.

The Ottawa River flows through many deciduous and coniferous forests that have grown over the years. It also has extensive wetlands, some of which are biologically important as they are home to many diverse flora and fauna.

Image by Sven Lachmann from Pixabay

2. Rideau River 

This river is one of the most prominent tributaries of the Ottawa River. It is a natural beauty and a manufactured waterway with historical significance. This river was crucial in constructing the Rideau Canal, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

2.1 Length

This river is about 217 km in length.

2.2 Location

This river flows through eastern Ontario. It starts from Upper Rideau, located near the town of West Port, and then meanders southward into the Ottawa River in the city of Ottawa.

2.3 Function 

The Rideau River passes through urban regions such as Ottawa, and its waterfronts have helped create recreational spots like parks, walking paths, and other facilities, allowing visitors and locals to enjoy the true natural beauty of the city.

Some popular destinations among the river are Mooney’s Bay Park and Vincent Massey Park.

The Rideau River also offers many recreational and fun activities to locals and visitors. It has famous boating and fishing spots along its way as the river has a diverse fish population such as Bass, Pike, Walleye, and Muskellunge.

The beautiful view along the river’s course makes picnicking, bird-watching, and walks attractive.

2.4 Ecology

Like other rivers, this river also supports various plant and animal life. Its shore includes wetlands, meadows, and forests that act habitable for several ecosystems and are home to several species of mammals, birds, and amphibians.

The river is also rich with fish that also contribute to the economy.

To conclude, this river is an important Ottawa River tributary and is very important to eastern Ontario. Combined with its natural beauty, historical importance, and recreational activities, it is one of the most significant rivers in Ottawa that holds a special place in the hearts of the locals and visitors.

Image by Monika Iris from Pixabay

3. Mississippi River 

The Mississippi River is a tributary of the Ottawa River that flows through eastern Ontario in Canada. This is entirely different from the Mississippi River that flows through the United States.

3.1 Length

This river has a length of 200 km. The drainage basin has a drainage area of 4,450 square km with a mean discharge of 40 cube meters per second.

3.2 Location

The river starts at Mackavoy Lake and flows through the villages of Lanark, towns of Carleton Place, Mississipi Mills, and Galetta, from where it enters the Ottawa River.

It has more than 400 lakes in its watershed region.

3.3 Function

This river also plays a significant role in contributing to the surrounding community by providing water for economic growth and drinking water to the community.

The fertile soil around the banks also helps in growing seasonal crops.

This tributary is also used in recreational activities such as boating and fishing. Its shoreline is dotted with numerous parks that act as great walking and relaxing spots.

3.4 Ecology

In the upstream regions, the river is very important for the flora as its swamp and marsh-lined portions provide fertile soil. This area is also home to unusual species like Parnassia Glauce and Platanthera Flava.

Further downstream, when the tributary enters the Ottawa River, it has several wetlands and shorelines with rich aquatic plants and animals such as musk turtles.

To conclude, among all tributaries, the Mississippi River’s role is significant and very important to the community around its course just like most rivers in Ottawa.

Image by Andy Bay from Pixabay

4. Noire River

This is another notable tributary of the Ottawa River in Canada.

4.1 Length

The Noire River is about 120 km in length.

4.2 Location

It is located in western Quebec in Canada and flows through the Laurentian mountain region. It is mainly known for its rugged course through the mountains and beautiful breathtaking landscapes.

This river is a part of the larger river watershed and plays a vital role in the drainage of the surrounding areas. It collects water from its tributaries and carries it to the Ottawa River when it goes downstream.

4.3 Function 

The serene water and beautiful landscape make this river ideal for recreational activities. This river bank is a great spot for outdoor activities such as fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and sometimes natural photography. Fishing is the most popular activity as the river is home to many fish, such as trout, that are very popular among anglers.

4.4 Ecology

Like other rivers, it also plays an important role in the surrounding ecosystem, such as maintaining the water balance of the area, regulating flow, and acting as a home for several plants and animals.

This river supports many fish, such as trout, a popular fish among anglers. The wetland and forest that thrive on this river are also home to several mammals, amphibians, and birds.

