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Rideau Canal

(Photos by Robert Roaldi)

World Heritage Site

The Rideau Canal was conceived in the wake of the War of 1812. It was to be an alternate war-time supply route to Kingston and the Great Lakes as the international boundary along the St. Lawrence River was vulnerable to attack. The canal provided a secure ďback doorĀEwater route for troops and supplies from Montreal to reach the settlements of Upper Canada and the strategic naval dockyard at Kingston.

In 1826, Britain sent Lieutenant Colonel John By, of the Royal Engineers, to supervise canal construction. Thousands of Irish immigrants, French Canadians and Scottish stonemasons were among the labourers who successfully pushed the canal through the rough bush, swamps, lakes, rivers and rocky wilderness of Eastern Ontario 125 miles/202 km from present day Ottawa, Canadaís national capital, to Kingston. Completed in 1832, the Rideau Canal was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century.

Fortunately, it was never pressed into service for its intended use. As for Col. By, the dedicated military officer, master engineer and servant of the British Empire, he ended up back home with his reputation tarnished by charges of overspending the project budget! The recognition he yearned for from his government never materialized. He retreated to his country estate, suffered a stroke and died while still a young man.

Col. Byís Rideau Canal, with its 47 locks, impressive stone blockhouses and dams has stood the test of time. It remains an authentic living, working historical monument to his and his workersĀEsacrifice and incredible achievement-considering this waterway was crafted in the virtual wilderness 180 years ago. In fact in 2007, the Rideau Canal, including the fortifications at Kingston was declared a ďWorld Heritage SiteĀEby UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

While the canal system enjoyed a colourful and brief lived commercial success during the steamboat transportation era of the late 1800s, railways and improved roadways slowly eroded the canalís economic viability.

Today, tourism is the Rideauís mainstay. And according to National Geographic, the Rideau ranks number two in its 2008 selection of world class destinations. Itís the oldest continually operating canal in North America offering those cruising its clean lakes, rivers and canals a rare opportunity to experience history and nature at its best! Welcoming community ports of call dot the Rideauís banks from Kingston to Ottawa giving boaters and those touring the Rideau Heritage Route the chance to visit a host of historical, cultural, artistic and fun attractions and events staged each summer. The many secluded lock stations, protected coves and anchorages in the prime Rideau Lakes district allow boaters to enjoy an almost semi-wilderness vacation experience within a picturesque Canadian Shield country tapestry.

This national historic site and Canadian Heritage River system is managed by Parks Canada with canal headquarters in Smiths Falls, 613-283-5170 or visit www.parkscanada.gc.ca

For information about the Rideau Heritage Route visit: www.rideaheritageroute.ca

Seeley's Bay

This is the first community you come to on a Rideau Canal cruise from Kingston to Ottawa. Leaving Upper Brewerís lock boaters will enter Cranberry Lake, which is noted for its pike and bass fishing. The swing-bridge at Brass Point has a clearance of 4 feet (1.5 m.) and is manually operated (only during Parks Canada lock operating hours). Further along near the NE end of Little Cranberry Lake lays the channel leading to Seeleyís Bay. Boaters will be pleasantly surprised with the municipal marinaís all new docks offering both transient and seasonal accommodation with electrical power. Thereís also a good boat launch for those trailering in. A nice park situated by the harbor offers a playground along with showers and washrooms. From Seeleyís Bay Marina, itís just a short walk to a large grocery store, restaurant, beer and liquor supplies, well-stocked hardware store plus bank and post office. An active group of Seeleyís Bay residents are currently studying a number of ideas to attract more visitors to ďthe bayĀEincluding possibly creating a location from which to base a tour boat operation. The new docks are a great start! Proceeding on through Whitefish Lake, boaters can enter Morton Bay, a beautiful sheltered anchorage marked on the charts by an anchor symbol. Climb up Rock Dunder or Dunderís Mate for the great vista. Recently this ecologically significant and natural area was acquired by the Rideau Waterway Land Trust. The 238 acre property with 2 km of shoreline will be preserved for public enjoyment and education for years to come.

