Bike Rides about Town:
Back River & Bout de l'Ile Ride
Summer 1999 Part 1

Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2002

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[Cartierville] [Bordeaux] [Ahunstic] [Sault-au-Recollets]

[In this Lite Version, all the maps and links to supplementary sources have been removed]

Back River & Bout de l'Ile Ride: Saturday, June 5, 1999
Part One: Cartierville to Sault-au-Recollets


Click to enlarge
(Taken on an earler (1998) Ride)
the Lachapelle Bridge in Cartierville
[See Fuller Discussion of this Bridge]

I got an early start at 07:45 on this cool, cloudless morning, with the intention of riding, once more, completely around the eastern end of the Island of Montreal, while documenting the trip with my camera. I took my habitual route to the starting off point in Cartierville, and arrived there an hour later, at 08:45.

Wanting to travers the entire length of the bike trail, I rode west a bit from the intersection of Grenet and Boulevard Gouin, so as to make the Lachapelle Bridge my starting point.

Vignette: There has been a bridge at this point since the 1930s, although the current one was built in 1930. Prior to the bridge, and since the 1700s, there was a ferry crossing here, just above the now submerged Gros Sault rapids. Just upriver was the starting point of log runs through the rapids, an industry that continued throughout the 1800s, until 1908.
Cartierville was a samll and quiet settlement until the opening of the tramway in the 1890s, bringing picnic folk from the city. The Belmont Park amusement park was opened in the early part of the 1900s, bringing even larger crowds. Cartierville became part of Montreal in 1916.

The bike trail heading eastward from bridge area was soon wending along the quiet, residential street of rue Bocage, away from the hustle and bustle of Gouin Boulevard. After a few blocks, At rue Notre Dame des Anges, the trail led to the right for half a block, before exiting left off the city street and entering Parc Raimbault.

Parc Raimbault occupies the whole eastern face of the point where the Rivière des Prairis makes a sharp turn. Pulling off the bike path momentarily, and descending to the shoreline, I had a great view downviver, towards the bridge carrying Hwy 15.

Click to enlarge
(Taken on 1999 Ride)
Looking downriver
towards Hwy 15 Bridge
from Parc Raimbaut
Parc Raimbaut: Overlooking bridge
on Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Creek

Vignette: The flooded inlet is what remains of Ruisseau (Creek) Notre Dames des Neiges, which appears on all of the historical maps of the area, even as recently as 1962.


The bike trail makes a sharp turn to right at this point and crosses a small bridge over a tiny inlet. Looking inland from the bridge, I could see a number of small boats tied up adjacent to the backyards of residences, floating on the tiny pond.

The bike trail comes out at Boulevard Gouin and Saint Germain Street, where it turns left to proceed east along the boulevard in a protected lane along the left-hand side. Although Gouin has more traffic than the quiet side streets, it remains itself relatively narrow and peaceful. The ambience along this stretch remains "old, established residential", with lots of trees and large, comfortable looking houses on both sides. The way is separated from the river, of which only brief, distant glimpses can be caught looking through people's yards and over their fences.

At 08:50 I passed underneath the Highway 15 Autoroute, just as it was heading towards the bridge over the Rivière des Prairies.

Vignette: The Méderic Martin Bridge was built in 1959, as part of the Laurentian Autoroute and is one of those nondescript, concrete bridges that we hardly notice when crossing them.


I continued east past the bridge on the path alongide Boulevard Gouin until I even with Saint Castin Street, where the protected shoulder ended abruptly and the path turned left to enter a park that stretched along the river bank, shaded with lots of trees.

Click to enlarge
(Taken on 1999 Ride)
Bike Path just west of Bordeaux Bridge

For a ways it was possible to completely forget about the city, as the narrow, metre-wide ribbon of pavement led through the forest and greenery, down along the water's edge. I was riding at the base of a small cliff atop which were the back yards of the houses which faced Boulevard Gouin. There was a nice spot by the water's edge where I could catch a great view of the CP's Bordeaux Railroad Bridge

Click to enlarge
(Taken on 1999 Ride)
C.P.R.'s Bordeaux Bridge

Click to enlarge
(Taken on 1999 Ride)
Islet from view just west of Bordeaux Bridge Looking across
C.P.R.s Bordeaux Bridge

Just as one approaches the bridge, the trail makes a long, wooded climb, from the river's edge up to the street. It was at 09:05 (having taken a 5-minute break) that I crossed the crossed the CP (commuter) rail line leading form Bordeaux to the Bridge. It is at this point that one has bike access across to Laval, which I had only discovered on my previous ride along this way in 1995, but I did not ride out to the bridge on this day.

