Stretching between North Bay and the Town of Mattawa on the Quebec border, the historic waterway was once an important route for voyageurs, trappers and loggers—and before them the First Nations who have inhabited the region for more than 6000 years. In 1970, the Ontario government protected a substantial portion of the river—from the eastern end of Trout Lake downstream to Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park—by designating it the first waterway park in Ontario. In 1988, the federal government recognized the Mattawa’s national historic significance by naming it a Canadian Heritage River. The Mattawa River features lake and river trips with several stretches of rapids, an 8m waterfall, and 9-14 portages depending on water levels. Trips can range from 1 to 4 days in length with a number of access points that allow for a great day-trip. The portages are all shorter than 500m. This route is suitable for visitors with limited canoe experience, but highly skilled canoeists will also enjoy this route by shooting some of the rapids. The river is navigable in both directions, though canoe trips generally commence upstream, and flow from west to east.
The Mattawa River is a non-operating provincial park known as the Mattawa River Provincial Park.