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Exiting Hogs BackBy John Morris

An example of the historic workmanship and timeless beauty that is around every turn on the Rideau Canal. Here the classic 1948 Shepherd runabout exits the locks at Hogs Back.

History: right after gym and just before chemistry class. Fifty minutes of naming the prime ministers by date and looking out the window. Who knew it was actually interesting.

And in some ways it hardly matters because the Rideau Waterway is just so amazingly beautiful. Driving your boat through the locks is wonderful fun for kids of all ages (adult kids, too) and the scenery is sensational. The history is a huge bonus however, and worth understanding from both as a political lesson and from an engineering perspective.

Glassy Calm WatersThe glassy calm waters on this perfect fall day are actually typical boating conditions for much of the sheltered Rideau Canal.

Suddenly it seems that everyone is talking about the Rideau Canal. Canadian Yachting Media is assembling a new PORTS guide for the waterway and the other Rideau headline is LeBoat Charters. It took a European operator to recognize the world-class Canadian resource that boaters can enjoy; here at home we have so much boating choice that somehow this delicious treat is just another Chelsea bun on the shelf.

In April, the system took a starring role in a TVO documentary, ‘Tripping the Rideau’, which ran as a four-hour pioneering block following a beautiful classic Shepherd launch from Manotick, right into the centre of downtown Ottawa. To say it was like driving your own boat is no exaggeration; the four-hour trip has almost no dialog and is a real-time experience that you could, and really should, have yourself. No commercials, the doc was as close to boating as technology can take you and the filmmakers also have online options for VR viewing.
TRIPPING the Rideau Canal

The drone camera angle required special permits (of course) but the TVO production, TRIPPING the Rideau Canal gives a magnificent view of the eight-step flight of locks that run between Canada's Parliament Buildings and the Chateau Laurier Hotel.

The fundamentals

The Rideau system runs 202 kilometres through Ontario from Kingston to Ottawa incorporating 45 locks, 16 lakes and two rivers. Boats raise 83.8 metres through 31 locks to Upper Rideau Lake, the watershed between the Great Lakes and Ottawa River. Then they lock down 50.6 metres through 14 locks including the final dramatic 8-lock staircase descending 24.1 metres to the Ottawa River. Surprisingly the last 10 locks take boats right through the centre of downtown Ottawa, almost surreptitiously navigating right under the wheels of government and business, and the crowds of workers, shoppers and tourists that fill the busy core of the nation’s capital. When you exit the last lock onto the Ottawa, you are right smack between the Parliament buildings and the Chateau Laurier hotel. The Peace Tower is your channel marker to port.

This urban stretch is a complete contrast to the rest of the Rideau, which is a chain of lakes with a smattering of man-made canals (only 9% of the whole route) connecting them. Along its banks are historic and modern towns and villages, marinas, shoreside eateries and pubs galore, and staggering reaches of nature dotted with cottages small and large. This is neither tony Muskoka nor the busy English Midlands, but rather a rich and wonderful trove of Canadian everything. I daresay only a very few celebrities invite their LA friends to the Rideau compared to the Lake Joseph A-list, although I suggest taking it in soon before this beauty is discovered and the private planes and caterers arrive.
Downtown Ottawa

Tripping the Rideau

Tripping the Rideau Canal is a real time documentary shot by Goodearth Productions of Toronto. Neither Mitch Azaria – Executive Producer, Writer & Director nor Andrea Minty – Producer & Production Manager is a boater. Their reputation has been made delivering hundreds of hours of nature and Canadian heritage productions and their fresh eyes have captured all this incredible waterway’s charm. The tech crew aren’t from a boating background either, but their skill in capturing the beauty of the canal system from the boat, from drones and along the banks is evident in the compelling footage.

While there’s almost no dialog, the documentary approach to the history of the waterway is a vital component of this groundbreaking doc using animation to bring the past to life along key areas of the canal while we cruise along as guests of Dawn and Randy McKendry aboard their stunning vintage 1948 Shepherd. While the Rideau hosts all manner of boats from kayaks to cruisers, there is some major antique and classic boat activity towards Ottawa; Randy is the current president of the Manotick chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society, (ACBS).

