The County of Renfrew geographic information system contains “official names” for over 700 lakes, 200 creeks and rivers, and 50 wetlands.   It also identifies 36 “quaternary watersheds” that occur wholly or in part in the County, as described in the table below.  Knowledge of drainage patterns in these watersheds can provide insights into how activities in upstream areas may influence water quality and property values in downstream areas.

Renfrew County is entirely within the larger Ottawa River watershed.   The Ottawa River has played a central role in Canada’s history:  the homeland of the Algonquin peoples, a meeting place for Aboriginal peoples and early European explorers such as Champlain, and a means of trading and transporting fur and timber. 

Aboriginal peoples arrived in the Ottawa Valley less than 10 thousand years ago, after the end of the most recent ice age.  The valley itself originated about 600 million years ago in the Precambrian when only bacteria lived on the Earth.  At that time the world’s continents were joined together in a single super-continent.  When it broke apart, deep cracks – extending some 40 km to the base of the Earth’s crust - formed where the Ottawa and Bonnechere rivers are found today.  These faults spread apart and the land between them dropped downwards, forming a wide valley with escarpments on either side, known as the Ottawa-Bonnechere Graben, extending from just north of the present Ottawa River channel in Pontiac County, Quebec south to the Mount St. Patrick Fault near Lakes Clear and Calabogie.

The advance and retreat of the Laurentide Ice Sheet shaped the present-day landforms and soils of Renfrew County.  In some areas the glaciers scraped materials from the land surface and left mainly bare rock, elsewhere they deposited materials in landforms such as moraines, eskers, and kames.  

The 2-km thick ice sheet had compressed the land surface by roughly 150 meters.  As the glaciers retreated, the Atlantic Ocean rushed in and created the Champlain Sea, which flooded low-lying parts of the Valley as far west as Point Alexander.  Massive amounts of melting water from the glaciers flowed east from the Rocky Mountains and western plains into the upper Great Lakes and broke through an outlet in North Bay into the Ottawa River and Champlain Sea.  At the height of melting the Ottawa rivaled the Amazon in size.  Meltwater carried rocks and sediment and helped carve parts of the present valleys of the Barron, Bonnechere, Chalk, Indian, Madawaska, Muskrat and Petawawa Rivers.  Sediments transported into the Champlain Sea left extensive deposits of Leda Clay.  Elsewhere, meltwater ponded and formed huge lakes, the precursors of today’s Lake Calabogie, Lake Clear, Golden Lake, Mink Lake, Round Lake, and Silver Lake.  Vegetation later grew in these lake basins and decayed into peat, forming Renfrew County’s extensive wetlands and providing habitat for fish, waterfowl, and aquatic mammals.


Watershed designation

Main river or creek

Details (Note: Watershed and lake areas and names of creeks are from the County of Renfrew geographic information system.)


upper Ottawa River

This 22,300-ha area includes the drainage basins of a series of creeks flowing into the Ottawa between Mackey Creek and the Petawawa River, but excluding Tucker Creek and Chalk River.  Included are Antler, Kennedy, McConnell, Tee, and Harvey Creeks.  Portions of crown land along the upper Ottawa River upstream from Rolphton have been proposed as a major new waterway class provincial park, but have not received formal designation.  The largest lakes are Heart (96 ha), Tee with its public beach (74 ha), Sullivan (56 ha), and Perch (43 ha), which is on AECL property and contaminated by radioactive wastes.


Tucker Creek

Much of CFB Petawawa and the Petawawa Research Forest are in this small watershed that extends into Algonquin Park.  The Renfrew County portion encompasses about 8,000 ha. The largest lakes are Tucker (104 ha) and Centre (72 ha).


Chalk River

This 22,800-ha watershed includes two major lakes (Sturgeon, 267 ha; Maskinonge, 163 ha) on the property of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.  Not far upstream is Corry Lake (184 ha), with a public beach.  The upper portion of the watershed includes Kean Lake (62 ha) and a series of smaller (~30-ha) lakes: Otterson, James, Big Bass and Little Bass).  During post-glacial times the Ottawa River was much wider and included a portion of the present-day channel of the Chalk River.


