Pronounce it kwee-on!
With the demise of the Deux-Rivières crossing 200 upstream Quyon now has the honour of being the last ferry on the Ottawa as you head deeper inland. Past here the river is often narrower, and easier to bridge, especially where there are islands or rapids such as at Portage-du-Fort and Pembroke. And while Quyon can be considered on the outer limit of Ottawa's commuting zone, past here things become ever more remote and less populous; fewer people to support ferries, combined with a tolerance of driving longer distances.
We'd crossed on the Quyon ferry once before, years before when our kids were wee. From then all I really remember was we found a chip-stand in Quyon that was good—
any food is good when you have hungry kids. Returning in 2017 that was the only landmark I was looking for, but after 25+ years all chip stands look the same! But quite likely that was Mae McCann's chip stand which was an institution and had a "best in region" reputation till she retired and sold out 2012.
Our most recent visit came at the end of a day that had seen us cross the Ottawa seven times by ferry
starting off from Valois in Montreal's West Island. We'd driven from the Masson–Cumberland ferry
through Gatineau at rush hour and then relaxed as we headed away from populous areas on Hwy 148. This road passes a kilometre north of Quyon, which is probably why the town gives an air of slowly fading away.
Being the culmination of a day dedicated to ferries we stopped for a photo at the last ferry sign by were the road crosses the Quyon River. The start of the town is marked by a somewhat bleak small park containing a war memorial and a preserved armoured personnel carrier. Rue Ferry heads left immediately after, and runs past the agricultural fair ground, complete with a 20 high painting of Elvis (or an impersonator!).
We arrived as the ferry was unloading on the far bank, so had plenty of time to relax and watch the river in the evening light. Across the water, and the provincial boundary, the ferry docks at Fitzroy Harbour, or so they say. But let's be straight here, there is a road (Ferry Road—
we're in Ontario now) that appears from nowhere in the middle of a tree-lined shore, with no houses or any other signs of civilisation visible, save the ferry dock. And definitely no harbour. Fitzroy Harbour itself is tucked in a bay six or seven kilometres further upstream by the Chat Falls power station.
The history of the crossing goes back to the original horse-drawn ferry introduced in about 1885. Ownership passed in 1956 to Ed McColgan whose son Don still owns and operates the ferry today. From 1916 to 1957 the boat was a small gasoline powered paddle-wheeler, which was replaced by a faster 6 car ferry. This in turn was replaced by two larger steel boats in 1969 and 1971, the second of which was built on the beach beside the ferry dock.
The Grant Beattie, the current boat, was built in pieces by Magnalum in Shawville and assembled beside the dock in Quyon in time to operate the 2014 season. Billed as the largest ferry on the Ottawa, it can take up to 21 cars, and the largest of roadworthy trucks, trailers, farm equipment etc. It is cable operated, and electric powered, with the two battery packs charged overnight. So it is quiet and clean. Its design is derived from the Ecolos electric ferry on the Thurso–Clarence route. And who was Grant Beattie? He was a jack-of-all-trades who began doing repairs on the ferries in 1962 and continued till his 90s, and was a major influence in the life of the current owner, Don McColgan.
There may be the odd commuter from Ottawa or Gatineau who finds the ferry useful, but the main users are the farmers, businesses, cottagers and residents of the hinterland to the ferry on either side of the river. The ferry saves about an 1½ hour drive via the bridges at Ottawa or Portage-du-Fort. The disparity in the legal drinking age either side of the river (18 in Quebec, 21 in Ontario) gives a boost to the traffic on weekend evenings! Currently the operation shuts down in winter, but there are plans to expand the operation to year-round.
As all along the Ottawa, Quyon and its ferry took a major hit from the floods of 2017. At one point all the fairground and ferry dock area was inundated. The new ferry with its large loading ramps can cope with very high water levels, and there are pictures of vehicles loading with the ferry dock itself under water. But eventually the water level rose too high and the service was shut down till the waters receded. Quyon was on the tour that Quebec Premier Couillard made through flooded areas in May that year. If you travel on the ferry check out the display panels on the side of the wheelhouse. One covers the history of the crossing and another has photos and articles about the 2017 floods.