Sunday, June 17, 2001
Ever since I had first ridden to the Bout de l'Ile on the Montreal side of the Rivière des Prairies, I had wondered what it would be like to ride to the corresponding tip of Laval Island. I kept this in mind as a future destination, and the time finally came in 2001. Along the way, I discovered a peninsula and inlet on the Laval side, east of Pont Viau, which I had never known existed. I saw the village of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul for the first time. Also, for the first time, did I visit Terrebonne by bicycle. In fact, I had not been to Old Terrebonne since I had lived north of there with my parents in 1969. It was a great discovery and I have been back a number of times by car and once more by bicycle.
This day would be a full-day, major ride. I left at 09:15 and would not be back until 18:00. The day began cloudy, but turned out later to be sunny and warm. The account below is based on the original notes [View Here] that I made right afterwards
I left the house at 09:15 and reached the Back River at Cartierville fifty minutes later, at 10:05. Along the way, I took photos along my typical route across the Island, a route that is doucmented (along with these pictures) in my descriptions of Back River/Bout de l'Ile Rides.
The first major milestone was crossing the CP Tracks at Blue Bonnets, where once there had been a level road crossing, but now all was fenced off with chain-link fence:
|CP Rail lines West at Blue Bonnets||CP Rail lines Eest at Blue Bonnets|
|There was once a road crossing here||Now this is the crossing|
The former open fields of the far side have now given way to Wal-Mart and other commercial development. Past the complex, around behind the actual raceway, the route runs through the Town of Mount Royal industrial park, along Devonshire.
|Road by Wal-Mart/Blue Bonnets||Devonshire Rd. in TMR|
|Under Hwy 40 at Kraft Plant|
At the far end of Devonshire, past the giant Kraft Foods plant, are two obstacles: The elevated Metropolitain Boulevard (Hwy 40) and the CN Rail lines. At this point is a somewhat hidden and no widely publicized pedestrian crossing, which gives access to Ville St. Laurent on the far side.
|CN Rail lines West at Hwy 40||CN Rail lines East at Hwy 40|
|Grenet In Ville St. Laurant: Approaching CN Commuter Rail Bridge|
A ride through the residential neighbourhoods of Ville St. Laurent brings one out at Cote Vertu, where a quick zig-zag then leads one to Grenet. Grenet heads northwaird towards Cartierville, paralleling the much busier Marcel Laurin, which carries most of the automobile traffic. At the far end of Ville St. Laurent is an underpass beneath yet another rail line, this the CN Commuter Rail towards Two Mountains.
On the far side is Cartierville, and soon one is at the Back River (La Rivière des Prairies).
I reached Cartierville at 10:05 and connected straightaway with the well-travelled Back River Bike Trail, which heads east along Gouin. At several points it brought me to vistas downriver, first of the Hwy 15 freeway bridge and then of the CP Rail Bridge.
|Looking East to Hwy 15 Bridge||Looking East to CP Rail Bridge|
|CP Rail Bridge (1999 View)|
|Looking North (1999 View)|
I reached the CP Rail Bridge, which would be my crossing into Laval, 10:20. I would end up spending about ten minutes checking out the bridge and stopping for photos. It was on my 1995 Ride out to Bout de l'Ile that I had first discovered the pedestrian crossing at the CP Bridge. At that time, I did not more than ride across to the far side and touch Laval soil before returning and continuing on my way. I had always felt it would be a useful crossing one day. I stopped at the postage-sized park (a bench only) on the far side and had a snack of two apricots.
|CP Commuter Rail Line Looking South from Gouin||CP Commuter Rail Line Looking North Across Bridge|
|Back River West from Bridge||Pedestrian/Bike Crossing on Bridge|
I set out eastward along the northern shore of the river, along Boulevard des Prairies, at 10:30. It was a quiet, narrow street, lined with trees and the occasional park, offering spectacular views of the water. Within 15 minutes (10:45), I had reached the Pont Viau. Boulevard des Prairies passed beneath the bridge, to end on the far side. From there I had a clear view east over the open, lake-like expanse of water above the dam, as far as the Pont Papineau crossing.
|Pont Viau: From Laval Side|
|View Towards Papineau Bridge|
As I continued along, now on a riverfront street called "Place Juge Desnoyers", I still had no idea I was on a peninsula. I passed, on the landward side, church buildings, then the extensive Mission des étrangers, and finally high-rise apartment buildings. I only finally realised I was on a peninsula when the road ended in a turn-around before the last high-rise and I followed the pedestrian path the the small lighthouse and park at the point. From there I could see the water coming up the other side.
