Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

In 2007, the Rideau Canal was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,
recognizing the canal as a work of human creative genius.
The canal joins Ottawa, Ontario and Kingston, Ontario.

Rideau Locks in the summer in OttawaThe Rideau Canal becomes a waterway for pleasure craft during the Ottawa summers

Photo by sookie, flickr.com


From mid-May to mid-October, the canal functions as a recreational waterway. Twelve miles of the route is man-made. Some of the communities you will find along the Canal include Ottawa, Manotick, Kars, Merrickville, Smiths Falls, Kemptville and Perth.

Today, pleasure craft and boat tours use the canal. Recreational boaters use it to go between Ottawa and Kingston, with a system of 47 locks–most of which are still hand-operated.

Rideau Canal becomes a skateway in winter in OttawaThe canal becomes a skater’s paradise during the Ottawa winters

Photo by nori832, sxc.hu


In winter, the Rideau Canal becomes the world’s largest skating rink, with a cleared length of 7.8 km (90 Olympic hockey rinks)! The “rink” goes from Carleton University to the locks by Parliament. Dow’s Lake Pavillion is a popular stop along the way.

The Rideau Canal almost became an expressway: although locals used the canal as a skating surface for years, the city government wanted to pave the canal and make it an automobile expressway in the 70s. In 1971, the new plan to make it a recreational area was implemented despite city council opposition, and 50,000 people skated on the canal that first weekend.



Beavertails have been around since 1978. What’s a Beavertail?– don’t worry, no real animals are harmed in the process! Beavertails are delicious, whole-wheat pastries stretched into the shape of a beaver tail and cooked with canola or soya oil. They are served fresh topped with butter and your choice of flavours, like cinnamon sugar, chocolate banana, apple cinnamon & caramel. This winter tradition, along with a cup of hot chocolate, is sure to warm you up after working up an appetite on the skateway!


The original purpose of the canal waterway was a military one. Construction was supervised by Lieutenant-Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers. Private contractors constructed the canal and the actual work was done by Irish and French-Canadian labourers. The Canal was intended to be an alternate route between Montreal and Kingston, since the St. Lawrence River brought ships too close to New York State. At the time it was built, British forces were defending the colony of Canada against the United States of America.

Started in 1826, finished in 1832, the total cost was 822,000 pounds. It was ultimately never used as a military supply route–it served as a main travel route for immigrants going westwards into Upper Canada (until the St. Lawrence locks were completed in late 1840s) and was also used to transport goods such as timber, minerals, and grain east to Montreal.

Interesting Facts about the Rideau Canal

  • finished in 1832
  • 123 miles long
  • system of 47 locks
  • includes 16 lakes and 2 rivers
  • has a 360 foot long x 60 foot high dam at Jones Falls

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