I sat there and forgot and forgot, until what remained was the river that went by and I who watched….Eventually the watcher joined the river, and there was only one of us. I believe it was the river.
Norman Maclean, author of A River Runs Through It
A river runs through our small town and our part of the country. It’s called the Mississippi, which makes some visiting Americans laugh.
This Mississippi may not be mighty, but it’s ours. It is 200 kilometres long with a watershed of almost 5,000 square kilometres. From its headwaters to where it joins the Ottawa River near Fitzroy Harbour the river drops 323 metres in elevation. It runs through the small towns of Lanark, Carleton Place, Almonte, Pakenham and Galetta.
No one really knows the origin of the river’s name. Some think the current spelling may be derived from that of the American Mississippi River, which means “great water.” But it is probably a corruption of a different native name, because this water is definitely not great, especially as compared to the Ottawa River, into which it flows.
Instead, the name may originate from “Mazinaa[bikinigan]-ziibi“, Algonquian for ‘[painted] image river’, referring to the pictographs found on Mazinaw Lake (its headwaters), though this is by no means proven.
I’ve written before about how I love water. I also love quotes about water. And the Maclean quote above is one that gets me every time I read it. It speaks to that indescribable sense of merging that happens when you deeply and silently observe the natural environment around you.
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