Mackey Creek

Mackey Creek and its tributaries (Conway, Findlay and Jennings Creeks) drains in Holden Lake, formed by damming of the Ottawa River at Des Joachims.  Nearly 200 ha of the lower portion of the 19,500-ha Renfrew County portion of this watershed is flooded by the dam.  Many small lakes are found in the upper portions of the watershed, the largest of which are Eeyore (31 ha) and Otter (21 ha).


Grants Creek

Grants Creek flows out of Algonquin Park into Holden Lake above the dam at Des Joachims.   Some of the 12,600-ha Renfrew County portion of its watershed is a provincial waterway park, including the 120-ha Grants Creek Marsh.  The watershed includes Chateau (131 ha), Pooh (43 ha) and Christopher Robin (33 ha) Lakes.  Adelard (36 ha) and McSourley (33 ha) Lakes are also included in watershed 2KA-05 but drain directly into the Ottawa River.  Portions of the upper Ottawa River in this area have been proposed as a major new waterway class provincial park, but have not received formal designation.


Bissett Creek

Bissett Creek flows out of Algonquin Park into Holden Lake.  The Renfrew County portion of its watershed is 21,100 ha in area and includes a provincial waterway park protecting Big Bissett (204 ha), Waterloo (184 ha) and Little (35 ha) Lakes.  Its main tributaries are Black, Little Bissett, Sheedys, and Shingle Creeks.


Deux Rivieres Creek

Deux Rivieres Creek flows out of Algonquin Park into Holden Lake.  The Renfrew County portion of its watershed, about 18,900 ha in area, includes the Greenbough Esker Conservation Reserve, along with Greenbough (131 ha), Rit (44 ha), Claradeer (42 ha), Deermeadow (39 ha) and Clara (35 ha) Lakes.


Aumond and Bastien Creeks

Only a small (245-ha) fragment of this quaternary watershed is in Renfrew County, including part of the basin of an unnamed stream that discharges directly into the Ottawa River upstream from Deux Rivieres Creek.


Petawawa River

The 25,300-ha portion of the Petawawa River watershed in Renfrew County is straight and narrow, representing one of the major post-glacial drainage channels from the upper Great Lakes into the Champlain Sea.  The downstream portion of the river widens into Lac du Bois Dur (~ 140 ha) and Black Bay (~ 90 ha) before flowing over major rapids and into Allumette Lake in the Ottawa River.  Upstream, on CFB Petawawa lands, is Montgomery Lake (102 ha), another widening of the river channel.  Further upstream, the Renfrew County portion of this watershed also includes Findlay (17 ha) and Parkline (20 ha) Lakes in the headwaters of Blue Beech Creek, which flows south into the Petawawa River in Algonquin Park.


Barron River

The 6,800 ha of the Barron River watershed in Renfrew County include a provincial waterway park, accessible from Black Bay.  The Barron River was one of the main post-glacial drainage channels from the upper Great Lakes.  Its canyon demonstrates the immense power of silt-laden water to carve through rock in a short period of time.  The Renfrew County portion of the canyon has lower walls than the portion in Algonquin Park, but is still impressive.  The Barron River joins the Petawawa River in Lac du Bois Dur.


Lone Creek

Lone Creek joins the Petawawa River upstream from its confluence with the Barron River, flowing in from the south.  About 1,200 ha of its watershed are in Renfrew County, mostly on CFB Petawawa lands.


Cartier Creek

Cartier Creek joins the Petawawa River in Montgomery Lake, upstream from its confluence with Lone Creek, flowing south from Cartier Lake (274 ha).  About 7,500 ha of its watershed are in Renfrew County, including 57-ha Wylie Lake and a large part of the Petawawa Research Forest.


North River

The North River flows into the Petawawa River in Radiant Lake in Algonquin Park.  The 3,200-ha Renfrew County portion of its watershed includes Wendigo Lake (164 ha), a starting point for trips into the Algonquin Park interior.


lower Ottawa River

This area includes the drainage basins of a series of creeks flowing directly into the Ottawa, from Dochart Creek just upstream of Arnprior to Hales Creek just upstream of Pembroke.  The basins of the Bonnechere and Muskrat (and Snake) Rivers are excluded.  The Westmeath Provincial Park and the Westmeath Bog Conservation Reserve are included in this area.


