Day 1: Kingston to Jones Falls
Distance: 28 miles
You can easily spend several days discovering Kingston before departing on the journey north through the Canal.
Kingston’s farmer’s marketThe many boutique stores, farmer’s markets, restaurants and historic sites make this university town and one-time capital city a wonderful place to visit. Most sites and restaurants are within walking distance from Flora MacDonald marina located in Confederation Basin. From there, you can choose to discover the town or start your cruise along the 1000 Islands – but that’s another trip (to be featured this coming summer).
The journey to the start of the Rideau Canal begins when you enter the Inner Harbour under the bascule bridge on LaSalle Causeway. The bridge opens every hour from 6 am to 10 pm, expect at 8 am, 12 noon, 4 PM and 5 PM (rush hour).
Kingston MillsOnce past the Inner Harbour, you quickly leave behind the busy town and enter into serene county surrounded by evergreens and Precambrian rock of the Canadian Shield. Kingston Mills, the first series of hand-cranked locks, is about 3.7 nm from Kingston. Park’s Canada staff will direct you into your first ascent through the first 4 locks, and if you have an extra hand aboard – they’ll even let you crank the gates open.
hand operated locksThe method of entering the locks is the same as the Erie – slow and steady – but unlike the Erie Canal, the Rideau has fixed cables on the side of the locks to loop your lines through. You also don’t need fender boards – as they will likely catch these inset cables. Instead, several large fenders will be sufficient for the entire trip. Extra fenders on both sides are a good idea, especially during the busy season when boats might have to raft together.
Entering Jones FallsThe next two sets of locks are at Lower Brewers and Upper Brewers which takes you into Cranberry Lake – what is perhaps quintessential Ontario cottage country. From there, another climb takes you to Brass Point bridge, which swings open, and a short distance from Jones Falls where you can tie up for the night.
If you have enough time, you can lock up the series of 4 locks or tie up at the blue line for the night. The locks open at 8:30 am and depending on the season and day of the week, at 4:30 in the off season to 7:30 during the peak season from June 17 to September 5. Check with Parks Canada for more information.
serenity at Jones FallsThere is a picnic area with a BBQ or a small and very quaint Hotel Kenney or the Shangri-La Lodge. Parks Canada maintains washrooms with showers at all the lockstations – the majority of which are wheelchair accessible.
As with the majority of lockstations, there is no shore power at Jones Falls. (Burritts Rapids, Merrickville, Lower Beveridges, Davis and Lower Brewers are the exception). We highly recommend a dip in the lake water, and a walk along the path to see the magnificent stone dam wall built in 1830.
Day 2: Jones Falls to Westport
Distance: 18 miles
Breakfast at Hotel Kenney can prove to be an interesting proposition – while quantity wasn’t a priority, the “vintage” atmosphere was memorable. We headed out late morning and meandered up the river. The day proved to be an easy one with only 3 locks passed, completing the 407-foot ascent to Upper Rideau Lake.
rounding the bendThe lower half of the canal is perhaps the most beautiful along the Rideau, and we highly recommend spending as much time soaking in the pristine surroundings. There are many museums to visit – notably Chaffeys Lockmaster’s House museum and the Opinicon Hotel. You can make reservation for lunch or dinner at the Opinicon by calling (613) 359-5233 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Davis LockThe lockmaster’s house, similar to others along the Rideau, is a stone one-storey defensible structure built in the mid-1800’s. It’s purpose was not only accommodation for the lockmaster, but also to protect the lockstation from American attack! Click here for more on the history of the Rideau.
WestportWe diverted slightly and went into Westport, an archetypical small town along the Rideau that caters to boaters and tourists all summer long. There are many excellent ice cream stores, tea houses and pubs. Most notably, Remy’s Pub at 45 Main Street.
Note: Under normal circumstances, the navigation channel, which is clearly marked by buoys, maintains at least 5-feet of water. However, there are several marshy areas along the canal that are regularly dredged by Parks Canada.
