Rideau River Provincial Park

Location: Kemptville, Ontario
Region: Southeastern
Character: Recreation
Length/Size: 462.1 acres

Rideau River Provincial Park
By Ontario Parks

This park occupies a shady bank on the historic Rideau Canal near Kemptville. It is witness to a parade of recreational boats cruising between Kingston and Ottawa. Sandy beaches, a fitness trail and fishing offer distractions. Down the road are hiking trails and a golf course. Ottawa is only 20 minutes away.

The park has 184 level campsites, located in a mature red pine and poplar forest. Forty-six have electrical service and two barrier free sites have electricity and water. Nine group campsites accommodate 50 to 125 people. Two comfort stations with showers are centrally located and drinking water and vault toilets are close.

Group Camping
There are a total of nine sites that accommodate up to 125 people. Three sites are located near the beach and the remaining sites vary in proximity to beaches. Water taps and vault toilets are available on site. Proximity to comfort stations varies dependant on the site. Reservations can be made by calling the park directly at (613) 258-2740.

Picnics and Day Use
Two large day-use areas accommodate families and large organized groups. On the main beach there is one large picnic shelter as well as several small barbeque grills with access to a comfort station and playground. On East beach, there are three reservable group day-use areas with access to a comfort station, playground and large barbeques.

Electric Sites - 46
Barrier Free Access
Laundromat, showers, flush toilets, Registration Office, two campsites
Park Store
The Registration Office / Park Store sells soft drinks, ice, firewood and worms. Souvenirs are also sold.
Showers - Yes, in the two comfort stations in the campground
Flush Toilets - Yes, in the four comfort stations in the park
Laundromat - Yes, in the park comfort stations
Play Area - Yes
Boat Launch - Yes
French Language Services - Yes
Rentals - Canoes, trailer storage
Off Season - Gated

A 3-km trail winds along the Rideau River shoreline for the length of the park.

The park's shore offers canoeists and kayakers the longest stretch of Rideau Canal uninterrupted by locks. Novice canoeists appreciate the slow and meandering current, while anglers can use paddle craft to quietly explore the nooks and bays of the shallow, warm water.

Wildlife Viewing
The park is home to mourning doves, white throated sparrows, bluejays, nuthatches, black-capped chickadees and various warblers and owls. Great blue heron, American bittern, red-winged blackbird and a variety of ducks inhabit the riverbank along with turtles and frogs. White-tailed deer are sometimes spotted in the woods.

Swimmers and water enthusiasts enjoy three groomed sandy beaches along the Rideau River.

Cyclists can explore quiet and scenic country roads near the park. Or they can pedal 48 km to Ottawa, where bike trails lead to most of the national capital's attractions without travelling on city streets.

For more information:
Rideau River Provincial Park
2680 Donnelly Drive
Kemptville, Ontario
K0G 1J0

Rideau Waterway
By The Canadian Heritage Rivers System

The Rideau Waterway stretches 202 kilometers through a chain of lakes, rivers and canals, linking Canada's capital, Ottawa, to the historic city of Kingston on Lake Ontario. It leads paddlers not only through some of the most picturesque countryside in eastern Ontario, but also on a voyage through history.

The Rideau Waterway, built over a six-year period, from 1826 to 1832, is the oldest continuously operating canal in North America. It was built as part of a military defence system of Upper Canada (now Ontario); a supply route that is out-of-range of American cannons. Peace reigns along the Rideau today, where one finds a wonderful mix of wildlife, city life, and country life. Here the past and present, nature and culture, all come together in a unique melding - just the recipe for an unforgettable Canadian Heritage River experience.

The Rideau Waterway is one of the best-kept secrets in Canada.

Located in eastern Ontario, the Waterway is a 202 kilometre route linking Ottawa, on the historic Ottawa River, and Kingston, on Lake Ontario. Along the Rideau one can find a magical mix of wildlife, city life and country life: pastoral scenery, fine restaurants, great fishing, quaint hotels, museums, historic sites, and scenic backwaters. Here past and present, nature and culture, meld in a setting of tranquillity, beauty and charm. All along the way, the Rideau traveller can learn about the rich heritage of this part of Ontario at numerous museums and 24 lockstations that are still in operation today. Many of the lockstations remain virtually as they were when built over 150 years ago - peaceful and secluded havens that take you back to the 19th century.

