Waterway in Ottawa

Rideau Canal

Explore the Rideau Canal: a 202 km historic waterway linking Ottawa to Lake Ontario, supporting year-round recreational activities.

The Rideau Canal, a historic waterway in Canada, connects Ottawa to Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River. This 202-kilometer long engineering feat, completed in 1832, is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. In winter, parts of the canal become the world's largest skating rink, while the warmer months see its locks and waterways busy with recreational boaters. Along its length, visitors can explore historic lock stations, charming towns, and the vibrant city of Ottawa, where the canal culminates at the impressive set of Ottawa Locks.

Seasonal Activities on the Rideau Canal

Summer on the Rideau Canal offers ample opportunities for boating, with visitors able to rent various watercraft to navigate the calm waters. You can explore the Rideau Canal by kayak, canoe, or even on a guided boat tour to fully appreciate the lush landscapes and spot local wildlife. Come winter, the section of the canal passing through Ottawa transforms into the Rideau Canal Skateway. Stretching over 7.8 kilometers, this frozen thoroughfare allows for public ice skating, typically from January to late February or early March, depending on weather conditions.

The Rideau Canal's Lock System

The engineering marvel of the Rideau Canal is most evident in its lock system, composed of 47 locks at 24 stations. One of the most visited is the Ottawa Locks located beside the Bytown Museum, a sequence of eight locks lowering boats from Ottawa River to the canal. Another prominent station is Jones Falls Locks where you can witness a flight of four locks in action and learn about the canal's engineering from on-site plaques and guides. These lock stations are operational during the main navigation season that usually runs from May to October.

Parks and Natural Beauty

The canal is flanked by scenic parks such as Confederation Park and Major's Hill Park, offering green spaces perfect for picnics and leisurely strolls. Along the waterway, you'll encounter a variety of landscapes, from dense forests to wetlands, which are home to a diversity of bird species and other wildlife. Visiting these areas provides an opportunity to experience the natural habitats and the tranquil atmosphere away from urban bustle.

Cultural Events and Festivals

Throughout the year, various cultural events and festivals take place in proximity to the Rideau Canal. Winterlude, Ottawa's annual winter festival, features ice sculptures, outdoor concerts, and activities on the Skateway. During spring and summer, visitors can enjoy arts performances, including music and theater festivals featuring local and international talents. These events give insight into local customs and broaden the cultural appeal of the area.

UNESCO World Heritage Site and Boating

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the canal bears significant historical and cultural importance. Boating enthusiasts can rent vessels to cruise this heritage waterway, following in the wake of history while enjoying contemporary comforts. Moor at picturesque towns like Merrickville and Perth to delve into local history, or stop at canal-side restaurants for a taste of regional cuisine.

Ice Skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway

Recognized as one of Ottawa's star winter attractions, the Rideau Canal Skateway draws thousands every year to skate amidst the beauty of a Canadian winter. Alongside this ice expanse, kiosks offer skate rentals and traditional BeaverTails pastry—a must-try local delicacy—as well as other refreshments to keep energy levels high for skating enthusiasts.

Dining and Shopping Along the Canal

Areas surrounding the Rideau Canal serve up a variety of dining options catering to different tastes. Elgin Street is notable for its range of restaurants and boutiques within walking distance of the waterway. Meanwhile, ByWard Market, not too far from the canal's end in Ottawa, is known for food stalls, speciality grocers, and artisan shops offering unique crafts and souvenirs.

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