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Exploring Canada’s Capital and the Rideau Canal

Posted by on September 2, 2012

Although this post covers a relatively short distance – about 225 miles – it spans the longest time period yet, more than three weeks of our travels. We spent a good deal of this time exploring the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal, which in their own way were as important to the development of English Canada as the St. Lawrence River and Lachine Canal were  to the development of Quebec.

The Ottawa River provided power to supply mills of many kinds, and the means to export raw materials to Montreal and beyond.  The main export was wood, and for a time during the 1800’s Britain could not have maintained its navy (or naval superiority) without lumber from the Ottawa Valley.
The Rideau Canal also had a military connection (as it appears much did in those days). The canal was an outcome of the War of 1812, built to provide a ‘back door’ supply route if the Americans again threatened the St. Lawrence River connection between Montreal and Kingston. Constructed between 1826 and 1832, it is one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century. Perhaps more impressive, it has enjoyed continuous operation in essentially the same manner since it was first opened.

Our other focus was Ottawa. Formerly called Bytown after Lt. Colonel John By, the British Royal Engineer who oversaw the construction of the Rideau Canal, it developed from a remote lumbering and milling town into a beautiful national capital. Sir Wilfred Laurier, Canada’s Prime Minister when many of the legacy buildings were constructed in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, professed that he wanted to build a capital as impressive as Washington DC. Although the dominant styles are quite different, with Ottawa displaying a more British/European look (no surprise there), we would say this has been accomplished.

It was also interesting to visit the national museums in Ottawa. We spent time at the Aviation Museum, the War Museum and even the Currency Museum (we had previously been to the very impressive Museum of Civilization, so it wasn’t on our list this time). The buildings and exhibits were on par with the Smithsonian institutions we saw in Washington DC, had the advantage of being much less crowded, and were well worth the time. Admissions were modest (or free).

Like Quebec, this was a great region to brush up on our Canadian history, and we very much enjoyed our time here.

The huge ‘dropgate’, which weighs 187 tons, is a unique feature of the Carillon Lock; at 66′ feet in height, it was one of the largest locks we encountered on our trip.

 

Sunset – and margarita time – at our anchorage Baie Des Atocas.

 

A fellow early morning traveller.

 

Where the Rideau and the Ottawa Rivers meet; Rideau in French means ‘curtains’, which the falls resemble from a distance.

 

View of the Parliament Buildings from Entrance Bay: the Ottawa Locks, entrance to the Rideau Canal, are to the far left.

 

Working our way up the Ottawa flight locks, of which there are eight; it only took about 90 minutes, although it can take up to four hours when busy (the Chateau Laurier is on the left).

 

And for those of you who haven’t visited Ottawa, here’s what the flight locks look like from above.

 

Our berth for five days in downtown Ottawa – very convenient!

 

The European influenced architecture of everybody’s favourite Canadian institution (the CRA).

 

Of course the British influence is not just in the architecture – here’s  the Changing of the Guard at Rideau Hall, residence of the Governor General.

 

View of Entrance Bay and the Ottawa River to the west from behind the Parliament Buildings; note the winding  bike path in the lower left, part of an excellent system in the capital city.

 

Farewell to Ottawa…..

 

…..and hello to the Rideau Canal.

 

Another serene evening at anchor.

 

Locks, locks, and more locks (47 in all)…..

 

…..bridges too….

 

…..and great little historic towns like Merrickville, a major manufacturing centre in its time.

 

Merrickville was the only place where we got to look down on the world from our berth.

 

Another impressive sunset, this time from the canal basin in downtown Smiths Falls.

 

Large portions of the canal consist of deep, clear lakes; this is the view from one of our anchorages on Big Rideau Lake.

 

We were joined for 4 days by John’s sister Pat and her husband Bruce; Pat demonstrates her boating prowess at the helm of His Idea……

 

…..and Bruce his skills as a line handler extrordinaire.

 

The entire canal is a national park (and UNESCO World Heritage Site); all of the lock stations are well preserved, and many are very picturesque.

 

A momentus occasion – 3000 statute miles travelled, just as we pulled up to the dock at the Jones Falls lock!

 

A rare picture of both the Admiral and the Captain.

The next and final installment (for this year) will be from Kingston and the Thousand Islands.

11 Responses to Exploring Canada’s Capital and the Rideau Canal

  1. Roy and Sue

    Great photos as always. We’re looking forward to getting a refresher on Canadian history from you experts! See you next week. Roy and Sue

    • john-and-ria

      Thanks R&S, we’re looking forward to your visit too. The weather continues to be warm (27 today), and so far the weather predictions for next week look good.

      Good luck at the golf tournament, Roy – we’ll be watching the online news for the results!

  2. Leona Geall

    Great photos – envious and can’t wait to hear your stories in person when you return. Make sure you make a visit to BCAA…

    • john-and-ria

      Thanks Leona. I’m definitely planning on catching up with you and the rest of the BCAA gang when we get back.

  3. Charlotte Kerr

    I do so enjoy reading your blog and pictures! We are already planning our next summer cruise thru Canada, and your travels are playing an impt part in the preparation. Abbotsford III will be on the hard 09/17-24/12 for a gazillion projects before the winter cruise to Marathon. Ria, you would be so proud of me. Out of all the wonderful stores full of Canadian goods I visited in Montreal, the one item I purchased was a tooled red leather purse. And guess where it was made? Vancouver, BC!! All the way on the other side of the country. Enjoy the rest of your time, return home, etc. I hope to see you, on the water somewhere, in the future.

    • john-and-ria

      Thanks Charlotte! It was so great to meet up with you and share cruising experiences. Happy you will return to Canada as we are looking forward to more travelling in the United States. I will look for a red purse in Vancouver as it might be made in Montreal! Good luck with all your projects and please send us pictures to show off your hard work.

  4. Mindy

    Great photos! Love the rare one of the Captain and the Admiral :)

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      Hi,

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