Chats Falls

Chats Falls (in French: Chute des Chats, meaning "Cat Falls") were a set of waterfalls on the Ottawa River, near Fitzroy Harbour, Ontario, and Quyon, Quebec, Canada. A hydroelectric generating station is now located here, owned and operated jointly by Hydro-Québec and Ontario Power Generation. It lies within the cities of Ottawa and Pontiac, Quebec.

The falls

Prior to the construction of the dam and power generating station, the Chats Falls was a waterfall with a 10.7 meter (35 feet) drop in the river, and consisted of a series of chutes running from what is now the eastern end of the dam all the way to the western-most corner of Pontiac Bay. In their natural state the Chats Falls were quite a tourist attraction. In the years leading up to World War One it was fairly common to see large steam boats (paddle wheelers) heading up river with their decks full of sightseers.

Today, catfish lovers flock year-round to Lac des Chats (Lake of Cats), one of the best catfish holes in the Ottawa Valley, to fish for this perennial favourite.

The horse railway

In 1847, the Union Rail Road was established at Chats Falls. Passengers were treated to a horse-drawn railroad trip of 5.0 km (3.0 mi) through the dense forest skirting the rough waters. While the roof sheltered passengers from rain and sun, the sides were open to mosquitoes, which brought complaints from many of the river travelers.

In 1853, James Poole, editor of The Carleton Place Herald, wrote about the Chats Falls horse railway:

Generating station

Construction on a run-of-river generating station and dam began in 1929 and was completed in 1932, destroying the falls and creating Lac des Chats reservoir behind the dam. The powerhouse is in the middle of the Ottawa River on the Ontario/Quebec border.

On March 2, 1953, a fire started in the morning, burning for 7 hours and destroying 2 generators and the building's roof. The station went completely down when the cables got damaged. Two of the eight generating units were brought back into operation the following day and another four units being brought on-line the following week. In all, $2 million of damage was done.

The power station has 8 turbines (4 managed by Ontario Power Generation and 4 managed by Hydro-Québec) with a head of 16.16 meter (53 feet), generating a total of 79 MW.


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