The Rideau Canal Waterway located in Ontario is a National Historic Site of Canada and a UNESCO Word Heritage Site. It is also home to the world’s longest ice skating rink.
The waterway consists of a number of lakes and rivers connected by canals and stretches from Lake Ontario in Kingston to Ottawa and is the oldest continuously operated canals in North America. The locks on the canal were first opened in 1832 and little has changed since this time.
It was originally built to allow boats to travel between Montreal and the Great Lakes without having to use the St Lawrence River. The Rideau is a beautiful and interesting area with a varied landscape including urban, rural and natural. Most of the lock stations offer camping opportunities with washroom facilities, picnic tables and barbecue grills. There is always something to do along the Rideau and depending on when you visit and what your interests are you are bound to find an activity to suit.
Obviously boating is a major activity and the Rideau offers lots of things to do for both novices and experts alike. You can travel the whole length of the waterway from Kingston to Ottawa or visa versa. Before starting out you should familiarize yourself with the water charts which are available at lock stations or online. The charts will give you details of the water depths, navigational markers etc. You should also know how to operate a lock. You can find information online, but there are always lock staff available at each lock to help and assist you. The locks are open from mid May until mid October. There are fees for using the locks of around $1 per foot of boat. Season passes are also available.
You should allow around six days for a one way trip the whole length of the Rideau. There is no minimum size boat but the maximum size is 27.4 m in length and 7.9 m wide.
Canoe or Kayak
The Rideau is one of the best places to paddle in Canada. There are lots of interesting areas to visit and explore and the locks are easily navigated. There are also lots of access points along the waterway providing easy ways to get in and out of the water.
Because of its flat water it offers novices and experts alike a chance to experience the joy of the water. The winds tend to flow west- southwest and so it is recommended that you paddle northeast or Kingston to Ottawa to take advantage of the wind. You should allow around ten days to cover the whole Rideau, but this can be longer if you take detours etc. You can bring your own equipment or rent everything you need locally.
The Rideau offers great fishing opportunities with Bass, Trout, Perch, Crappie amongst others to be caught. There are strict fishing seasons to adhere to as well as catch limits, so make sure you are familiar with these before you set out on a fishing trip. The seasons are dependent upon the area of the Rideau you will be fishing in. For example Bass can be fished between June 23rd and November 30th in the northern and southern region, but only until October 15th in the central region. You will also require a fishing licence, again full details can be found at the above link.
There is only one specific off-road bicycle trail located in the southern region: the Cataraqui Trail. Other than that, cycle routes follow paved roads along the Rideau. You can follow the trail on your own or join one of the many organized tours which take place. There are many self-guided cycling tours you can experience ranging from 35 km along the Opinicon Loop or you can ride the entire 200 km from kingston to Ottawa.
If hiking is your calling then you have lots of opportunities in the Rideau. The Rideau Trail covers 200 km, although you can add on another 100 km if you include the loops and side trails. It runs from Kingston to Ottawa and is operated by the Rideau Trail Association. You can visit their website to find maps and general advice.
The Cataraqui Trail is just over 100 km long and extends from Strathcona to Smith Falls and forms part of the Trans- Canada Trail. These two trails are by far the longest, but many shorter trails can be found along the whole length of the Rideau ranging from a couple of kilometres to around 40 km.
The Rideau can easily be driven and gives the opportunity to see some stunning scenery along the way. You can follow one of the recommended tours or make up your own. The recommended tours are divided into different categories such as heritage tours, ecology tours or shopping tours.
The ecology tours take into account the diverse landscape surrounding the Rideau. The central region is dominated by the Canadian Shield whilst the northern and southern areas enjoy rolling fields. All offer excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.
The Ecology North Tour takes in the area around Ottawa down to Kemptville. There are two conservation areas: W.A. Taylor and Baxter along with Rideau River Provincial Park. This means you can incorporate walking trails, picnics and even a beach in your tour.
The Ecology Tour Central covers the area between Perth and Crosby. There are two options, one takes in the Mill Pond Conservation Area and the other the Murphy’s Point Provincial Park.
The Ecology South Tour goes between Westport and Kingston taking in two conservation areas: Little Cataraqui Creek and Foley Mountain.
There are three heritage tours covering the north, central and southern regions or you can choose to cover the entire Rideau route.
The north tour goes between Ottawa and Marrickville. The central tour starts at Perth and terminates at Crosby. You can choose between traveling the western leg taking in Marrows Lock or the eastern leg which travels through Smiths Falls. The southern tour is between Crosby and Kingston.
Other tour options include the shopping tours which allow access to urban shopping in Ottawa and Kingston as well as village shopping. The Maple tours are popular in the spring when the sap is harvested and in the fall because of the beautiful leaf colour variations.
During the winter months the Rideau Canal in Ottawa transforms itself into the longest ice skating rink in the world. The exact timing of when this becomes available is very much down to the weather, but usually opens during January and is usually available for around a month.
The rink covers over 7 km of canal and is open to all. Some people even use the frozen canal as a way to commute to work.
If you are planning on taking in the full pleasures of the Rideau then you will want to spread your journey over several days. Indeed, if you are boating, kayaking etc then you will need to find overnight accommodation during your trip.
All except two lock stations (Smiths Fall and Ottawa) allow camping and have services such as toilets, picnic tables, drinking water etc. Some have showers and additional facilities but you should check before you set out to make sure you find the ones suitable for your needs. You can also park RV’s and cars overnight, camping permits are required.
In addition to camping you will also find a host of other accommodation available all along the Rideau including B&B’s, cottages and hotels.
Number of locks: 47
Total distance: 202 km
Number of lock stations: 24
Maximum water depth: 100.3 m
Average water depth: 1.5 m
Lock dimensions: 41 m long, 10 m wide
How traveled: 69% by boat, 10% by canoe or kayak, 5% by car, 3% by cycle.
Find more travel and adventure ideas at Muchmor Canada Magazine [http://www.muchmormagazine.com/].