Insight Advisor

Take The Scenic Route

The Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site stretches from Lake Ontario in Kingston to the Ottawa River following the Cataraqui and Rideau Rivers.  It is 202 kilometres (125 miles) long, of which about 19 kilometres (12 miles) is man-made (locks and canal cuts), the rest are natural waters. There are 45 locks with 23 lockstations along the main route of the Rideau plus 2 locks that link the Tay Canal to the Rideau. The canal winds its way through historic sites, charming villages, quaint attractions and spectacular recreation areas, offering visitors a variety of world-class arts, heritage and recreation experiences. Visitors delight to discover how the Rideau Canal has been connecting communities along the waterway for almost two centuries.

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Rideau Heritage Route at its Best

A Paddlers Paradise
A Paddlers Paradise
Parks & Conservation Areas
Parks & Conservation Areas
One of a Kind Delights
One of a Kind Delights
Small Town Charm
Small Town Charm


One of the highlights along the Rideau Heritage Route are the Rideau Canal Lockstations. These are managed by Parks Canada and are a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic Site of Canada. These fascinating locks are a series of advanced engineered structures that were designed to create a slack water system for naval trade and military supply. The Rideau is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America.

It is a delight to stretch your legs and explore each station as you boat through. Visit the on-site exhibits, hike the self-guided trails and have a conversation with Parks Canada staff about the unique stories of each lockstation. Bring your camera while you explore the locks to capture this unforgettable experience while you connect with our nation’s history. Lockstations also offer great picnic opportunities.

Navigating the Locks

The locks are open for transient boaters from mid-May to mid-October. Paddlers can either lock through or portage around the locks at most stations. Each portage trail is marked from the water at both the top and bottom of each lockstation. It is important to note that portaging is not allowed at 4 Lockstations (Merrickville, Old Slys, Smiths Falls Combined and Smiths Falls Detached) due to dangerous highway crossings. There is no locking fee for paddlers at these sites if you portage.

Parking and Launching

The Rideau Locks are among the top highlights of paddling the canal system. You can launch from every lockstation on the canal. Parking is free at most sites however some have a small fee. Parks Canada has installed new paddling docks at most lockstations to improve access for paddlers. The paddling docks are 8’x8’ cedar platforms that sit low in the water, allowing for easy loading and launching.

A Paddlers Paradise

To kayaking and canoeing enthusiasts, the Rideau Heritage Route is a “paddler’s paradise,” due to its calm, clear waters and natural sights. Kayakers and canoers of all ages and skill levels can get out on the water and paddle the 202 km stretch from Kingston to Ottawa. Access is very easy at any of over 30 launch ramps and most lockstations. Those traveling the length of the canal have the option of “locking through” the locks or portaging past them. Those camping will find it convenient at the many campgrounds or at the lockstations. Those wishing to enjoy a more decadent trip may wish to stay in B&Bs along the route. With over 1,091 km (675 miles) of shoreline on the Rideau, there’s so much to explore.

Best Time to Paddle

One of the best times to go kayaking or canoeing on the Rideau is in May/June and September/October. During these months, there are fewer powerboats out on the water and more moderate temperatures in the region. Fewer visitors also mean more availability (and sometimes better prices) when it comes to accommodation along the route.

If you wish to paddle during the height of powerboat season (July and August), the trip can still be fantastic. Unlike powerboats, canoes and kayaks do not have to follow the channel. In fact, most paddlers prefer to follow the shoreline and take a less direct route from one lock to another, away from the noise and wake of powerboats, and closer to interesting sights on shore. You may even decide to portage into one or more of the canals numerous feeder lakes and rivers.

Best Direction to Paddle

If you wish to travel the Rideau in its entirety or to paddle a large section, the best direction to go is from Kingston to Ottawa for two reasons. First, the prevailing southwest winds blow in that general direction. There is nothing worse than tackling a large lake such as the Big Rideau and paddling for miles into a stiff, rough south wind. Second, as you approach Ottawa, the current becomes a factor to a small extent. Get your adventure underway with a visit to Trailhead Kingston, Ahoy Rental or Rideau Tours for daily kayak or canoe rentals, as well as fishing and camping gear. No matter where you go along the Rideau, civilization is always within easy reach. With over 1,091 kilometers of shoreline, make sure you take the time to explore the numerous colourful shops, gourmet restaurants and historical sites.


Parks & Conservation Areas

Parks Canada
Parks Canada owns and operates Thousand Islands National Park and 3 National Historic Sites in our beautiful region.  The Rideau Canal, Bellevue House, and Fort Wellington have been well preserved, protected and presented to the Canadian public.  Look to this website for complete information on the services and facilities available at each of these locations.

Ontario Provincial Parks
Find information on the features, facilities, services, camping fees and operating dates of provincial parks along South Eastern Ontario including Charleston Lake, Frontenac, Murphy’s Point and Rideau River Provincial Parks.  Check out handy tools like the park locator and online camping reservations system!

Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority
Learn about the trails, facilities, features, hours and fees at the six Cataraqui Region Conservation Areas that have been developed for recreational use at the southern end of the Rideau waterway.

Rideau Valley Conservation Authority
Learn about the trails, facilities, features and fees at the ten recreational Rideau Valley Conservation Areas located in the central and northern portions of the Rideau corridor.


One of a Kind Delights

Along the Rideau Heritage Route – in quaint towns and villages, many artisans have set up their studios and galleries. Explore and find a unique treasure, meet the artists and enjoy a fun day.

Items that local Artisans create or craft with: pewter, pottery, wood turnings and carving, jewellery, glass blowing, textile arts painting.

The Jewel of the Rideau

Merrickville is renowned for its boutiques, which are filled with one-of-a-kind items made by local artisans. Their unique talents are on display at studios where craftsmen demonstrate their trade as well as sell their wares. You can buy the creations made before your eyes.  The village streets are lined with shops carrying such things as locally-made products, art of all kinds, antiques, collector’s items, specialty foods, and more.

Considered to be one of Canada’s best preserved 19th-century villages, Merrickville boasts uniquely restored and exquisitely maintained homes, all within an easy walk around town. Central to the Village is The Blockhouse, built in 1832 and now a museum of fascinating local artifacts. The locks of the Rideau Canal are fascinating to watch and operate today just like they did over 175 years ago.

An area called ‘Merrickville South’ is well worth the two block detour south of the main shopping area to see some world famous artisans like Kevin Robert Grey and Claudette Hart, the infamous “Gourd Lady” only a couple of the ‘must-see’ artists to be found there.


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