Jones Falls

At the junction of Whitefish and Sand Lakes, boaters will find the tiny hamlet of Jones Falls and one of the Rideau Canalís most outstanding lockages. A series of four locks plus a turning basin work to lift and lower vessels some 60 feet. Donít be in a hurry as locking through may take an hour and a half. Be sure to come ashore and explore this historic site well maintained by Parks Canada. A walking tour will bring visitors to a working stone blacksmithís shop complete with smithy at the forge in the style of 1843. Visit Sweeney House, a stone defensible lockmasterís house that still stands guard over this impressive lock station and now serves as an interpretive centre with costumed guides to answer your questions. At this remote lock station, Col. Byís workers erected a massive stone dam that in 1830 was the highest of its kind in North America and the third highest in the world. This huge arch dam curves 350 feet from tip to tip and rises from a base 27.5 feet wide and tapers to its top at 62 feet.

For more than a century, Jones Falls has been a popular tourist destination for its beauty and excellent sport fishing. Here boating and road travelers will find the Rideauís oldest resort, Hotel Kenny, built in 1877, sitting prominently on the lakeshore just upstream from Shangri-La Resort. The stately Hotel Kenny offers hotel, motel and cabin-style guest accommodations. Overnight docking is also available and provides nautical visitors with the opportunity to enjoy great dining experiences offered in the hotelís main dining room overlooking the waterway. This is a popular stopover and reservations are encouraged. Since new owners took over the property several years ago, many positive site improvements have been made without compromising the ďgrand old-timeĀEaura that this historic resort setting exudes both inside and out. Be sure to spend some time here!

Chaffey's Lock

Chaffeyís Lock, named after Benjamin and Samuel Chaffey, who established mills here in the 1820s, has a number of points of historical interest well worth docking for. On approach, boaters will pass the expansive landscaped lawns of the historic Opinicon Resort Hotel where the main lodge dates back more than 130 years. This popular resort offers some 700 feet of waterfront layover space. Boaters can dock overnight, book reservations in the dining room overlooking Opinicon Lake and enjoy fine meals.

Itís easy to explore this hamlet on foot. At the lock station sits the Lockmasterís House Museum. This stone building was originally a defensible lockmasterís residence built in 1844 as a low-cost substitute for a blockhouse.

Today, the local historical society opens the museum doors from late June to September giving a rare glimpse into canal life in years gone by through a series of informative exhibits. Across from the museum is the old Chaffeyís Mill. Up Chaffeyís Lock Road visitors will find a small cemetery where a special memory wall made from wooden canal lock doors and plaques provide a moving memorial wall respecting the many canal workers who died here from sickness or accident and rest in unmarked graves.

At the top side of the lock, the ďelectricĀEtour boat Chuckles is stationed. Chuckles provides tourists with a great cruise opportunity to Jones Falls plus cruise and dine packages. Further along is Brownís Marina for fuel and docking and on the roadway is Brownís showroom and store, which also offers an agency liquor and beer sales outlet and other goodies.

Newboro

A pleasant cruise through picturesque Indian, Clear and Newboro Lakes delivers boaters to Newboro. Docking is currently available at the public harbour and additional layover space is provided at the Lock Station, as this is one of the Rideauís busiest locks. The good news is that plans are afoot to completely upgrade this waterfront oasis. The Township of Rideau Lakes plans to revitalize the village marina with new transient and seasonal docks, a new boat launching ramp plus improved vehicle and boat trailer parking, waterfront landscaping and lighting. A new pedestrian trail and sidewalk network will connect these amenities to the villageís commercial centre where visitors can enjoy shopping, provisioning and dining opportunities. The Village is home to historic Stirling Lodge. Nearby is Kilbornís country store offering thousands of square feet of shopping in a series of architecturally linked former main street residences.

The old Stagecoach Inn has recently been transformed into a new dining hot spot.

