The Rideau River Waterway

Are you interested in a voyage through one of the most picturesque waterways in Ontario? If the answer is yes, you've found it in the Rideau Waterway. This beautiful route stretches 202 kilometres (125 miles) through a chain of lakes, rivers and canals, linking Canada's capital, Ottawa, to the historic city of Kingston on Lake Ontario.

A designated Canadian Heritage River and a World Heritage Site, the Rideau is the ideal destination whether you visit by boat, car, or bicycle. The locks on the Rideau operate today much as they did 170 years ago. The large wooden lock doors are opened and closed using hand cranks which are also used to let water in and out of the locks. Most of the stone blocks that you'll see are original to the 19th century.

Built over a six-year period, from 1826 to 1832, the Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operating canal in North America. It was built as part of a military defence system of Upper Canada (now Ontario) as a supply route that was out-of-range of American cannons. Here the past and present, nature and culture live in harmony and create an unforgettable Canadian Heritage River experience.

Boating on the Rideau

oldmotorboat.jpgIf you're planning on boating the length of the Rideau Canal, a one way trip can be experienced in as little as 3 days in a powerboat, but plan to add a few extra days to appreciate all that the Rideau has to offer. You can put your boat it in at a marina in Kingston or Ottawa, a marina or boat launch along the route or you can boat here. The Rideau is accessible from many regions. Residents of Quebec, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and other regions of Ontario are within trailer boat driving distance of the Rideau. As long as you can reach the Great Lakes or the St. Lawrence River, it's easy to get to the Rideau.

Tour Boat on the Rideau Canal, Ontario, CanadaA unique feature of the Rideau is that it allows visitors to travel a loop, up from Kingston, down the Ottawa River to Montreal, and from there head down to the Great Lakes, or head into the U.S. through Lake Champlain. Those who have come down the Rideau from Ottawa can head into the Great Lakes from Kingston, perhaps ravelling another loop through the Trent-Severn Waterway to visit Georgian Bay, or head up the St. Lawrence to Montreal.

Nature lovers will enjoy their journey through the Rideau, a haven for many species of wildlife. Loons, blue heron, osprey and of course frogs and turtles call the Rideau home. Many species of duck stop off at the Rideau for several weeks in the spring and fall. And, Rideau boaters may find the occasional muskrat locking through with them!

Hiking and Walking

Outside of boating, there is no better way to see the wildlife of the Rideau and just enjoy the glory of nature than hiking. There are many trails, the most extensive of which is the Rideau Trail between Kingston to Ottawa. Those seeking a real adventure can hike the whole section or split the trip at Narrows Lock. The TransCanada Trail extends through the area and also affords visitors wonderful hiking opportunities.

canalpark.jpgA couple of areas are particularly interesting. Foley Mountain Conservation Area, located near Westport, offers swimming, group camping, hiking, educational programs. It also has a 6 km walking trail, an Interpretative Centre, beach, picnic tables and a picnic shelter. Perth Wildlife Reserve, between Perth and Rideau Ferry, features a wildlife area, including an overlook of the Tay Marsh. It provides for goose habitat with a goose landing zone and features a 4 km walking trail.

These trails also incorporate hiking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing trails.

Touring by Car or Bicycle

The Rideau Heritage Route is an excellent way to see the region. Whether you travel by car or bicycle, this picturesque byway allow you to explore the tranquil farmland, beautiful quaint villages and magnificent vistas of this region. Seek out the treasures created by artists and artisans, investigate history at the Rideau Canal Museum in Smiths Falls or at the lock stations where lockmasters have their own tales to tell or trace the routes or this region or your own - it's all here.


Canoeing is a lovely way to see the Rideau. The whole of the Rideau is accessible by canoe, and every year several intrepid canoeists paddle the full length of the canal. There's no better way to experience the diversity of this environment - the Rideau Canal has some of the highest "biodiversity" in Canada!  This means there are more species of plants and animals in this region than in any other.  Common sightings along the Rideau include Beaver, White-tailed deer, Osprey and Great Blue Herons. 


The lakes and rivers of the Rideau Waterway offer great fishing opportunities. Species caught along the length of the Rideau Waterway include Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Lake Trout, Yellow Perch, Black Crappie and Walleye (Yellow Pickerel).

The Longest Skating Rink in the World

And, when the temperature dips and winter descends upon the region, the Rideau does not shut down. Residents and visitors alike strap on their skates and enjoy crisp winter days by skating on the frozen canal in Ottawa. A total length of 7.8 kilometres of the Canal is maintained for winter skating. It has become a favourite pastime of winter visitors, especially during Ottawa's winter festival, Winterlude in February. What a unique way to experience the Rideau. And of course, other winter pastimes including skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling can be experienced along the Rideau.

Along the Way

Whether you travel by water or land, there is much to stop and experience along the Rideau Waterway. Several communities are located on its shores including Smiths Falls, the largest community between Ottawa and Kingston. At about the halfway point of the Waterway, Smiths Falls is also home to the Rideau Canal headquarters and the Rideau Canal Museum.

settlers.jpgThere are also several smaller communities that beacon to be explored. Westport, a short jaunt off the main channel, offers many interesting shops. Merrickville, located on the Rideau, prides itself in its artistic community, boasting over thirty local artist and artisans. And historic Perth, up the Tay Canal, is well worth a visit.

While the waterway itself is a park of sorts, there are two Ontario Provincial Parks along the way, Murphy's Point and Rideau River Provincial Park. These parks offer camping opportunities for the boater, trails, and interpretative displays.

And, no trip to the region would be complete without a round of golf. Bring your clubs along or rent a set at one of the several local golf courses along the way. You will find golf courses located close to or within several Rideau communities including Ottawa, Smiths Falls, Westport, Perth and Kingston.

Visitor Services

As a rule, the canal opens up in late May and closes in mid-October. Visitors will see locks that are operated today much as they were 170 years ago. Each lock is unique and the lock staff is always ready to offer visitors any assistance they can. Most locks provide washrooms, overnight mooring and picnic facilities, including tables, benches and barbecue grills.

Travellers by land and water will appreciate the picturesque lock stations and stop for a picnic lunch. Lock watching is an interesting pastime, a great way to spend a lazy afternoon, watching boats of all descriptions go up and down in the lock. Many transient boaters moor at the locks which offer good dockage, washroom facilities and an interesting area to explore. Several of the locks have defensible lockmaster houses and blockhouses which are open for public viewing. Many of the locks offer hiking trails.

And, the whole of the Rideau is well serviced with marinas. Most offer fuel, repair services, supplies, and transient dockage. Marina staff is always friendly and always willing to help the traveller, offering advice to make your journey more pleasurable.


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