RVing the Rideau

By Jane Cassie

View all articles by this author

What comes to mind when you hear Rideau Canal: a gem-like waterway flowing between the cities of Kingston and Ottawa or a Canadian story featuring ambition, struggle and success? Maybe thoughts of its honourable designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site or the world’s longest skating rink come to mind. If any of these pop up, you’re spot on.

The series of lakes, rivers and dams, linked by 47 locks at 24 stations, was built as a defensible waterway after the War of 1812. Although never needed for this purpose, it has continued to operate since its completion in 1832. Thanks to these gated chambers (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 ventures and vistas: trout-filled lakes, 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.

Obviously, cruising or kayaking this 202-km (126-mile) canal would allow for prime viewing. But if you’re more of an earth lover than a water baby, fear not. RVing the Rideau can be almost as rewarding. Highway 401, a.k.a. MacDonald Cartier Freeway, is a main thoroughfare that spans the canal. And branching away from this pulsating artery is the Rideau Heritage Route that takes RVers to Rideau riches – www.rideauheritage.ca

Though this route tracks the lock numbers and landmarks from Ottawa to Kingston, it can be simply reversed if you choose to go in the other direction. All you have to do is pack, gas up and go!

Northern Section

Ottawa Locks 1-8, Hartwells Locks 9-10 and Hogs Back Locks 11-12 are located within Canada’s capital. Here, you can take in some of the nearby cultural offerings or pedal the path that connects these three scenic settings.

Black Rapids Lock 13 is 10 km south of Ottawa’s sprawl. It’s easy to conjure up bygone days when steamships plied these waters and hard to imagine that Ottawa International jets take off just three km away. If you feel like shacking up with a little comfort, the riverside Monterey Inn that overlooks this station will certainly meet your needs - www.montereyinn.com

Highway 43 parallels one side of the Rideau, and Highway 16 is on the other. Both run adjacently from here to Smiths Falls. Take the latter and veer off on Country Road 19 (River Road) to get to Long Island Locks 14-16. You may want to take a day or two between this and the next lock station at Burritts Rapids (17) to check out these treasures and historical townships: the 1860s grist mill in Manotick, the Baxter Conservation area in Kars, the hiking routes around Kemptville, and the Rideau’s oldest church in Burritts Rapids.

RV Parks:

Rideau River Provincial Park
RR 4, Kemptville, ON K0G 1J0
181 campsites, 31 with electricity

Sandy Mountain Campsite & Golf Course
8 km east of Kemptville Hwy 43 - 40 overnight, 135 seasonal sites

Central Section

Lower Nicholsons Lock 18, Upper Nicholsons Lock 19 and Clowes Lock 20 are accessible by Country Road 2. Off Highway 43 is Merrickville and locks 21-23, the Jewel of the Rideau that offers everything from quaint shops and galleries to a first-class history lesson. Take a tour of the 1832 Blockhouse Museum, the nearby bird sanctuary and Mrs. McGarrigle’s, a fabulous fine food shop where you’ll discover the most amazing award-winning mustards! www.mustard.ca

Kilmarnock Lock 24 and Edmonds Lock 25 are the next in line, followed closely by Old Slys Locks 26-27 and Smiths Falls Combined 29a and Detached 31. Don’t be confused by the skewed numbering. These last two stations are lumped together and the oddball in the mix, built in 1972-73, replaced three previous locks. At 7.9 metres (26 feet), 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 - the “Heart of the Rideau” - is the largest community on the corridor. The Railway Museum retraces its tracks from the 1800s 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 timeline that led to its success. Also, be sure not to miss the Rideau Canal Museum.