At Newboro, boaters have reached the top of the Rideau Canal and after clearing the lock, need to remember itís all downhill to Ottawa, so navigation markers are reversed. Travelling through the 2.5 km./1.5 mile-high walled granite cut to Upper Rideau Lake provides a historical reminder of the terrible time canal builders had blasting their way through this part of the waterway. In addition to many workers being blown away or maimed, others succumbed to the ravages of malaria as the local graveyard shows. The rock passage was so hard to blast it was finally decided to raise the level of Upper Rideau by 4 feet to ensure safe navigation depths. This was done by installing a lock and dam at the Narrows and Big Rideau Lake. Despite the adversity, Col. By and his men beat the Shield, although with great suffering and loss of life.

Westport

Welcome to Westport, the Friendliest Little Port on the Rideau! This historic village at the west end of Upper Rideau Lake sheltered by Foley Mountain enjoys an idyllic waterfront setting. The ever flowing Westport Spring greets boaters at the marina and the scenic mill pond reminds visitors of Westportís mill town origins dating back almost 200 years.

This village may be small in size but itís just buzzing with activity every summer. Westportís key location in the heartland of the spectacular Rideau Lakes district makes it a must-stop destination and service centre for cottagers, travelers exploring the Rideau Heritage Route, anglers scouting the Upper Rideau and neighboring lakes and sweet water mariners searching for that special spot for an extended layover. All will find Westport an ideal fun and relaxing port of call. Thereís plenty to see and do. The villageís main shopping district, just steps from the marina, is an expansive one block square area that offers a host of interesting provisioning, shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities. Merchants have the welcome mat out. Hospitality, smiles and customer service are the order of the day. Many gift stores, souvenir shops, bakeries and B&Bs are housed in well-kept 19th century buildings giving the feeling of strolling through yesteryear. The impressive cut-stone Post Office built in 1935, with clock tower and pitched copper roof, was modeled after Canadaís parliament buildings.

Westport Harbor is getting so popular with the local weekend cruising crowd and new boaters exploring the waterway that the Village continues to expand and upgrade marina facilities and provide more new docks to meet the increased demand for overnight boater accommodation. A harbor master is also on duty to keep the marina running smoothly and efficiently. Docking is actually tied to Goat Island providing both along-side and finger docks with power and water services. This island marina setting is well manicured, has shade trees, flower beds, a gazebo, barbeques and picnic tables for the pleasure of boaters and other visitors wanting to enjoy a waterside picnic amid tremendous lake and mountain views. An elevated footbridge provides convenient access to downtown with newly expanded boater shower and washrooms available at the nearby Westport and Rideau Lakes Chamber of Commerce Visitor Welcome Centre.

The historic Cove Country Inn anchors the north end of the village waterfront providing patrons with excellent patio or inside dining, overnight accommodations and live entertainment for a memorable visit ashore. In the off season, The Cove has become a place to revisit to enjoy its successful Blues on the Rideau concert series now helping make Westport a year round destination. Neighboring Foley Mountain, with its 800 acre conservation area, featuring nature trails, interpretive centre, beach and winter cross country skiing, combine with the Cove and other nearby B&Bs to offer guests exciting weekend healthy and fun getaways. Foley Mountainís Spy Rock observation deck more than 200 feet above the lake offers an unequaled panoramic view over Rideau Country. Thereís still more to Westport. The Rideau District Museum opens its doors each summer providing displays of artifacts, exhibits and a complete blacksmithís shop. Thereís the long running annual Westport Antique Show and Sale and the Rideau Valley Art Festival to explore. And thanks to the Westport Arts Council, thereís the Outdoor Music Festival staged on the lawns of local Inns and B&Bs in midAugust. It has quickly become a hit with boaters and others who travel in from near and far to enjoy some specialty shopping, food and live entertainment all presented Westport style.

If youíre in the market for a grand waterfront home, take a gander at the historic Foley house and former general store smack on the downtown waterfront.After more than two years of generous renovations and restoration this jewel has appeared on the market for a mere $3.2 million. Donít be discouraged. With five major real-estate companies represented in village, thereís always a host of interesting listings to meet any taste and pocketbook in town or on surrounding lakes.