Indian River

The provincial watershed classification mistakenly shows the Indian River as flowing into the Ottawa River, when it is in fact part of the Muskrat River drainage.  The upper Indian River canyon was created by post-glacial drainage channel from the Great Lakes to the Champlain Sea.  After leaving the Algonquin batholith the Indian takes a meandering course through the former Champlain Sea bed to join the Muskrat River in Pembroke.  Its tributaries include Crooked Lake, Gariepy, Kelly Lake, Little Cranberry and Locksley Creeks.  McKay Creek, its largest tributary, drains Sec Lake (in Algonquin Park) and Mallard (26 ha) and Johnny (52 ha) Lakes (in Renfrew County).  Other small lakes in the watershed are Kelly (57 ha), Crooked (55 ha), Flat Iron (30 ha), Supple (28 ha), Beechnut (25 ha), and Maves (23 ha).


Bonnechere River

The Bonnechere River watershed extends from its headwaters lakes in Algonquin Park (McKaskill and North Branch) to its outlet in the Ottawa River in Lac des Chats near Castleford.  It flows along fault lines created over half a billion years ago during the break-up of the ancient super-continent Rodinia. Three sub-watersheds: Hurds Creek, Brennans Creek, and the Sherwood River – are given separate watershed designations in the provincial classification.  In Renfrew County, this 134,800-ha segment of the Bonnechere watershed includes Round (2978 ha), Golden (3567 ha) and Wilber (292 ha) Lakes on the main channel of the river.  Tributaries include Byers, Cochrane, Deils, Jacks, Kasaboski, Pettigrew and Smiths Creeks, and the Pine River.  The “Little Bonnechere” from Algonquin Park to Bonnechere Park at Round Lake is designated as a provincial waterway park.  A series of lakes occurs in its main channel: Stevenson (37 ha), Beaverdam (57 ha), Curriers (78 ha), and Couchain (54 ha).  Other significant lakes in this watershed are Murphys (77 ha) near the Algonquin Park boundary; Brewster (80 ha), Upper Long (65 ha), Perrigo (50 ha) in the Gariepy Mountain region; and Hurds (207 ha), Collton (79 ha), and Reid (78 ha) in the eastern part of the watershed. The wetlands at Reid/Miller, Samally and Wilber Lakes, as well as at the Bonnechere Rivermouth, are designated as “provincially significant”.


Muskrat River

The Muskrat River is a curious anomaly, flowing in a northwest direction opposite to the Ottawa River and other major rivers of Renfrew County, and lacking major rapids near its confluence with the Ottawa (in Pembroke).  It was used by voyagers to bypass the dangerous rapids in the Ottawa River at Rocher Fendu.  Muskrat Lake (1219 ha), the largest in this watershed, occupies a major fault dating to the Precambrian.  In post-glacial times it was a channel of the Ottawa River.   The 28,400-ha Muskrat River basin (excluding the Snake and Indian Rivers) is wholly within Renfrew County.  It includes major wetland complexes around Mud Lake (141 ha) and Mud Creek, parts of which are protected as a provincial conservation reserve.  The river's headwaters above Muskrat Lake include a chain of three lakes: Olmstead (73 ha), Jeffreys (50 ha), and Garden (51 ha).  The esker ridges around Green Lake (36 ha) have been designated as a provincially significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). 


Snake River

The Snake River flows into Muskrat Lake.  Its 39,500-ha basin, wholly within Renfrew County, is part of the larger Muskrat River basin.  It drains1516-ha Lake Dore (a hotspot for birdwatchers with its provincially significant wetlands) and 554-ha Mink Lake.  The Snake River and Mink Creek upstream from Osceola have been ditched and straightened, draining the former Upper Osceola Marsh.  Intensive agricultural cultivation in the organic matter-rich soils of the drained lowlands, combined with an absence of protective buffers along the banks, has greatly increased nutrient and sediment loads in the Snake and Muskrat watersheds, resulting in annual algal blooms in Muskrat Lake.  About 20% of the Snake River Marsh downstream from Osceola is included in a provincial conservation reserve.  It filters out some (not all) of the sediments, nutrients, and chemicals in runoff from the agricultural lands upriver.  Black Creek flows into Lake Dore out of the mountainous Precambrian Shield area to the west of the Lake.  Its catchment includes Jonsons (48 ha), Petznick (45 ha) and Big Swawell (39 ha) Lakes.