I saw a footpath leading along the shoreline of the inner side, behind the apartment building, but I was not sure how far it would go. After taking a minute to catch the view, I retraced my route along Place Juge Desnoyers until I came once more to the end of Boulevard des Prairies. I followed the road as it curved up to join the main highway coming off the bridge. Just past the filtration plant at the head of the inlet, a bike trail led to the right, eastward through a small park.
|End of Peninsula: From Laval Shore (Aerodrome)|
As I followed the path, I came to a turn-off leading down towards the inlet, which I crossed on a dark, shady wooden footbridge. On the far side was the same footpath I had seen earlier. I rode on out to the point before turning around, just to satisfy my curiousity. Then I retraced my route and rejoined the main bike trail, which soon dropped me onto Boulevard Levesque.
|View of Inlet: Downward, Towards Mouth||View of Inlet: Upward, Towards Head|
Boulevard Levesque brought me to a wide, open expanse of water past the end of the peninsula, where was a marina with float planes and a place to rent Sea-doos. I was just across from Sault-aux-Récollet.
|View of Church at Sault-aux-Recollets: From Laval Side|
The road climbed up from the shoreline to the crest of the shoreline ridge, in order to pass over highway (Hwy 19) coming off the Papineau Bridge. I reached the Papineau Bridge crossing at 11:15.
|The Papineau Bridge|
Boulevard Levesque continued along the high road and I got occasional glimpses of the river through the yards and fences of the houses built along the crest of the ridge. At 11:30, was even with the dam, but could not see much, as all was hidden by the trees.
There was a steep access road leading down the cliff. Although I knew I would later have to climb back up, I decided the exploration was worth it, so I dropped down to the water level just below the dam. On previous rides, I had been at exactly the same vantage point, but on the opposite shore.
The road continued past the dam, serving a number of houses strung out along the base of the cliff, until I was nearly half way to the Pie IX bridge. I was beginning to hope it would climb back up, but it did not and I had to return the way I came.
|Rapids below the Dam||Laval Shore at Rapids (1999 View)|
From the crest, one could not see the houses nestled below. Still, there were a number of small parks which offered a good vantage point back towards the dam.
|Distant Dam from Park on Laval Side||Upriver from Pie IX Bridge towards Dam|
I crossed over the highway coming off the Pie IX Bridge at 11:50. Just beyond was a small park on a knoll overlooking the bridge and the gorge below the dam. I stopped there for a few minutes.
|The Pie IX Bridge|
Just past the bridge overpass, I came into the small village of St. Vincent de Paul, nestled right up next to the massive prison of the same name. The very prison walls formed one side of the parking lot for the local businesses. The historic church at St. Vincent de Paul, built right next to the prison, apparently dates from the 1950s. It was 12:00 when I arrived, so I called to make my first check-in with Sheryl. Then I had my noon-time snack of two apricots.
|The Prison Walls and Parking Lots at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul|
|[View Full Photo (top)]||[View Full Photo (bottom)]|
|The Prison at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul|
The ridge forming the river gorge below the dam comes to an end at St. Vincent de Paul and the road drops down to the water level beyond. From the heights, one has a spectacular vista downriver.
|View downriver from Heights at St. Vincent de Paul|
Right after leaving Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, a nicely groomed bike lane began alongisde the road. There was a stretch of fairly open space, and then there began to be streets and houses to my left, but my view of the river was not obstructed.
|Power Lines & Kayaker|
I passed underneath large powerlines crossing the river, just past the point on the opposite shore where the high rises end and the more country-like road begins, near the eastern boundary of Monreal North. This was near the point where plans call for a major bridge and the extension of the Hwy 25 freeway northwards across Laval. There was a lone kayaker out on the river. A bit later, I passed by the old village of Rivière des Prairies on the opposite shore. At this point there were rapids in the river.
|Church at Riviere-des-Prairies|
At 12:40, I came to a small settlement called St. François, where the road narrowed and buildings crowded the street on both sides. I decided to stop for a snack and bought a bottle of water at the local depanneur.
The road opened up again once I was past the town. Now I was truly out in the farmland. Vast ploughed fields stretched off to landward. Soon, I was able to see the Hwy 40 bridge up ahead, leaping from Montreal Island to the mainland and I knew I was close to my destination.
|View Towards Hwy 40 Bridge at Bout-de-l'Ile|
As it became clear I was approaching the tip of the island, the roadside became ever more empty. There was only the occasional farm. I suddenly became conscious of an drastically increased number of cyclists. There must have been some organized outing.
Just shy of the end, the road took a sharp curve to the left, the street signs indicating that it would now be called Boulevard des Mille Iles rather than Boulevard des Prairies. A tiny street lead onward into the small settlement located there, one which had been obvious from the distance, standing out as a sort of oasis of trees amidst the flat expanse of farmland. A short couple of blocks of tightly packed small houses brought me to the shady park located at the very tip. The park was thick with cyclists. It was 13:10 when I reached the tip of Laval Island.
I made my way throught the throng and climbed down from the grassy section of the park onto the narrow beach, where it was far less crowded. I walked out to the very point, where the waters of the Mille Iles and Des Praries rivers finally joined to cover the gravel of the beach. I was right across from the Monastery along Gouin Boulevard on the opposite shore.
|Laval Tip from Opposite Shore (2003 View)|
|[See Larger Photo]|
|View to Montreal Island from Park at Eastern Tip of Laval|
|View across Mille Iles River from Park|
I stayed a while at the park, for this had been my primary destination and I wanted to give myself time to explore it fully. At length, though, I set out, leaving the park and heading along the other tiny street that made up the hamlet. A ways along, it rejoined the main road: Boulevard Mille Iles.