The Rideau is anchored at both ends by cities, Ottawa to the north and Kingston at the southern terminus. The waterway traverses flat agricultural lands from Ottawa to Lower Rideau Lake. This land is underlain by limestone that was once an ancient seabed. The soils are rich, and the land gently rolling. South of Lower Rideau Lake, the landscape changes dramatically. From this point almost to its southern terminus, the waterway cuts through the ancient gneisses and granite of a southern extension of the Canadian Shield known as the Frontenac Axis. The ancient Shield rock outcroppings create a maze of lakes and channels, dramatic cliffs, and steep, rocky shorelines interspersed with marshes and wetlands.

A Rideau Tour: Rideau travellers can start or end their trip in the shadow of the Parliament Buildings, where a giant flight of lock "steps" lift and lower boats 24 metres from the Ottawa River to the canal that winds through the city.

The canal merges with the Rideau River at Hogs Back Lockstation. Heading south from Ottawa the first town is Manotick. On the river in the centre of town is one of the most splendid historic mills in Canada, Watson's Mill, built in 1860, and restored in 1979.

South of Manotick is "The Long Reach." At 39 kilometres, it is the longest section of the waterway without a lock. At the next lockstation, Burritts Rapids a canal lined by massive cut limestone blocks and cedar forests bypasses the rapids. A few kilometres further is the historic town of Merrickville. The town is one of the most picturesque in Ontario, with its historic buildings, the ruins of a woollen mill and a blockhouse museum. The headquarters of the Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association is located just south of the locks in Merrickville.

The Rideau cuts through a series of extensive marshes and shallow lakes on the way to the next town, Smiths Falls. In the centre of Smiths Falls is one of the three lockstations on the system operated by hydraulics. From the Combined Locks, a pleasant walk takes visitors to the Rideau Canal Visitor Information Centre.

A narrow channel lined with limestone blocks winding through cedar forests and wetlands links Smiths Falls to Lower Rideau Lake. An interesting side trip leads from Lower Rideau Lake up the Tay River to the historic town of Perth.

For many, the most scenic section of the Rideau Waterway stretches from The Narrows, between Big Rideau Lake and Upper Rideau Lake, and Jones Falls. The keystone arch dam at Jones Falls was the highest in North America when it was built in 1830. You can still hear the sound of a hammer striking hot iron in the 1840's blacksmith shop. The hilltop lockmaster's house has been restored to give you a glimpse of the life of a lockmaster in the 19th century.

A series of long, shallow lakes, connected by Upper Brewers and Lower Brewers locks, leads to the River Styx, a shallow reach of the Rideau Waterway that ends at Kingston Mills - the last lockstation before Kingston and Lake Ontario. The granite cliffs framing the deep gorge below the locks make one ponder the immensity of Colonel By's undertaking, armed only with hammers and wedges and gunpowder.

Natural Heritage
Much of the original wilderness along the Rideau is gone, replaced by roads, towns and farms. There remains, however, an abundance of life along the waterway. The water is home to muskellunge, largemouth bass, pike and snapping turtles. Otters, deer, beavers, muskrats, mink, foxes, loons, ducks, Canada geese, great blue herons, osprey, marsh hawks, black rat snakes, choruses of bullfrogs - these are just some of the species that the Rideau traveller may see and hear along the waterway.

It is hard to imagine what the river was like before canal construction. The locks and dams have drowned rapids to create long narrow lakes and vast wetlands. Despite, and in some cases because of, the changes, the waterway is still a vibrant water ecosystem filled with life.

Human Heritage
The Rideau Waterway, built from 1826 to 1832 under the direction of lieutenant-Colonel John By, is the oldest continuously operating 19th century canal system in North America. Its dams, locks and canals create a navigable link between Ottawa and Kingston through the Rideau and Cataraqui River systems. The waterway was built to provide Upper Canada with a safe transportation route from Montreal to Kingston (then Upper Canada's largest settlement) in case of war with our neighbours to the south, bypassing the St. Lawrence and out of range of enemy cannon. The Waterway was never used for defence, but it served as an immigration route and an artery of commerce until the turn of the century. The predicted American invasion occurred, but it was a peaceful one led by tourists in steamers, rowing skiffs and wooden motor launches. Tourism quickly became the most important activity on the Rideau, and many of Canada's oldest summer resorts still operate along the waterway. Today, the Rideau remains a haven for tourists, and retains its elemental tranquillity.

The Rideau Waterway is considered one of the great engineering feats of the 19th century, and one can only marvel at the ingenuity of its builders. Thirty-one locks raise boats from the Ottawa River to Upper Rideau Lake, the highest point on the route; fourteen locks lower boats to Lake Ontario. Locks link the Rideau with the historic town of Perth via the Tay Canal. The original locks and canal cuts are still in use, and, except for three hydraulic locks, all are still operated by the muscle power of lock staff cranking the distinctive "crab" winches.