Hurds Creek drains 1741-ha Lake Clear and flows into the Bonnechere River in Eganville.  Its 14,100-ha basin, wholly within Renfrew County, is part of the larger Bonnechere River basin.  Foran and Rodden Creeks (which both flow into Lake Clear) and Cruttey's Creek (which flows into Rodden Creek) all arise on the slopes of Ryan’s Mountain near Foymount, the highest point in Renfrew County.


Brennans Creek

Brennans Creek flows out of the Wilno Hills into Round Lake just downstream from Killaloe.    Its 23,800-ha basin, wholly within Renfrew County, is part of the larger Bonnechere River basin.  Gorman (73 ha) and Cuddys (39 ha) Lakes are found in its headwaters.  Silver Creek, its main tributary, meanders through extensive wetlands downstream from 146-ha Silver Lake, formerly the largest of the post-glacial lakes in Renfrew County some 10,000 years ago.  A portion of these wetlands is included in the Silver Lake Peatland Conservation Reserve.   The Killaloe Swamp, another extensive wetland area, is designated as “provincially significant”.


Sherwood River

The Sherwood River flows out of the rugged Wilno Hills over a series of chutes and falls into Round Lake near Round Lake Centre.  Its 22,900-ha basin, mostly within Renfrew County, is part of the larger Bonnechere River basin.  Its major tributary, Paugh Creek, drains 708-ha Paugh Lake, one of the larger lakes in Renfrew County and a major recreation   area for Barry’s Bay residents.  Other lakes in the watershed include Brule (104 ha), Burns (68 ha), Surprise (62 ha), and McGuire (50 ha). The Sherwood River Marsh is a large provincially significant wetland within the river basin.


upper Madawaska River

Rackett Rapids, between Palmer Rapids and Griffith, has been designated as an arbitrary division between the “upper” and “lower” Madawaska River drainage basins.  The 49,700-ha Renfrew County portion of this “watershed” includes the watersheds of Biernacki, Carson, Diamond Lake, Graham, Hochbergs, Johnson, Leidtke, McLaughlin, Purdy, Rose, and Yourths Creeks.  Individual watershed designations have been given to the Aylen, Little Mississippi, and York Rivers; and Snake, Eneas/Pilgrims, and Rockingham Creeks.  Renfrew County includes significant portions of Bark (3826 ha)and Kamaniskeg (1084 ha) Lakes, which along with Negeek Lake (250 ha) are in the main channel of the Madawaska River.  Other significant lakes in the watershed include Carson (271 ha), Trout (184 ha), Raglan White (136 ha), McMaster (113 ha), Kulas (102 ha), and Diamond (89 ha). Portions of the “upper” Madawaska are included in the Lower Madawaska provincial waterway park.  Bell Bay Provincial Park, adjacent to the east side of Bark Lake, includes the impressive cliff at Bear Mountain, a popular hiking destination.


York River

The York River flows north from the Bancroft area through Conroys Marsh into the Madawaska River in Negeek Lake, within Renfrew County.  About 5,500 ha of its much larger basin are within the County.  Its major tributary, the Little Mississippi River, has an individual watershed designation.  A portion of Conroys Marsh and surrounding lands has been designated as a provincial conservation reserve, including 1728 ha in Renfrew County.    The largest marsh complex in Renfrew County, it includes black spruce and cedar bog forests.  Its aquatic habitats, known for their duck production, include wild rice stands, cat-tail marsh, and grassy meadow marshes.


Little Mississippi River

The Little Mississippi flows north to join the York River in Conroys Marsh.  About 11,800 ha of its drainage basin are in Renfrew County.  Portions of the Little Mississippi are designated as a waterway class provincial park.  Tributaries that occur (in part) within Renfrew County are Lily, Moccasin, Murphys, Pennocks, and Salt Creeks.


Snake Creek

Snake Creek flows north to join the Madawaska River near Island Rapids.  About 9,400 ha of its drainage basin are within Renfrew County.  Its main tributaries that occur (in part) within the County are Hardwood and Little Snake Creeks. 


Eneas and Pilgrims Creeks

Eneas Creek and Pilgrims Creek both flow south into the Madawaska River.  The combined area of their drainage basins is about 15,500 ha.  Dupuis and Little Eneas Creeks flow into Eneas Creek; and Schimmers Creek flows into Pilgrims Creek.  Eneas Creek is one of several creeks flowing from Ryans Mountain, the highest point in Renfrew County.