To conclude, this river plays a significant role in the region’s growth, be it economic or social. Its length, function, and large watershed make it particularly important to the Laurentian area in Canada.

Image by Antonios Ntoumas from Pixabay

5. Madawaska River

This is another notable tributary of the Ottawa River that flows through eastern Ontario in Canada. This tributary is mainly known for its breathtaking landscape with Rugged Granite cliffs, rolling hills, and lush forests.

5.1 Length 

The Madawaska River is around 230 km long.

5.2 Location

This river flows through the eastern Ontario region after originating in the highlands of the Algonquin Provincial Park. It then travels eastward and passes through towns such as Madawaska, Combermere, and Palmer Rapids and joins the Ottawa River in the town of Arnprior.

5.3 Function

 This river has a rich history with indigenous people, explorers, and settlers who have traversed its water over the centuries. It is one of the oldest rivers in Ottawa that has played a critical transportation role in the timber industry and provided natural resources for local communities.

This river is known for its scenic beauty and offers many recreational activities. It is popular among whitewater enthusiasts and paddlers, along with attracting canoeists and kayakers who wish to enjoy swift and rapid currents.

Anglers also enjoy this river as it provides fishing opportunities for species like smallmouth bass, walleye, and muskelunge.

The hiking ground around the river allows hikers to enjoy the surrounding beauty. The river’s waterfalls also add to its natural beauty, making it a famous spot for photography.

5.4 Ecology

The river and its watershed support various plants and animal species. Its river forest, wetland, and rocky terrain are habitats for wildlife like mammals, birds, and fishes.

The area surrounding the river is also known for its biodiversity, and more and more efforts are being made to protect the region and the river’s natural flow.

To conclude, the Madawaska River is one of those rivers in Ottawa that offer the ultimate blend of natural beauty and recreational activities. It has something for everyone, be it a challenging whitewater adventure or a peaceful fishing trip. This river appeals to all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Image by Adrian Campfield from Pixabay

6. South Nation River 

The South Nation River is a tributary of the Ottawa River. It plays the role of an important waterway among the rivers in Ottawa, located in Eastern Ontario in Canada.

6.1 Length 

The river stretches around 175 km.

6.2 Location

The South Nation River flows through the eastern Ontario region after it originates near the Larose forest. It flows through east Ontario’s United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry. Later in the south, it flows southeastward and eventually meets in the Ottawa River in the town of Plantagenet.

6.3 Function 

The river has remained one of the oldest and historically significant rivers in Ottawa. It has played a role in the ancient settlement and development of the eastern Ontario region. Its banks were home to early settlements and had old remnants of paper mills and structures constructed along their way.

The South Nation River offers various recreational activities for outdoor esthetics. It is extremely popular for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. The river is also known for its calm waves, ideal for leisure, padding, and exploration.

Anglers often come to South Nation River for fish species such as smallmouth bass, pike, and walleye.

The river’s natural landscape attracts bird watchers, hikers, and photographers.

6.4 Ecology

The river and its surrounding watershed support various flora and fauna. It has a vast population of fish. The wetlands and forests on the shore of the river is a shelter for wild animal and birds.

The conservation effort aims to protect and preserve the ecosystem of the river and its surrounding wetlands and forests.

To conclude, this river provides opportunities for outdoor activities, appreciation of nature, and small glimpses of its rich history. This river offers all who visit its shore a peaceful and enjoyable experience.

rivers in ottawa
Image by John from Pixabay


These are just some of the many tributaries that the Ottawa River has. Some others include the Mattawa River, Bonnechere River, Lawrence River, etc.

The Ottawa River and Ottawa River watershed add to the diverse landscape and recreational activities in the area they flow through. Every one of the rivers in Ottawa has its character and charm, making this river watershed a beautiful and vibrant place.

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Samprity Mondal
an traveller and a researcher who loves exploring beautifull breathtaking places like Canada . with a bachelor degree in business admistration , Sanprity Mondal has a work experience of 18 months . some love interest include roaming and reading