Vignette: I was in the heart of the old town of Bordeaux, which had once been called Haut du Sault and had been settled as early as the first half of the 1700s. The Bordeaux Railway bridge had been built in 1876 by the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa & Occidental Railway as part of its line from Hochelaga to points north. Ile Perry, the mid-river island that the bridge uses as a stepping stone was already a centre of industry by that time. First there was just a mill, but by the 1870s a whole industrial park was situated there, powered by the water of the rapids. When this declined, the area became home, in 1910, to Montreal's new, modern prison. Bordeaux was annexed to Montreal in 1910, and the tramways were quickly extended to serve the region.

Past the rail crossing, the bike trail descends once more into the long, narrow park along the river's edge and continues through the cool woodland. At a certain point, the park comes to an end and the bike trail follows a narrow corridor, fenced in on both sides with chain link fence, and between back yards of the houses and the river. Suddenly, the trail leaves the corridor and comes out onto the vast grounds of Centre Hospitalier Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci, where it continues to hug the river's edge and it rounds the back side of the hospital.

At this point, one can look downriver and clearly see the Ahuntsic Bridge. One can also see, to the right across Boulevard Gouin, the grim and imposing Bordeaux Prison.

Click to enlarge
(Taken on 1999 Ride)
Looking east towards Pont ViauBordeaux Jail
From behind the HospitalNear the Intersection of Norwood & Gouin

The sheltered trail empties finally from the hospital grounds onto Norwood, a small side street, which brings it around and back to Boulevard Gouin. There is a small park on the south side of Gouin, from which one can get a clear view onto the grounds of the prison.


Click to enlarge
(Taken on 1999 Ride)
Bike Path Along Gouin: Near Jeanne-Mance

Along this section of Boulevard Gouin, the bike trail is simply a marked sidewalk along the left-hand (northern) side. The area is densely residential, as familiar north-south streets such as Jeanne Mance and Waverly come to an end at Gouin. It is at this point that my newly discovered shortcut interects the Back River Trail at Tolhurst.

After a few short blocks along Gouin, the trail turns sharply left again at Parc Nicholas Viel, across from the end of St. Urbain Street. The trail goes across the park directly towards the river until, just past the tennis courts, it makes an "L" turn to the right and comes out at Sommerville Street, a small, quiet residential street between Gouin and the River. Indeed, at this point I was separated from the water's edge by only a single row of houses.

I was riding along Somerville when I crossed St. Lawrence Boulevard, the city's main north-south artery, and the dividing line between street numbers west and east. At Somerville, one could never have guessed the nature of St. Lawrence from its quiet, wooded appearance.

Click to enlarge
((Taken on Laval Ride: 2001))
Pont Viau - from Laval side

It was 09:22 (having taken a ten-minute break) that I was at the point where Somerville comes to an end and the bike trail dips beneath the approaches to the Ahuntsic Bridge at the end of Berri Street. On the far side of the bridge, the trail goes for a short ways through the riverside park before becoming simply a marked off section along the the quiet waterfront street of Park Stanley Avenue. At this point, the river itself is only twenty feet away, across the open grass of Parc Stanley. This area would have been the centre of the old town of Ahuntsic.

Vignette: The Ahuntsic Bridge, also known as Pont Viau, was opened in 1847, replacing a ferry service which had operating at that point since the mid-1700s. The crossroads and hotel serving the bridge area blossomed slowly into a small community, which was incorporated as a town in 1897. The town took its name from that of the young brave, Ahuntsic, who perished with father Nicholas Viel at the Sault-au-Recollets in 1625. Ahuntsic was then annexed by Montreal in 1910. During the tens and twenties the area slowly filled in, as it became a major transit point on the tramway network. The trams are gone, but Ahuntsic remains a major transit point, being the northern terminus of the metro system.

