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Visiting Norway Bay, Bristol, Quebec: Seemingly Defined by Both a Curious Stillness and a Sense of Transition

Flag of Quebec

Flag of Quebec

 Beach and dock at Norway Bay in Bristol (MRC of Ponctiac, QC) on the Ottawa River.

Beach and dock at Norway Bay in Bristol (MRC of Ponctiac, QC) on the Ottawa River.

Norway Bay Beach, part of Bristol municipality, Outaouais, Quebec

Norway Bay Beach, part of Bristol municipality, Outaouais, Quebec

The mists of the history of a moving population

Situated within the municipality of Bristol, itself within the Municipalité régionale de comté de Pontiac / Pontiac Regional County Municipality, of Outaouais, Quebec, Norway Bay is a small, riverside community with a special character of its own.

A heavily wooded environment, Norway Bay contains many residential properties often situated amidst pine trees: a feature of these properties is that a considerable proportion of them are summer dwellings only. The building of summer cottages at Norway Bay increased from the 1850s onwards. Many of the early summer residents were Scottish and the locality hosted regular extended family activities with a Scottish emphasis (1). Although a considerable majority of Norway Bay's population is Anglophone, there are hundreds of Francophone residents also. (This brings us to an often mistaken perception of Pontiac as a region: although known for a sizable population of Anglophone residents, its Francophone residents are an integral part of the region's character.)

Overlooking the Rivière des Outaouais / Ottawa River, Norway Bay faces an often almost still body of water: this is because at its juncture the river comprises the Lac des Chats / Lake of Cats. For many years, across this body of water, a car ferry link served to connect Norway Bay with Sand Point, Ontario, which was also served by rail connections. This ferry service ran between 1923 and 1963 (2).

Norway Bay is still the scene of summer regatta activities, and is popular with swimmers.

There is indeed a sense in which this community's character has long been strongly influenced by its links across the Rivière des Outaouais / Ottawa River, especially during the days of its car ferry — the 'Norvic' — which was able to carry up to eight vehicles at a time.

A longstanding Jetty (French: la Jetée) was purchased by the local municipality in 1988 and refurbished. The first quay was built in 1850 (3).

I took in the various impressions of Norway Bay, which each represent accurately aspects what the locality represents: stillness; a heavily wooded environment, even among houses; an Anglophone predominance which is, however, not assertive; a significantly seasonal population leaving a sense emptiness during much of the year: all these elements are strongly present.

Yet as for the totality of what all these may collectively represent, I was left with a curious sense of the elusive. This subjective sense can be heightened by the mists which roll in from the Rivière des Outaouais / Ottawa River.

November 24, 2020


(1) See also: http://outaouais.quebecheritageweb.com/article/pier-norway-bay

(2) See also: http://100objects.qahn.org/content/helm-norvic-ferry-1923

(3) Source: Société historique de Norway Bay / Norway Bay Historical Society; see also: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Affiche_du_sentier_patrimonial_de_Norway_Bay-2018-06-27.pdf

This Historical Society issues a number of publications and periodically updates information about local events, some of which are held at the Jack Graham Bristol Community Centre : http://www.bristolmunicipality.qc.ca/NBHS/welcome.html

Map location of Municipalité régionale de comté de Pontiac / Pontiac Regional County Municipality

Map location of Municipalité régionale de comté de Pontiac / Pontiac Regional County Municipality

Also worth seeing

In Portage-du-Fort (distance: 18.8 kilometres) there are various heritage properties, some of them of built of stone, which surround or are close to Parc Brosseau; the village has become well known for artistic exhibitions.

In Gatineau (distance: 74.3 kilometres), the Musée canadien des civilisations / Canadian Museum of Civilization is Canada's most visited museum. Gatineau's Masion du citoyen / Citizen's House has a noted art gallery and the Hall des nations / Hall of the Nations containing valuable cultural artifacts from around the world. Parc de la Gatineau / Gatineau Park has exceptional recreational and scenic possibilities.

In Ottawa (distance: 76.1 kilometres) cultural and architectural sights include Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall, the Chateau Laurier, Laurier House, the Rideau Canal, and the Bank of Canada's Currency Museum.


How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa (distance from Bristol, Quebec: 86.9 kilometres), where car rental is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

Other of my hubpages may also be of interest

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