Hogs Back FallsThis is one of the reasons the canal and lock system was needed; this is an aerial view of the Hogs Back Falls that is beside the lock.

One of the real world uses of the Rideau is to take the Manotick members to Kingston then across Lake Ontario to Clayton and Alexandria Bay, NY, the mecca of upstate and St. Lawrence River classic boat fiends – think Port Carling with a castle.

As the oldest continuously operated canal in North America, the Rideau still shows off the incredible engineering from the 1820s in its masonry canal walls and human-operated locks, the majority of which are still opened by hand. The construction of the canal was supervised by Lieutenant-Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers. Started in the fall of 1826, it was completed by the spring of 1832. The first full steamboat transit of the canal was done by Robert Drummond's steamboat, Rideau (aka "Pumper"), leaving Kingston on May 22, 1832 with Colonel By and family on board, and arriving in Bytown on May 29, 1832. To the surprise of no one since, the project came in delayed and over budget.

Much of its original purpose was to provide passage from Montreal to Kingston should war with the Americans threaten passage and since it was relatively easy compared to navigating the pre-locks, pre--Seaway St. Lawrence, it was commercially popular even though no war fare materialized.

Get out there

Hartwells LockToday, The Rideau is much as it was although the modern world surrounds it. It is the domain of pleasure boats up and down its length. Cottagers, canoeists, fishing boats and cruisers keep it busy although not quite as populous as the Trent Severn. In the winter, the downstream portion in Ottawa is turned into the world’s longest skating rink packed with healthy skaters eating traditional beaver tail snacks.

PC Cranking at LI Locks

 

 

 

One of the most charming parts of the Rideau Canal is that Parks Canada staff still work the massive gates with hand crank mechanisms to open and close the doors. The staff are both friendly and very helpful.

The park is Maintained and staffed by Parks Canada. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1925 and in 2007, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognizing it as a work of human creative genius. The Rideau Canal is recognized as the best preserved example of a slack water canal in North America demonstrating the use of European slackwater technology in North America on a large scale. 

If the Rideau was in France or Austria, Canadians would be bucket-listing it and booking luxury cruises. Perhaps because it is next to free, next door and you could go there by boat, or by charter any time, we don’t seem to get around to it. I am suggesting you really should and the documentary will help convince you.

TVO Documentary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sidenote: The Doc
Imagine being able to experience portions of the Rideau Canal in virtual reality. See how we made it possible and be sure to tune in to watch the experience unfold in the 4 hour TVO Original TRIPPING the Rideau Canal now available online at TVO.org. 

 

Sidenote: LeBoat

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yg6Yo3WQ__E&list=PLZNA2oxm2w36UZwRpfJ0tnxNGyYlZT4Dm&index=9

LeBoat Charters on the Rideau Canal:  Wild and wonderful, take an unforgettable boating vacation on Canada's canals and wide-open lakes

LeBoat Canadian boating vacations are the perfect way to discover the beauty of the Rideau Canal. One of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century, the Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously-operated canal system in North America. Traveling along this attractive waterway, you will be able to unwind and take in the spectacular nature, picturesque towns and lively cities of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. No special qualifications are required to operate your LeBoat charter yacht and the friendly LeBoat staff will explain all that you need to know before you depart.

For further information and video inspiration:

New Video From Le Boat – Keep Dreaming
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEXSAxWNXGg&list=PLZNA2oxm2w36UZwRpfJ0tnxNGyYlZT4Dm
 
Canada –Rideau Canal Video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yg6Yo3WQ__E&list=PLZNA2oxm2w36UZwRpfJ0tnxNGyYlZT4Dm&index=9
 
Sample Itineraries
https://www.leboat.ca/en/boating-holidays/canada/rideau-canal#tab2
 
Rideau Canal Guide Book
https://www.leboat.com/sites/default/files/rideau-guide-eng-can-vacation-2019-online.pdf