At St Charles Street, the bike trail once again enters parkland and a right-of-way of its own. It hugs the grounds close to the river's as it passes through hosital grounds and behind the hospital. Even with rue Christophe Colombe, the trail is forced to make an abrupt right turn, as a massive fence bars it way forward. It comes out at Boulevard Gouin again, to which it descends through a little switchback. At this point, the North/South bikeway, coming up Christophe Colombe and which I have not, to date taken, meets the Back River bikeway.

At this point is a most interesting section. As the bike trail continues along through painted lines along the left-hand (northern) sidewalk of Boulevard Gouin, one notices that the whole area is actually twenty feet or so below the level of the river, which just above the dam has widened to form almost a lake. On the left is the Parc Louis Hébert, backed by a levee. It is not possible to see the lake on the other side. To the right is a wall of homes, all equally below water level. I imagine these homeowners must get nervous every Spring!


Past the park, one passes a number of large, retirement residences on the river side, which effectively block all view or access to the water. Gouin then comes out into the open at the vast square occupied by the old Sault-au-Recollets church, the only church on the Island dating from the time of the French Regime. One passes over the new highway leading across the Papineau Bridge on a small, narrow bridge, and comes down into the quaint, old neighbourhood of Sault-au-Recollets. Gouin becomes a tiny, narrow street passing through the summer houses of yesteryear.

Click to enlarge
((Taken on Laval Ride: 2001))
Looking across at Sault-au-Recollets
from Laval side
Papineau Bridge - from Laval side

It was 9:35 when (having taken a ten-minute break), I came out at the Papineau overpass of Gouin, across from the old Church. Around behind the church is the park entrance to a breakwater, with pedestrian walkway, that goes along the edge of the lake.Here is the park entranceto go down to the breakwater along the lake. I had been that way previously, but decided not to take the route this day.

Click to enlarge
(Taken on 1999 Ride)
The Dam at l'Ile de la Visitation

Vignette: Sault-au-Recollets has been the site of a ferry crossing since 1734. There was briefly a bridge in the 1800s, but when it was carried away by the ice, none replaced it until the current bridge was built in the late 1960s
The community at Sault-au-Recollets is the oldest on the Rivière des Prairies, having been established as a religious mission in the late 1600s. It was established on the site of the first mass celebrated on the island of Montreal, in 1615, and of the Recollet father Nicholas Viel's unfortunate death in the rapids in 1625. (Hence Sault-au-Recollets)
Ile de la Visitation, on account of the water power available, became the site of a mill early on. Towards the end of the 1800s, quite an industrial complex could be found there. Cheap electrical power removed the need to build factories at the water's edge, but at the end of the 1930s, a huge hydro-electric dam was built to harness the power of the Sault. Today the entire Ile de la Visitation complex is a regional park.

At Rue du Pont (the extension of de Lorimier), the bike trail turns right (north) for a short half block, and then left again as it enters its own right of way through Parc de l'Ile de la Visitation.

Click to enlarge
((Taken on Laval Ride: 2001))
The Dam - from Laval sideLooking across at Rapids and Park - from Laval side
(Low water - Summer levels)

For some distance, the narrow ribbon of the bike trail is the only break in the dense forest, although one is dimly away of houses off to the right and the backwater of the river (separated from the main river by the island) off to the left.

The trail came out at the dam, and passed by the rapids, right along the water. The water was much lower than it had been only a month ealier, when I had last visited the area. Rocks were now exposed which had been hidden before. Fisherman were out on the rocks, despite the warning signs. Some were out in boats, tied up with anchors. The far (Laval) side was thick with a line of a hundred or more fishermen. While I was stopped and resting, I saw a strange bird standing out on the rocks looking for fish (actually, I saw two of them).

Click to enlarge
(Taken on 1999 Ride)
The Rapids below the dam

Below the dam, the bike trail continues along the river's edge, well down from the crest of the gorge, which is built up with houses and apartments. The park at this point is quite narrow, barely twenty feet wide. It is, however, one of the most picturesque parts of the bike trail.

Click to enlarge
(Taken on 1999 Ride)
Bike Path below the dam

[Part Two]

Prepared by Roger Kenner
July, November 2002; Lite version: January 2004