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by Jane Cassie
For Travel Writers' Tales

The Rideau Canal, flowing between Kingston and Ottawa, was built as a defensible waterway after the war of 1812. Although never needed for this purpose, it has continued to operate since 1832. Thanks to forty-seven locks, boats can navigate the varying water elevations by floating up when the tubs are filled, and dropping down when they're emptied. And beyond every park-like station, are unique vistas: bird-loving wetlands, sliver-thin canals –some etched out of limestone, others embraced by Canadian Shield. It's truly an aquatic route of untarnished beauty.

Photo 1 Gated chambers (locks)

But if you're more of an earth-lover than a water-baby, fear not. RV-ing the Rideau can be equally rewarding. Highway 401, a.k.a. MacDonald Cartier Freeway, is a main thoroughfare that spans the canal. And branching away from this artery are capillary-like country roads that take RVers to Rideau riches. All you have to do is pack, gas up and go! Northern Section Ottawa, Hartwells and Hog's Back locks are located within Canada's capital. Here, you can take in some of the nearby culture or pedal the path that connects these three scenic settings.

2 Author stands between the Rideau River and rushing waste water

Black Rapids: Although steamships once plied these waters Ottawa's International jets are now taking off just 3 km away. If you feel like shacking up with a little comfort, the riverside Monterey Inn that overlooks this station will certainly meet your need

Highway #43, parallels one side of the Rideau, and Highway #16 the other. Both run adjacently from here to Smith Falls. Check out landmarks like the 1860s grist mill in Manotick, the Baxter Conservation area in Kars and Rideau's oldest church in Burritts Rapids.

RV Parks:
Rideau River Provincial Park
Tel: 613-258-2740
Sandy Mountain Campsite & Golf Course
Tel: 613-989-2058
Central Section

Photo 3 Quaint stop of Merrickville Off Highway #43, is Merrickville, that offers everything from quaint shops to a first-class history

lesson. Take a tour of the 1832 blockhouse and sample the amazing mustards at Mrs. McGarrigle's Deli. Kilmarnock and Edmonds are next in line, followed closely by Old Slys and Smiths Falls locks. These last two stations are lumped together. At 7.9 meters (26 ft), it's the greatest single lift on the canal and is a real must-see, even if you're not floating in it.

Smiths Falls and "Heart of the Rideau" is the largest community on the corridor. The Railway Museum retraces its tracks from the 1800's to 1979. And Heritage House shares the Rideau's past; the struggles and turmoil of its creator, Colonel John By, the devastation and hardship of its Irish immigrant workers and the time-line that led to its success.

From here, keep hugging onto Highway #34 for just a little longer. The pretty town of Perth is just up the road. Green space embraces its two-hundred year-old storefronts, and rimming one edge is the Tay Canal, a tree-bordered tributary that flows into Lower Rideau Lake.

RV Parks:
Victoria Park
Tay River Tent & Trailer Camp
Tel: 613-267-3955
15 transient, 35 seasonal sites.

Photo 4 Tay River Campground

Southern Section

Aside from the occasional detour, Highway #15 connects the remaining eight stations (total of 15 locks). If you're an angler, you'll want to catch Newboro –or at least one of its largemouth bass. Though now laid-back, life here wasn't always so. Building the lock station at this highpoint between Ottawa and Kingston, raised a lot of havoc in 1829. Over 300 workers were brought here to blast away the rugged bedrock, and many of them fell ill to the retched Lake Fever, a death-taker that was later diagnosed as malaria.

Photo 5 RV cruising along the Rideau near Westport

RVing back on Highway #15, veer off at Chaffeys and Davis Locks, head in the other direction to uncover Elgin's intriguing history or pull into Jones Falls, one of the largest engineering marvels en route. Four locks need to be navigated at this station to conquer the water levels that span eighteen meters. A blacksmith shop, lockmaster's home, and visitors centre are featured along a self-guided tour, and topping it off is the stone arch dam that supports the powerful force of Sand Lake. This amazing wall of limestone spans 107 meters, is 19.5 meters high.

Photo 6 operating the gates at Jones Falls

On this final stretch, Highway #15 closely parallels the Rideau. Check out the full services at Seeley's Bay, picnic at Upper Brewers and listen to the rumble of trains as they whiz above at Kingston Mills. And if you haven't seen enough scenic sites, hop back into your home on wheels and retrace your treads. The Rideau is riddled with so many rewards you'll enjoy it just as much the second time around!

RV Parks:
Sunnyside Campground
Rideau Acres Campground

Photo 7 Waterfront campsites at Rideau Acres Campground



PHOTOS by Brent Cassie and compliments of Rideau Heritage Route Tourism
1 gated chambers (locks)
2 Author stands between the Rideau River and rushing waste water
3 Quaint stop of Merrickville
4 Tay River Campground
5 RV cruising along the Rideau near Westport
6 operating the gates at Jones Falls
7 Waterfront campsites at Rideau Acres Campground

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