While exploring Westportís commercial sector take time to browse through the coach house behind A Victorian Reflection B&B on Church Street for a great selection of antiques and collectables. There are lots of hidden treasures to discover here. Also, check out the Salmon House and Seafood Shop on Main Street for Mike and Karenís always fresh catches and prized fish and chips to go. They will satisfy the entire crew. Be sure to ask about the coupleís exciting new variety of home-made smoked fish offerings ideal for onboard entertaining. These flavorful smoked delights are becoming so popular locally plans are in the works to introduce them at outdoor markets in Kingston, Perth and Ottawa this season. Hope they donít get ďluredĀEaway! Not too likely with Mike hosting his Angler Management band and Karen still finding time to expand her unique brand of eco friendly soaps available on line at www.bellsoaps.com in their spare time. Westport is truly a unique place. Come and visit, stay for a lifetime!

Portland

Deep water and an abundance of islands and bays make this cruising area ideal for explorers. Overnight docking and public facilities are available at Colonel By Island and anchorages are plentiful at other islands as well. Murphyís Point Provincial Park on the north shore of Big Rideau Lake is a 3,500 acre centre that offers a handful of boat-in docking campsites for smaller vessels less than 21 feet. Boaters wanting more urban conveniences steer to the bustling Portland Harbor just a short detour off the main Rideau Canal route. The village public docks provide overnight accommodations as do two of the Rideauís largest full-service marinas nearby. From dockside, itís just a short walk into the community for provisions, shopping and restaurants. A nice sandy community beach is just east of the harbor. The Township of Rideau Lakes recently completed an excitingwaterfront improvement plan that will eventually see new and improved boater reception and docking amenities, landscaping and pedestrian links with the villageís commercial centre. All along the Rideau corridor more and more communities are focusing attention on their valuable and beautiful waterfront locations and this is a benefit to visitors and residents alike!

The neighboring rural communities of Forfar, Elgin, Delta and Lyndhurst south of Portland also offer historic sites, attractions and events making this area of the Rideau Heritage Route well worth exploring. The three-storey stone Delta Mill recently celebrated its 200th anniversary marked by milestone celebrations and a commemorative Canada Post stamp.

Rideau Ferry

Positioned at the junction of Big Rideau and Lower Rideau Lakes is the historic community of Rideau Ferry. To the immediate north, before going under the expansive overhead bridge is Rideau Ferry Harbour. This full-service marina is the largest marina before reaching the Ottawa region and is in a position to take care of any boaterís needs before cruising on. Originally known as Oliverís Ferry or Landing, this was the main crossing available to settlers opening up the back country in the early 1800s. Later, a causeway and swing bridge was put in place that served the area until the 1960s when the new Rideau Ferry overpass was built. Today, the hamlet is a busy provisioning centre for boaters, cottagers and many new home owners who have chosen to live year round on the lake. Rideau Ferry General Store is always hopping and the Shipwreck Restaurant is busy catering to visitors wanting to enjoy waterfront dining and the large covered lakeside patio. This is the site of the Rideau Ferry Inn famous throughout the region for its Saturday night lakeside dance pavilion before it was destroyed in a fire. Also in the bay at nearby Rideau Ferry Beach is the site of the popular Rideau Ferry Regatta. In the 50s and 60s, viewed by thousands of onlookers, roaring hydroplanes competed for prizes. This popular regatta has now been revived and hopefully will continue to grow in popularity as it did in the past.

Perth

Heritage Perth is located off Highway 7 in the heart of Eastern Ontario, and is just a short trip north up the Tay Canal from Beveridges Locks, off Lower Rideau Lake. Steeped in history and charm, the Town of Perth is not to be missed on your next boating trip.

