The local rivers and Rideau Canal, which provided the primary means of transportation for settlers, fur traders, loggers, and the military, defined the early settlement of the region. Most early settlements were along rivers. Extensive logging in the 19th century was followed by development of farms in the lowland areas, and mining, mainly in the Gatineau Hills. In the 20th century, urban areas expanded greatly at the expense of natural areas and agricultural land, so that much of the vacant land within the urbanized area has some form of environmental constraint. Ottawa's growth has also been shaped by the Greenbelt, almost 20 000 hectares of publicly owned lands (farms, forests, wetlands, institutional complexes, and recreational areas) in a rural setting.
Did you know?... About 25% of all urban land is dedicated to our widespread use of vehicles: parking lots, roads, garages, driveways, and gas stations.
Decisions can be hard! Many of us might like to live in a home on a bluff with a beautiful view of the valley below or perhaps on the banks of a quiet river. Beware! Both may be hazardous. A bluff on Leda clay may be vulnerable to landslides and the riverside home may be prone to flooding. In Ottawa, development on clay slopes, on organic soils, or in areas vulnerable to flooding is either prohibited or subject to review by a geotechnical engineer.
Geology and Agriculture Soil texture, which is determined by the underlying geological material, determines how suitable the land is for agriculture. Nutrient-rich silt and clay soils are highly productive as long as surface drainage is adequate. Networks of long drainage ditches are common in these areas. Till, which has a fine-grained matrix, is also nutrient-rich and retains moisture well. Farms on till often have rock fences or piles built from boulders pulled from the fields. Sandy soils may be low in nutrients and do not hold moisture, and thus are poor agricultural soils. In the Bourget-Plantagenet vicinity, abandoned farms on the dry sand plain of the early Ottawa River have been returned to pine forest, now the Larose public recreation forest.