Day 3: Westport to Merrickville
Distance: 42 miles
As the name indicates, the Narrows – a tight channel that requires some quick maneuvering through enchanting passages, is just beyond Newboro. While the posted speed limit along the Rideau is 10kph, you’ll probably need to go considerably slower through the sharp corners that are buttressed by rocks.
Following the channelOnce past the Narrows lock, you enter Big Rideau Lake – beginning the descent through the canal – which means you enter locks when they’re full – a slightly different approach than when they are drained. The lockmasters are usually on hand when entering the locks, particularly if they are overflowing from excessive rain accumulations.
It’s a long, open stretch from the Narrows Lock to the next series that brings you to Smiths Falls. Just past the rolling-lift railway bridge – now in the permanently open position – you enter lock # 31. There’s a swing bridge outside of Smiths Falls – the Abbott Street bridge, which will swing on demand except from June 12 to August 3 when the swing times are: Monday to Friday; 08:45h, 09:30h, 10:15h, 11:00h, 11:45h. After 13:00h the bridge will swing on demand.
MerrickvilleThe electrically operated lock at Smiths Falls is the highest lock in the Rideau with a 26-foot drop. You’ll probably notice the air is chocolate scented – that’s because of the Hershey Chocolate factory nearby.
Leaving Smiths Falls you also leave behind a lot of the rugged Canadian Shield landscape. The next few isolated locks lead you into narrower channels. The last of these before reaching Merrickville is at Kilmarnock, where a swing bridge will open on demand. You’ll notice a lot of the lockstations are operated by college students under the guidance of the regular staff, and are very helpful.
docked in MerrickvilleOnce in Merrickville, give yourself enough time to wander in this small town with a very rich past and an active, festive spirit. There is also an impressive number of Artisans there fueling the one-of-a-kind boutiques around town. Merrickville is also home to the Aylings Boatyard and Chandlery, one of the most interesting boatyards housing historic wooden boats and vintage Chris Craft cruisers.
The flotilla boats docked before entering the channel leading into the docks – but there are other places in town to dock, including Aylings Boatyard.
Day 4: Merrickville to Dow Lake/Ottawa
Distance: 43 miles
There are several more locks to get through before reaching Ottawa – all of which have their own unique features. And by this point, you’ve probably become experts at negotiation the lines, currents and other boaters.
locking along the RideauThe locks are Black Rapids are the last before taking you into the outskirts of the city. It becomes obvious that you’re leaving the enchanting and relatively isolated wilderness of the Rideau Canal and entering “civilization”. The shore becomes dotted with diary farms, cottages, and elaborate mansions with tennis courts and swimming pools.
Chateau LaurierThe last 4 locks at Hogs Back and Hartwells take you right into the heart of the city. This is also where the artificial channel of the Rideau Canal departs from the natural channel of the Rideau River.
Depending on the time of the day, you can either stay at Dows Lake which has a gas dock and excellent facilities or continue on to the city center. As you near the city center, you’ll approach the historic Chateau Laurier to the right and just around the bend, you’ll see the impressive Parliament Buildings on your left. You have the option of tying up on the wall in downtown Ottawa or, time permitting, continuing on through the last flight of 8 locks that lead into the Ottawa River.
flight of 8 to Ottawa RiverWe highly recommend spending several days in Ottawa – discovering the many tourist attractions – from the world-class museums and galleries to the excellent restaurants and cafes. And of course, Canada’s Parliament Buildings.
Follow the Ottawa River to Montreal – a city alive with festivals and an exciting night life. It’s 98 Miles from the Rideau to the Saint Anne Lock in Montreal and takes about 9 hours to get there (based on an average speed of 10.7 mi/h and includes locking time).
locking through to the Ottawa RiverThe Ottawa River connects to the St. Lawrence River which will take you back into Lake Ontario. Alternately, you can continue east along the river and head south to Lake Champlain which connects to the Erie Canal.