Once a powerhouse for milling operations, the river that runs through the municipality of Mississippi Mills, Ontario, now serves to enrich the local lifestyle.
Photo: Karen Hirst
Eastern Ontario’s Own “Mighty Mississippi”
Quaint, charming and picturesque, the villages and towns that dot the banks of the mighty Mississippi River flowing through the municipality of Mississippi Mills in eastern Ontario immerse visitors and inhabitants alike in the essence and soul of their historic origins. Not only that, these long established communities exude passion and energy as they transform vision and potential into concrete action and results.
Comprising the amalgamated communities of Almonte, Pakenham, Appleton and Clayton, as well as the rural areas of Ramsay Township, the municipality shares a 130-year history of woollen mill operations along the banks of the Mississippi River. Each community continues to share with equal pride and gusto the binding ties of the river that flows through them.
With its torrential awakening in the spring, a mellowing flow through the lazy, hazy days of summer and on into the mystical, crystallizing dress of winter, each community experiences its own unique display of the river’s power, its beauty and joyful gaiety and playfulness as it tumbles and rumbles, taking passage under the pathways above and over rocks and deepening excavations in the river bed below.
When opened, the weir at Appleton provides ribbons of rushing water over a slippery wall of concrete that drops a short distance down into a sudsy foam at its base.
Picking up momentum the river produces the swirling splash of its mesmerizing power before settling into a calming flow towards Almonte. The power of the falls once supported a sawmill, a gristmill and for 130 years a woollen mill. In the absence of the mills, modern-era Appleton is now a charming village retreat, home to the 100-year-old, 18-hole Mississippi Golf Club and a museum that preserves the history of the bygone productive days of mill operations, as well as that of their owners and employees. (Don’t miss these great Canadian halls of fame, either.)
Almonte is the only town in Ontario named after a Mexican general. With a proud origin as a textile/mill town, Almonte once boasted seven busy woollen mills, the last of which closed in the 1980s. The Mississippi Valley Textile Museum, housed in the annex of the old Rosamond Woollen Mill—a national historic site of Canada—offers visitors an enlightening experience of recorded history on the mill operations as well as a large display of tactile and visual exhibits.
Almonte’s wealth of varying-sized waterfalls offers to its viewing audience both sights and sounds that leave no doubt as to the power and volume of the Mississippi. Grand Falls in particular (above) gives forth an exquisite display during the height of its spring flow. With an abundance of power, the river currently supports two electrical power plants. Here are 10 more spectacular waterfalls in Canada.
Another feather in Almonte’s crown: Reader’s Digest recently named it one of the best places to spend Christmas in Canada!
Photo: Karen Hirst
Flowing under the Blakeney bridge, the river lazily arrives from Almonte. Picking up momentum, it travels over smoothly polished rocks and with its gaiety and playful churning and gyrating, it moves with a swift white-water frothiness towards the village of Pakenham.
Blakeney is a quaint rural village. Although long-since demolished, there once were a number of thriving mills in Blakeney. It is now home to a provincial park tucked in along the curve of the river rapids, a delightful place to spend some quiet time or enjoy great outdoor recreation. (Here are more gorgeous Canadian parks worth adding to your bucket list.)
Reaching Pakenham, the Mississippi is met by the Five Span Bridge (above), which is the only one of its kind in North America. Built in 1901 to accommodate horse and carriage traffic on the way to the local mills, public pressure led to its restoration rather than its demolition and replacement in 1984 to handle modern-day traffic. Today, pulsating into peaks of sudsy foam and powered along by a strong current, the Mississippi continues its traditional rapid course through and past the refurbished stone arches, breaking against any obstacle in its path until eventually it joins forces with the Ottawa River near Arnprior.
The Mississippi River is one of the many treasures offered for a lifestyle that is second to none along its banks, in the community of Mississippi Mills.
Need another reason to visit Mississippi Mills? This random act of small town kindness will warm your heart.