This was a quiet, country road, lined with older clapboard houses from earlier years, that wound its way along the river. The marked bike trail turned inward at Montée Moulin, a short ways along my route. At 13:40 I passed by a small marina, where I descended to the pier to get a good look up and down the river. I passed through a small settlement built around an old stone church
|Back Roads through Eastern Laval|
|View from Opposite Shore (2003 View)|
|Marina on the Mille Iles River|
|View Upriver near Marina|
Eventually, I reached the head of nagivation on the Mille Iles River. I had been watching the familiar pairs of green buoys which marked the channel for the boats. Then suddenly there had been a single red buoy, and then no more. A short ways beyond, I saw the first rapids. I guess back in the days of steam navigation from Montreal to Terrebonne, this had been as far as the boats could come.
|The End of Navigation on the Mille Iles|
|View Downriver over Rapids|
At 14:00, I reached the CP Rail Bridge just east of Terrebonne. This line is the continuation of the same line upon whose bridge I had crossed earlier, this branch heading east from St. Martin Juntion towards Quebec City.
|CP Rail Bridge at Terrebonne||View from North Side (2003)|
Past the rail crossing, a small and established suburban neighbourhood took the place of the quiet country road. I came to the intersection of Hwy 125, which led acoss the river to Terrebonne on an old, metal span dating from 1905-1906. I, of course, road across to explore old Terrebonne, which I had not seen in thirty years and where I would spend nearly an hour.
|The Terrebonne Bridge (1930)|
|The Terrebonne Bridge (2003 View)|
I vaguely remembered the quaint, narrow streets, but I searched in vain for the town square and signs of the Banque Provinciale which my parents had frequented. A big surprise for me was the waterfront and the whole Ile du Moulin complex.
|Rapids at Terrebonne Shoreline|
|Church at Terrebonne|
|Mill and Dam at Terrebonne|
I could not resist the temptation to walk out on the dam. I could not stay long, for I had left my bike parked at the entrance. I would return to this new-found spot by car, later that very same Summer!
|Terrebonne Shoreline & Bridge in Distance|
By 14:50 I was back at the Hwy 125/Boulevard Mille Iles intersection in Laval. I stopped into the depanneur there to buy myself something I could eat. I was still early on in my diet, and so was being very conscious. I ended up buying a loaf of whole wheat bread, a few slices of which I wolfed down with some water.
|Crossing Hwy 25 in Laval|
I soon crossed over the Hwy 25 freeway, passing across the river to the west of Terrebonne, after which the road resumed it country character. Sheryl called me at 15:08, for her regular check in, as I was riding along past the farms and riverfront properties.
|Country Roads in Laval Once Again|
There came a point where suddenly the road curved sharply away from the river's edge and began to climb up to the higher ground. I was sad to say goodbye to the soothing river vistas.
Just before reaching Laurentian Boulevard, I came upon this massive highway construction site. I did not know, at the time, about the extension of Highway 335 to connect with the end of the Highway 19 freeway coming off the Papineau Bridge. Had I realized the whole area would be transformed by the time of my next visit in 2003, I would have taken more photos.
When I came out at Laurentain Boulevard at 16:00, I knew my way home led to the left and south. Still, I was so close to the Bois-des-Filion Bridge that I felt I just had to have a look. I was anxious to see the Mille Iles River one last time on this ride.
The old, low, wooden bridge that I remembered from days gone by had been replaced with a new, concrete structure. I rode out to the middle of the span and took some pictures before turning my bike homeward.
|View South to Laval Bridge Approach (2003 View)|
|[See Full Photo]|
|View East from Bois-des-Filion Bridge||View West from Bois-des-Filion Bridge|
I followed Laurentian Boulevard as it curved to the west and climbed slowly up from the bridge. It quickly became a very, busy boulevard, crowded tightly by the commercial establishments on both sides. The hour-long ride to the southern side of Laval was not pleasant. There was a long, long gradual climb up to Boulevard St. Elzéar, which more or less marked the to of the central Laval highland. From there on, the riding was made a bit easier by the gentle downhill. There was a most unpleasant section near Boulevard St. Martin, where the street I was on became a divided road and almost a freeway. I was very happy to reach Pont Viau by 17:00
I cut across Montreal on the shortcut path I had pioneered when making an early Spring ride in 1999, while Sheryl was meeting with her mediation group in TMR: I took the Back River bike path west to Jeanne Mance, where I turned southward. (Jeanne-Mance is one way south, while Tolhurst is one way north). Jeanne Mance ended at Sauve, where I turned right and headed west, to l'Acadie. I took l'Acadie south to the l'Acadie Circle at Hwy 40. On the far side, I cut across the Rockland Shopping Centre's parking lot, coming out at the Tim Hortons. I went down the street until I came to the end of Boulevard Laird. I followed Laird diagonally across TMR, around the circle at the centre and continuing to Cote des Neiges and Jean Talon. I followed Jean Talon west to Decarie, wend under the tracks to Decarie Square and then across Snowdon and NDG towards home.
I was home at 18:00
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