At the end of the War of 1812, when Upper and Lower Canada were British colonies, Britain offered land along the Tay River to its officers and soldiers, fulfilling the perceived need to establish a strategic defensive outpost. Perth was founded in 1816 as one of three military settlements along the Rideau Corridor. Today, Perthís history is evident in the stately stone architecture left by the Scottish masons who named and settled the colony.

Public docks are available at Last Duel Park and Campgrounds, where the Tay Canal enters the southeast corner of Town. The park owes its name to the infamous last fatal duel in Upper Canada, fought on the banks of the Tay in 1833. The docks provide space for 6-8 boats, with three 30-amp marinegrade outlets andfull washroom facilities. Docking is on a first-come, first-served basis. Please call the Park Attendant at 613-812-0020 to register and make payment.

While visiting, take the opportunity to see all Perth has to offer. A short walk from Last Duel Park via the Tow Path takes you to the Crystal Palace, home of the Saturday morning Market, where a variety of craft and produce vendors congregate to create a laid back, leisurely shopping atmosphere. Just two blocks further, you can step back in time at Matheson House ĀEThe Perth Museum (11 Gore St. East) and see the actual pistols used in the Last Fatal Duel. Other treasures from the Matheson family are on display, as well as seasonal themes and exhibits.

With a rich history and strong volunteer base, Perth is eagerly gearing up for its 200th Anniversary Celebrations slated to take place in 2016. Although details are still in the planning stages, you can be sure the Townís fierce spirit will be well showcased with numerous community events.

Enjoy waterside theatre, main street pubs and fine dining opportunities. A cruise to Perth is truly a cruise into history. One of Perthís claims to fame dates back to the late 1800ís when a Mammoth Cheese was made by 12 Lanark County cheese makers and shipped to the worldís fair in Chicago. It tipped the scales at 22,000 pounds and was 6 feet high and 28 feet in circumference, a world record! A replica of the ďbig cheeseĀEcan be seen at the Tay Canal basin.

For further information visit www.perth.ca.

Smiths Falls

Welcome to ďSensational Smiths FallsĀEone of the Rideauís main ports of call. Itís steeped in history dating back to 1794 when United Empire Loyalist Major Thomas Smyth was granted a large tract of land at the original falls. By 1886 Smiths Falls had grown into a prosperous community and became a Canadian Pacific Railroad divisional point ensuring the townís importance. Today visiting boaters are offered excellent docking facilities at Victoria Park Basin and Campground in the heart of the community.

Interested in history? Stroll over to the restored historic stone building by the falls where Parks Canada maintains its Rideau Canal head office. This centre is also home to the ďmust seeĀERideau Canal Museum with exhibits detailing the colorful history of this World Heritage Site. Itís well stocked shop sports canal related gifts, books and souvenirs. Also visit Heritage House Museum, a 19th century Victorian home on Old Slys Road with eight rooms restored to depict middle class lifestyle in the 1867-75 period. Visit the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario and train station waiting room dating back to 1914. At museums ask about Fun in the Falls Pass Ports for great discounts and free gifts.

This busy town has many attractions, annual festivals, a farmers market and wide variety of unique retail shops guaranteed to spark anyoneís interest. Donít forget the culinary opportunities, everything from bistro fare to fine dining, some offering evening live musical entertainment.

The friendly staff at Victoria Park Campground, Boat Docks and Tourist Information Centre are available to answer questions and point you in the right direction. Take the FREE Tourist Shuttle leaving Victoria Park and stopping at all the hot spots! This is a wonderful way to cruise around town and see all the sites. Tourist Shuttle information is posted on the townís website, information kiosks and each participating attraction.

For an evening out, stop by the newly renovated historic Smiths Falls Community Theatre on Victoria Avenue. This landmark offers lively theatrical productions year round.

Explore the townís many parks, each with different themes and recreational opportunities. Get a copy of the Historical Walking and Bike Trail Brochure and take a tour.

For further information visit www.smithsfalls.ca.