From here, you’ll cross over to the canal’s southern shore where Highway 15 leads to Poonamalie Lock 32, Lower Beveridges Lock 33 and Upper Beveridges Lock 34 and beyond to the lakeside village of Portland on Big Rideau Lake. But you may want to keep hugging onto Highway 34 for just a little longer. The pretty town of Perth is just up the road. Sun-dappled sidewalks and green space embrace its 200-year-old storefronts, and rimming one edge is the Tay Canal, a tree-bordered tributary that flows into Lower Rideau Lake. Although a picturesque RV park nestles up to the reedy shoreline, if you want to snooze in the same bedroom A.Y. Jackson did from the Group of Seven, book into the Perth Manor: a boutique hotel with deep roots and great hospitality. www.perthmanor.com

RV Parks:

Riverside Campground
RR 4, Rideau River Rd, Merrickville, ON K0G 1N0
12 overnight, 47 seasonal sites

Victoria Park
c/o Town Hall, P.O. Box 695, Smiths Falls, ON K7A 4T6
50 serviced sites

Tay River Tent & Trailer Camp
RR 4, Perth, K7H 3C6
15 transient, 35 seasonal sites

Waterways Campground
P.O. Box 37, Portland, ON K0G 1V0
43 transient, 103 seasonal sites

Southern Section

Aside from the occasional detour, like dots on a map, Highway 15 connects the remaining eight stations (total of 15 locks). Although Westport, via Country Road 42, is a little off the main route, this scenic hamlet is worth the drive. Its sandy beaches, golf courses and hiking trails are all framed by rolling farmlands and rugged Foley Mountain.

If you’re an angler, you’ll want to literally catch Newboro on the return trip - or at least one of its largemouth bass. Though now quiet and laid-back, life here wasn’t always as laissez-fare. Building the lock station at this isthmus, or highpoint between Ottawa and Kingston, raised a lot of havoc back in 1829. Over 300 workers were brought here to blast away the rugged bedrock, and during the process, many of them fell ill to the retched Lake Fever, later diagnosed as malaria.

RVing back on Highway 15, you can choose to veer off at Chaffey’s and Davis Locks, head in the other direction to uncover Elgin’s intriguing history that includes everything from United Empire Loyalists to Mormon missionaries, 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 18 metres. A blacksmith shop, lockmaster’s home, and visitors centre are featured along a self-guided tour, and topping it off (or holding it back) is the stone arch dam that supports the powerful force of Sand Lake. This amazing wall of limestone spans 107 metres is 19.5 metres high and was coined by its makers as the “Seventh Wonder of the World.”

History also lives on at nearby Hotel Kenney, a yellow clapboard beauty that has been welcoming guests since 1877. Book a night in one of the comfortable lakeshore rooms and enjoy a little downtime, great food and legendary service. www.hotelkenney.com

On this final stretch, Highway 15 closely parallels the Rideau. Check out the full services and holiday options at Seeley’s Bay, picnic at the luscious green space on Upper Brewers, pick up amazing metal sculptures at the Lower Brewers Doner Studio Mill 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 camper, caravan or 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
209-192 Sunnyside Road, Westport, ON K0G 1X0
147 seasonal only campsites and 2 rental cottages

Skycroft Campsites & Cottages
RR 1, Chaffey's Lock, ON K0G 1C0
613-359-5491 or toll-free 1-877-359-5491
8 transient campsites, 57 seasonal sites and 3 housekeeping cottages

Melody Lodge & Marina
RR 3, 4328 Melody Lodge Rd, Seeley’s Bay, ON K0H 2N0
613-387-3497 or 1-888-MELODY-1
20 transient, 20 seasonal hookups and 22 cottages

Rideau Acres Campground
1014 Cunningham Road, Kingston, ON, K7L 4V3



This article has been viewed 9969 times.

Post A Comment

Comments that include profanity, personal attacks, or antisocial behavior such as "spamming," "trolling," or any other inappropriate material will be removed from the site. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our "terms of use". You are fully responsible for the content you post. Senior Living takes no responsibility for the views and opinions of members using this discussion area.

Submit Articles

Current Issue

Search For Articles


Subscribe To
The Magazine