Colonel John By
, the Royal Engineer who built the Rideau Canal would have been proud today to witness all of the nautical traffic cruising up and down his watery byway! And in winter, he would be astounded to learn of its recreational use as once the longest skating rink in the world! The cleared length is 7.8 kilometres (4.8 mi) and has the equivalent surface area of 90 Olympic ice hockey rinks, running from the Hartwell locks at
Carleton University to the locks between the
Parliament Buildings and the
Château Laurier Hotel, including Dow's Lake in between. It serves as a popular tourist attraction and recreational area, and is also the focus of Ottawa's Winterlude festival. Beaver Tails, a fried dough pastry, are sold along with other snacks and beverages, in kiosks on the skateway. The river's history led directly to UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 2007.
The Rideau Canal connects Ottawa on the Ottawa River to Kingston on Lake Ontario. The name Rideau, French for "curtain," is derived from the curtain-like appearance of the Rideau River's twin waterfalls where they join the Ottawa River. The canal system uses sections of major rivers, including the Rideau and the Cataraqui, as well as some lakes.
Opening in 1832 as a precaution in case of war with the United States, it remains in use today primarily for pleasure boating, with most of its original structures intact and operated by Parks Canada. The locks open for navigation in mid-May and close in mid-October. It is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America.
The canal once served a commercial purpose. It was easier to navigate than the St. Lawrence River because of the series of rapids between Montreal and Kingston. As a result, the Rideau Canal became a busy commercial artery from Montreal to the Great Lakes. However, by 1849, the St. Lawrence rapids had been tamed by a series of locks, and commercial shippers quickly switched to this more direct route.
The canal is open to sightseeing cruises, pleasure craft, canoeist, and kayakers; paddleboats, canoes and kayaks can be rented at the Dow's Lake Pavilion. Boat tours of the canal are offered in Ottawa, Kingston, Merrickville, and Chaffeys Lock. Ontario Waterway Cruises operates a five-day cruise aboard their ship, Kawartha Voyageur. Recreational boaters can make use of the canal to travel between Ottawa and Kingston.
Most of the locks are still hand-operated. There are a total of 45 locks at 23 stations along the canal, plus two locks (locks 33 and 34) at the entrance to the Tay Canal (leading to Perth). Also of note are four blockhouses and some of the original 16 defensible lockmasters residences along the waterway.
The canal serves boats up to 27.4 m (90 ft) in length, 7.9 m (26 ft) in width, and 6.7 m (22 ft) in height with a draft of up to 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in); boats drafting over 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in) are asked to contact the Rideau Canal Office of Parks Canada prior to their trip. In special circumstances a boat up to 33.5 m (110 ft) in length by 9.1 m (30 ft) in width can be handled.
Along the route, there are many fine opportunities to stay overnight, grab a bite to eat and take in some entertainment. For example, Cove Country Inn is a hub of live music on the Rideau offering a Blues series, jazz nights and more along with gourmet and wine dinners, comedy shows and specialty shows of other music genres featured all year long.
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.
The Rideau Canal is a historical scenic waterway that connects the towns of Kingston and Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The canal was built by the British after the War of 1812 to provide a secure link between Montreal and Kingston, without passing along the Saint Lawrence River because that river borders American territory. Colonel By of the Royal Engineers was in charge; the city at the North end of the canal, now called Ottawa, was originally Bytown.
Actual construction started in 1827 and the canal was opened 5 years later in 1832, with 47 locks in 25 separate lock stations. While the total length of the route is 202 kilometers, only about 19 kilometers are actually man-made, with the rest of the route using existing lakes and rivers.
The Bytown Museum by the Ottawa Locks in Ottawa is a good place to learn about the history of the Rideau Canal.
The Rideau Canal, also known as the Rideau Waterway, connects the city of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on the Ottawa River to the city of Kingston, Ontario, on Lake Ontario. It is 202 kilometres in length.