Merrickville

Steeped in history, generously graced with 19th century architecture, and spanning the banks of the lazy Rideau River, Merrickville lives up to its title, Jewel of the Rideau! This town offers boaters a memorable stop over on a cruise to the nationís capital. This small but intriguing community was settled in the late 1700s by William Merrick and was once one of the largest industrial centres on the Rideau with grist mills, saw mills and woolen mills operating beside the river. It was also a strategic military centre. The stone Blockhouse Museum by the canal was originally built as a fort between 1826 and 1832 and was put on alert during the 1837 Rebellions of Upper and Lower Canada and again in 1846 during the Oregon Crisis. Boaters can tie up on the canal wall or over at the Pond. Aylings Marina on the bottom side of the locks also has transient docking if shore services are required. Aylings also offers charter cruisers for those wanting to explore the waterway. If your hitting town in your RV thatís no problem either. Enjoy the villageís waterfront by parking at the local campground. Beside the Blockhouse, visitors will find ďThe DepotĀEa special little shop offering canal history, memorabilia and waterway related gifts, books and charts operated each summer by the Friends of the Rideau. The imposing stone Baldachin Inn facing the canal offers fine dining, outdoor patios and waterside overnight accommodations in the heart of the village and special live entertainment nights. Further along are The Goose and Grid Iron and Gadís Hill Place. Explore Merrickvilleís host of unique shopping opportunities. In the many restored buildings dotting the main and side streets, visitors can explore more than 50 different shops, boutiques, galleries and artist studios offering everything from hand-crafted leather products at Rowlandís, to glass and pottery and special award winning gourmet mustards at Mrs. McGarrigles. Merrickvilleís got it all.

For further information visit www.realmerrickville.ca.

Manotick

The scenic village of Manotick, now within Ottawa city limits, offers a good variety of shopping and dining options and a chance to visit Watson Mill, part of the Dickinson Square Conservation Area. Manotick is the last village before the final lockages give access to the heart of Canadaís Capital. On the Rideauís east bank is the 100-slip full service Hurst Marina, one of the largest marine dealerships between Toronto and Montreal. Depending on timing, inbound boaters can opt to refuel and spend the night here, before proceeding to the capitalís core, in a marine resort setting that includes dining at the Swan on the Rideau restaurant next door.

Ottawa

At Hogs Back, the Rideau River turns to the northeast winding gently through the city eventually spilling over Rideau Falls into the Ottawa River right near Ottawaís address of distinction, 24 Sussex Drive, the Prime Ministerís residence. For boaters, this is where they enter the manmade canal route to Dows Lake and on to the final set of eight flight locks by the Parliament Buildings that provide a spectacular 79-foot drop to access the Ottawa River. Itís hard to believe this was a virtual wilderness when Col. John By and his Royal Engineers surveyed this site at Entrance Bay and started blasting away heading for Kingston. And now itís a World Heritage Site!

Boaters have two docking options upon arrival. One is Dows Lake Marina and Pavilion with several restaurants and patio decks and nearby Preston Streetís Little Italy shopping and dining district. From here boaters can catch a cab or take a bus into downtown. Or boaters can simply cruise into ďaction centralĀEand tie up to the canalís east wall right in the shadow of the Peace Tower. You canít get any more downtown than this. From here, many of the nationís cultural and historical icons are within easy walking distance.

Landmark capital sites and celebrations, a wealth of cultural attractions and treasures, a beautiful natural setting, all wrapped up in a relaxed urban vibeóall to be explored right off the deck of your boat.

Famous national landmarks and historic sites greet visitors around every corner in Canadaís capital. Foremost among these is Parliament Hill, the seat of Canadaís federal government and the setting for national celebrations including Canada Day each July 1. Parliament Hill welcomes visitors for free daily tours and rides to the top of its soaring Peace Tower for a spectacular 360 degree view of the city. Donít miss the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. The National War Memorial, the Peacekeeping Monument, the Supreme Court of Canada, the headquarters and training facility of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride, international embassies, Rideau Hall, home of Canadaís Governor General, are all sites that simply canít be seen anywhere else. A double-decker bus offers opportunities to visit sites near and far. Thereís so much to explore.