Curling its way through the pictorial neighborhoods of Kingston to the historic suburbs of Ottawa, Rideau Canal exudes natural splendor and rich heritage. A paradise for paddlers, and voyageurs, the canal meanders gently through meadows, valleys, rivers, waterfalls, and lakes. Get your mojo back as you explore million dollar homes, quaint cottages, and swimming waterbirds in a peaceful bay. An elemental feat of engineering, this canal is treasured for recreational purpose and for traveling on a budget.
The Rideau Canal was built to strengthen the naval defense of Canada between 1826 and 1832 under the supervision of Lieutenant Colonel John By. It’s name ‘Rideau’, which is a French word for “curtain”, is derived from the curtain-like appearance of the Rideau Falls. The canal was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1925, and received a status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
Things to Do in and around Rideau Canal
Boating and Canoeing – As the morning sun of the shoulder season brings nature to life, you can silently glide across in a canoe or take a boat tour to the impressive Rideau Falls. Visitors can try mobile accommodations. In fact, renting a houseboat might just be the best way to enjoy your vacation. The entire corridor boasts of clean waters and excellent opportunities for swimming, fishing, kayaking, boating, and other adventures.
Ice Skating and Snowshoeing – As the cold winds of winter blow and maple leaves descend upon the land, the Rideau region turns into a snowy wonderland. The skating season usually lasts from January to March. The 4.8-mile-long skateway in downtown Ottawa is a great way to explore the city. And when the lakes freeze over, cross-country skiing becomes a favorite pastime. Murphys Point Provincial Park and Foley Mountain Conservation area have several miles of groomed trails covered with deep fluffy snow.
Parks and Recreation – The Rideau Trail – which extends from Kingston to Ottawa – and the Cataraqui Trail, a part of the Trans-Canada trail system, are a window to the breathtaking scenery. You can’t rule out the possibility of encountering local species. Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area, spread across an area of 970 acre, has a diverse flora and fauna. It comprises ponds, marshlands, and forest habitats. While winter attracts outdoor enthusiasts for snowshoeing, summers are popular for birdwatching.
Sightseeing Tours – With pedestrian-friendly streets and famous cultural attractions, Ottawa is a great city to explore on foot and by cycling. Tour operators like Ottawa Walking Tours, Around About Ottawa, and the popular Haunted Walk of Ottawa, offer a variety of sightseeing tours focusing on the offbeat past of the city.
Driving Tours – The Rideau region is wonderful to explore by car as each turn of the road presents a new vista. To travel back to simpler times, discover the rich heritage, or indulge in the beauty of nature, you can look forward to picnic tours, heritage tours, and ecology tours. Opt for the Fall Colours Tour in October to watch the best display of colors along the backroads of the Rideau Canal.
The Rideau Canal is a historical waterway that stretches from Kingston to Ottawa in eastern Ontario, Canada.
How to Reach?
By Air – Ottawa Macdonald – Cartier International Airport (YOW), located about 6 mile south of downtown Ottawa, is the international gateway to the canal.
By Train – Ottawa Train Station is served by inter-city trains connecting it with Toronto and Montreal. Passenger train service is operated by VIA Rail in Canada.
By Boat – It is generally open for boat traffic from May to October. In the south, Kingston provides entry from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. And in the north, Ottawa is the entry point from Ottawa River into the canal.
By Road – The parallel road between Kingston and Ottawa is scenic and offers a pleasurable ride. From Kingston, take Highway 15 to Smiths Falls and then County Road 43 and 44 respectively to reach Kemptville. Then follow County Road 19 that runs parallel to the canal and goes right into Ottawa. Moreover, OC Transpo passenger buses connect downtown Ottawa with the suburbs.
For a luxurious stay in Ottawa, you can choose from Fairmont Château Laurier, Hilton Lac-Leamy, Lord Elgin Hotel, and The Westin Ottawa. For mid-range accommodations, Hotel Indigo Ottawa, Avalon Bed & Breakfast, and Swiss Hotel are good options. Budget travelers should check out Ottawa Jail Hostel, Barefoot Hostel, and Ottawa Backpackers Inn.
While Allium and The Urban Pear are known for serving Canadian cuisine, Canal Ritz, Kallisto Greek Restaurant, and Jasmine Garden offer authentic Mediterranean cuisine. In the ByWard Market, you should try the fresh produce in the farmer’s market. And wash down a variety of street food (such as Poutine, Shawarma, and BeaverTail) with a cup of hot chocolate.
Best Time to Visit
Every new season of the year offers different opportunities along the Rideau. While in summers (June to September) the region hosts a flurry of festivals and fairs, the winters (January to March) are a major draw for ice skating enthusiasts.
Facts about Rideau Canal
- The canal is 126 miles (202 km) long and about 12 miles (19 km) of the route is man-made.
- It has overall 47 locks at 24 lock stations.
- It is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America.
- The Rideau Canal Skateway is the focal point of Winterlude – an annual festival.
- Big Rideau Lake is the deepest part of the canal with of a depth of 100 meter.
- In winter, a 5-mile stretch of the canal in Ottawa freezes to make the longest skating rink in the world.
Things to Remember
- Opportunity for camping at lock stations is offered on a first come, first served basis, although crowding is rarely an issue.
- Please wear a life jacket while boating on the canal.
- Check weather forecasts and choose your route accordingly, before heading out for paddling and boating.
- You can rent bikes, boats, sleds, and a pair of skates to enjoy your time around the canal.
The National War Memorial, Canadian Museum of Nature, Canadian War Museum, Canadian Tire Centre, and Fort Henry.
Image Credit: Vlad GPublished On: Tuesday, December 8th, 2015