July 2 – July 6, 2019 Rideau Canal – Jewel of Canada

After all the activity in Kingston, it was time to start on the Rideau Canal (pronounced ReeDoe’ or Ree’doe or Ree due’ – take your pick). Thought perhaps that would be more leisurely and relaxing.  Forget that!  On the first day the temps were in the 90’s, we traveled 26 miles and went through 11 locks.  At each of the locks, we were standing outside in the sun holding lines to keep our boat close to the walls and not colliding with other boats.  Perhaps it was the heat, or perhaps it had something to do with the fact that we weren’t impressed with the scenery on this first day, but we seriously discussed turning around and heading back to Kingston.  SO many people had told us that this was one of Canada’s jewels and was so incredibly beautiful.  What were they thinking?

That evening we received a text from our Steadfast boat friends who were a day ahead of us.  They told us that their second day was incredible and they were so excited at what they were seeing.  OK –  we’ll give it another chance.  Their description was understated.  The next day we were enchanted.  We were traveling thru walls of stone that opened onto lush greenery and sparkling water.  

At the first lock, someone told us about a fabulous hotel/lodge at the next lock that we just HAD to stop and see.  With an ice cream shop as our incentive, we stopped to see the Opinicon.  It’s been around since about 1910 and had fallen into great disrepair.  It was purchased at auction by a couple – the wife had spent many wonderful summers at the hotel as a child and she wanted her own children to have the same experience.  It only took a few million to do it, but she and her husband could afford it. They own or have significant interest in Shopify –a Canadian internet shopping company.  It truly is fabulous and the ice cream was outstanding.  Only 4 locks this day – much more manageable.

The next day was July 4th, but alas, no fireworks here in Canada.  We went thru 12 locks, but at a more leisurely pace. The entire length of the canal is 125 miles and 49 locks.  It took us 6 days to reach Ottawa, about 3 days longer than we had planned. But what’s the point of our trip if not to stop and see all the wonderful places along the way?  The canal is truly a jewel.  It is also a passage through Canadian history.

A note about this canal:  It was built after the War of 1812.  Britain was concerned that Americans would try to take over Canada by blocking supply routes in the St. Lawrence River.  The canal was built as an alternate route to supply troops and protect against invasion.  Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From A History of the Rideau Canal:

In 1826, Lieutenant Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers was assigned to design the canal and to supervise its construction. Colonel By faced a stiff challenge, to create a navigable waterway between the Ottawa River and Kingston, through what was at the time a wilderness of rough bush, swamps and rock terrain, funded by an awkward system of British parliamentary grants.

Initial construction of the Rideau Canal started with preparing the area for the Ottawa locks in the fall of 1826. Major construction on the rest of the route started in 1827. By November 1831 construction had essentially been completed with 47 masonry locks and 52 dams creating a 202 km (125 mile) waterway, one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century. Although chastised by the government for cost overruns, Colonel By had created one of North America’s best navigable waterways. The exquisite stonemasonry of the control dams and locks are admired by waterway travelers to this day.

 Almost all of the locks are hand cranked to open and close the lock doors and open sluice doors to let in or let out water. Col. By had the forethought to make the locks wide and long enough to accommodate passenger steam boats which were just coming into their heyday.  In the end, he was exonerated of charges brought against him, but in his lifetime, he was never recognized for what he had created.  He died only 4 years after the canal was completed.  

The end of the canal is in Ottawa.  Approaching the city is like boating through a park.   There are twists and turns through landscaped hillsides, beautiful trees, and flower beds scattered everywhere.  We approached Ottawa on a Sunday.  The Col. By Parkway runs alongside the canal.  On Sundays, it is closed to traffic until 1 PM and open for biking, skating, and walking.  Canadians don’t get a lot of warm weather, so they are out in full force during warm sunny days.  We traveled slowly through the approach and around the last bend, there it was…Ottawa, Canada’s capital.

2 thoughts on “July 2 – July 6, 2019 Rideau Canal – Jewel of Canada

  1. Jeannine says:

    So good to catch up with you by phone and by blog. Thanks for your posts, so we can keep up with you and learn about the areas you are in. We need to explore Canada sometime. ENJOY!!!!!

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