The Rideau is considered one of the top boating destinations in North America. It also offers some of the best rural canoeing experiences anywhere. The Rideau also links up with other canoe routes, including Frontenac and Charleston Lake Provincial Parks.

One of the highlights of any boating excursion on the Waterway is "locking through." It's an interesting process - a close-up view of the stone walls and massive wooden gates built by hand almost two centuries ago.

Each lockstation has its special charm. Campsites, drinking water, toilet facilities, picnic tables and fireplaces are available at most lockstations. Boaters must purchase a mooring permit to tie up overnight at lock or bridge stations. This also permits boaters to camp on lockstation grounds.

Camping is also available at Murphy's Point Provincial Park on Big Rideau Lake and Rideau River Provincial Park near Kemptville, and at many privately operated campgrounds along the route. Of course, if you don't want to camp, there are many fine hotels and bed-and-breakfasts along the route.

Boaters should carry up-to-date navigation charts and obey all small craft Coast Guard regulations.

Visitor Information
Access: Each lockstation on the system can be reached by road. Boats and canoes can be launched at most lockstation, and at Conservation Areas, provincial parks, and many private parks and resorts along the waterway.

Accommodation and Services: The villages, towns and cities along the Rideau provide services such as campsites, parks, restaurants, hotels, motels, resorts, and marinas. Washrooms, drinking water and boater camping are available at lockstations. Boats and canoes can be rented in Ottawa, and at many other locations along the Rideau.

The Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association headquarters in Merrickville rents a variety of canoes and kayaks.

Topographic Maps: National Topographic Series maps covering the Rideau Waterway at the 1:50,000 scale are 31C8 (Gananoque), 31C9 (Westport), 31C16 (Perth), 31B13 (Merrickville), 31G4 (Kemptville), and 31G5 (Ottawa). To find a map dealer in your area, visit their website (http://maps.NRCan.gc.ca), or phone 1-800-465-6277.

Canal navigation charts may be purchased at various lockstations, the Rideau Canal headquarters, or from the Friends of the Rideau (see addresses below).

Further Information
Services, Permits and Regulations: Ontario Government licenses and permits are required for fishing and hunting along the Rideau. For more information, contact the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Kemptville, (613) 258-8204.

For matters relating to watershed management and regulations, contact the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, (613) 692-3571, 1127 Mill Street, Manotick, Ontario, (www.rideauvalley.on.ca) or the Catarqui Conservation Authority (613) 546-4228, P.O. 160, Glenburnie, Ontario, K0H 1S0

For mooring and lockage permits, contact the Rideau Canal Office. See address below.

Parks Canada, Rideau Canal Office
34A Beckwith St. S.
Smiths Falls, ON K7A 2A8
Tel: 1-800-230-0016 or (613) 283-5170; Fax: (613) 283-0677
E-mail: RideauCanal.info@pc.gc.ca

Rideau Canal Museum
34 Bechwith St. S,
Smiths Falls, ON K7A 2A8
Tel: (613) 284-0505

Friends of the Rideau
1 Jasper Ave.
Smiths Falls, ON K7A 4B5
Tel: (613) 283-5810; Fax: (613) 283-2884
E-mail: info@rideaufriends.com

National Capital Commission
Tel: (613) 239-5000 or 1-800-465-1867

Ottawa Tourism
Tel: (613) 237-5150
www.ottawatourism.ca; www.ottawa.com

Kingston Tourism
Tel: 1-888-855-4555

Canadian Tourism Commission
235, Queen St., Ottawa, ON K1A 0H6
Tel: (613) 954-1900

Canadian Heritage Rivers System
Contact: The Secretary, Canadian Heritage Rivers System
c/o Parks Canada, Ottawa, ON K1A 0M5
Tel: (819) 994-2913; Fax: (819) 953-4704
E-mail: donald.gibson@pc.gc.ca

Ontario Member of the CHRS Board
Managing Director, Ontario Parks,
Ministry of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 7000, 300 Water Street
Peterborough, ON K9J 8M5
Tel: (705) 755-1702; Fax: (705) 755-1701

Rideau Valley Conservation Authority,
1128 Mill Street, Manotick, Ontario, K4M 1A5

Box 599, 1128 Mill Street
Manotick, Ontario K4M 1A5
613-692-3571; 1-800-267-3504
fax. 613-692-0831