The Rideau Canal itself is almost unbelievable. Really. That a 202-kilometre long canal was built by hand almost 200 years ago with that much foresight and that much engineering is simply awe-inspiring. The Rideau Canal communities dotting the landscape along the way share the many stories of the fabled canal and if those locks could talk, they would likely tell stories of grand boats locking through, communities evolving over time and the aspects of each stop along the way that makes the Rideau Canal so unique. Read on for the five best ways to explore the area.
The Lock Stations
Experience a lock up close and personal – by locking through! With 23 lock stations and 45 locks (not including the two lockstations on the Tay Canal) spanning Kingston to Ottawa, boats of all sizes are able to lock through no matter if you’re in a cruiser or paddling in a canoe. This is a true Canadian experience. In 2017 alone, more than 68,000 vessels locked through along the Rideau – join in on the fun. Canal staff along the Rideau are friendly and willing to answer questions, and in some locations, such as at Kingston Mills, Chaffey’s Lock, Jones Falls and Merrickville, there are museums and visitor centres at the stations. Boat rentals are available at some spots along the canal; indulge in a rental to cross this experience off your bucket list.
Views And Vistas
With lush greenery, rock outcroppings and pristine water, the Rideau Canal provides natural eye candy at every turn. Photo-ready scenes unravel before your eyes; this is nature at its best. Rock Dunder, owned by the Rideau Waterway Land Trust near Morton offers a 3.8 km summit loop that is so worth the hike. Standing atop the rock at the summit gives a breathtaking view of the canal with water and treetops below stretching as far as the eye can see. Another unforgettable vantage point is near Chaffey’s Lock on a former train bridge, which is now a section of the Cataraqui Trail. The bridge dates back to the early 1900s and has recently been renovated for use with the trail. A short five minute walk through the woods from the lock awards visitors with an unforgettable view. Lastly, Foley Mountain in Westport looks out over Upper Rideau Lake from a granite ridge at Spy Rock. A three-minute walk from the parking lot gets visitors to the rock look out to see the lake and village laid out below.
Explore the nooks and crannies of this paddler’s paradise! Calm, clear water and natural sights entice people of all ages to pick up a paddle and discover the intimate side of the Rideau. More than 30 launch ramps and most lock stations provide access to the canal and unlike powerboats, paddlers have the advantage of exploring bays and ponds to get a sense of the wildlife that calls the Rideau home. Kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards can be rented at numerous points along the Rideau Canal and Rideau Tours out of Chaffey’s Lock even offers guided tours and luxury paddling. You may even get to see the famous Captain Mike. Morning paddlers are often greeted by loons and blue herons as the mist rises off of the lakes and evening paddlers can watch the sun go down over the water in a glorious blaze of colour. Be sure to explore the charming small towns, historical sites, ice cream shops and gourmet restaurants along the way.
The Rideau Heritage Route is awash in history with several surviving blockhouses, lockmasters houses, and community buildings that have been preserved. Step back in time at The Old Stone Mill in Delta while witnessing a working flour mill, grinding grain with traditional equipment and methods used in the 1800s. The mill is a National Historic Site of Canada and the structure has been painstakingly renovated to give visitors a unique experience of flour-making demonstrations while also featuring many interactive exhibits and milling artefacts. It’s open to the public during the summer, and on special occasions the working millstones grind heritage, locally-grown grain into flour.
Step back in time and discover more about the small communities surrounding the Rideau Canal. Some have historical walking tours, which let you in on local culture. This window to the past includes building uses, community stories featuring now famous people, and history of past generations who have called the shores of the Rideau home.
Cheers To Local Food
The Rideau Heritage Route is a maverick in the local food sphere. The food and drink scene is being reimagined here and the opportunities are endless. Scheuermann Vineyard and Winery in Westport is on the shores of Upper Rideau Lake and offers tastings and dining events using its wood-fired grill. Furnace Falls Farm near Lyndhurst, brought to you by the folks at Wendy’s Country Market, is taking farm-to-table to a whole new level, as a renovated farm house welcomes guests who are keen to experience local food, cooking classes, and luxurious rural hospitality. Nature’s gold is also made here: local farmers are in the sugar house during spring, but often the ensuing syrup is available year round. Gibbons Family Farm near Frankville produces Ontario maple syrup using traditional methods and modern equipment. The sugar house is open year round for a walk through; sampling is free at the farm gate store with a variety of maple products. Heritage wheat is grown here, and raw cheese is produced just down the road.
Discover incredible beauty at every turn, coupled with unique community experiences all rooted in history along the Rideau Canal!