Rockingham Creek

Rockingham Creek drains an 18,000-ha basin to the north of the Madawaska River, including Charlotte Lake.  It is one of several creeks flowing from Ryans Mountain, the highest point in Renfrew County.


Aylen River

Although the Aylen River discharges into the Opeongo River outside Renfrew County, a small (2,400-ha) portion of Aylen Lake and its drainage basin is within the County.  The Ministry of Natural Resources has designated the Aylen Lake East area adjacent toAlgonquin Provincial Park for “enhanced management– remote access”.  This area is an important land base for forest management, back country recreation and high quality hunting associated with residents, hunt camps and commercial outfitting.  It contains several cold water lakes including Aglen Lake, Arabis Lake and Chapeskis Lake.


lower Madawaska River

The provincial watershed classification splits the Madawaska River into upper and lower portions at Racketts Rapids between Palmer Rapids and Griffith.  About 93,600 ha of the “lower” Madawaska basin is in Renfrew County, including the watersheds of Blind, Colton, Glenfield, Godin, Hallidays, Hansons, Henderson, Juniper, Kippens, Lackey, Little Black Donald, Mile, Milty, Morrow and Stoughton Creeks.  Individual watershed designations have been given to Black Donald, Constant, Highland, Hydes, Mackie and Waba Creeks.  Major lakes on the main river channel (which is dammed at several locations) include Black Donald, Calabogie and Centennial Lakes, and Lake Madawaska. Portions of the “lower” Madawaska upstream of Griffith are included in the Lower Madawaska provincial waterway park.  The Centennial Lake Provincial Nature Reserve includes three island parcels in Black Donald Lake, as well as two larger upland tracts.  Hiking trails provide excellent views of the Madawaska valley at Manitou Mountain near Calabogie, and in the Griffith Uplands area of natural and scientific interest.


Waba Creek

Waba Creek flows from White Lake and follows a winding course to Lake Madawaska upstream from Arnprior.  About 10,300 ha of its drainage basin are in Renfrew County.   White Lake itself includes two provincially significant wetlands in Renfrew County, and a provincial conservation reserve in adjacent Lanark County.  Portions of the watersheds of Boundary, Fish, and Paris Creeks, and Broad Brook, all of which flow into White Lake, are within Renfrew County.


Constant Creek

Constant Creek flows through the wetlands of Constant Lake and Fergusons Lake and then drops steeply into Lake Calabogie.  Its 30,500-ha basin is entirely within Renfrew County and includes the watersheds of Gormans, Perrault and Schweigerts Creeks.  Constant Creek Swamp and Fen is provincially designated as a conservation reserve, and Fergusons   Lake has provincially significant wetlands.


Black Donald Creek

Black Donald Creek flows out of the rugged Madawaska Highlands into the Madawaska River in Black Donald Lake.  Its 12,200-ha basin, wholly within Renfrew County, includes the watersheds of Doorley, Malotte and Tooeys Creeks.


Mackie Creek

Mackie Creek flows north into the Madawaska River at Centennial Lake.  A small portion (about 1,900 ha) of its drainage basin is in Renfrew County.


Highland Creek

Highland Creek flows south from the Madawaska Highlands into the Madawaska River upstream from the Highway 41 bridge in Griffith.  Its 15,600-ha drainage basin includes the watershed of Wadsworth Creek. 


Hydes Creek

Hydes Creek flows north into the Madawaska River upstream from the Highway 41 bridge in Griffith.  A small portion of its drainage basin (about 1,000 ha) is in Renfrew County.


Mississippi River

About 450 ha of the Missisippi River drainage basin, east of Arnprior near its confluence with the Ottawa River in Lac des Chats, is within Renfrew County.  Most of this area is within the provincially significant Nopoming wetland, which was designated as a crown game preserve many years ago.  The Macnamara Field Naturalists in Arnprior maintain a trail network in and around this wetland and along the shore of the Ottawa between the mouths of the Madawaska and Mississippi Rivers.


Clyde River

Most of Clyde Lake, the main headwaters lake of the Clyde River, is in Renfrew County, along with a 5,300-ha portion of the Clyde River basin.  The Clyde River itself is a tributary of the Mississippi River and joins it further south in Lanark County.


Subpages (1): Ottawa River Watershed
john almstedt,
Jan 20, 2014, 12:30 PM