The Ottawa River Pathway (SJAM) is a favourite of many cyclists in town, either to ride recreationally or to commute. The pathway runs 30 km along the river’s south edge in two sections.
This review is for the upper 17 km section, west of downtown, which starts at the Rideau Canal Locks and connects with the Rideau Canal bike path as well.
This Park trail is all paved asphalt, and meanders in a continually curving path that follows the river bank. No nasty hills here to strain yourself, just easy cruising over small mounds put in by landscapers to keep it interesting for bicyclists.
The trail goes through manicured parkland, with trees planted at random to give a little shade, although most is open to the sun and wind. (It was blowing hard the day I went!)
I may use the word too often, but pleasant comes to mind (if ever a word be used) to describe this place.
The scenery seen along this mighty river is comprised of islands, rapids, dams, bridges, and small beaches. Citizens and tourists alike stroll and lay about, relaxing on the lawns. Numerous lookouts give riders the opportunity to stop and enjoy the view, with plaques to give historical context.
One negative aspect of the trail is you can never escape the sight and sound of cars, as you might in other city parks. With four lanes of traffic, the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway (SJAM) also runs along the riverbank, and its presence is never far away.
Heading up the river from the canal at the east end, the bike path skirts around the cliff base, hugging the shoreline. Above is Parliament Hill, the courthouse, the library, and the war memorial buildings.
At Portage Bridge you may cross under and continue past The Mill St. Pub; an old grist mill and the only watering hole on the route. Further on, the sight of a closed, rusty train bridge makes me wonder when they will turn it into a bike route into Quebec.
More meandering, and daydreaming, leads you to Champlain Bridge, which is your chance to cross and ride back down the path on the other side.
If you choose not to and continue straight, in no time at all you will have arrived at the popular Westboro Beach, a chance for a coffee and a nibble.
At about the 10 km mark, many riders head inland on the Pinecrest Pathway, which loops around and back on the Experimental Farm Pathway.
If that’s not to your liking you can instead still head upriver, behind the Britannia Conservation Area, and on through more parkland to the picturesque ponds at Haydon Park and marina.
Officially, the path goes on to the Carling Campus and connects with other trails. However, I find this a rather boring paved shoulder to ride along Carling Ave., so instead, I recommend heading back.
If you do return the same way, the middle part of this route leads to an alternate yet similar path on the other side of the road. On Sunday mornings in the summer, the westbound lanes are closed so you can ride on them —how cool is that!
I also reviewed the Lower Ottawa River Pathway, a much different experience than riding this upper section.