Monday, 30 August 2010

The Rideau Canal - Photo Post

We are lucky to live within an easy drive to a good concrete boat launch on the Rideau Canal system: our main recreation in the summer (in guaranteed thunderstorm-free weather) is to trailer the boat to this launch, roll it into the water and play around on the lakes and canal pieces that form the Rideau system.

It is lots of fun to zoom up and down Big Rideau Lake checking out the osprey nests, concentrations of loons and fancy cottages.  It is equally fun to lock through from Upper Rideau Lake (which is the 'top' of the canal system) and lock down toward Kingston or go down the Rideau River to Smiths Falls and lock down toward Ottawa.  Last week we did the latter and I took a bunch of, I hope, explanatory photographs to use in this week's 365 Project. ( I am up to date for this week's prompt and am, therefore, just using these up.)

The lakes, rivers and canal sections that form the waterway are marked with navigational buoys - red and green pylons floating attached to anchors to indicate the navigable portions of the waterway.  In big open areas or where there is a split in marked chanels, you will find a red and green striped buoy, but the majority of them look like this.

or this.

Boats that draft more than 6 feet need to stay between the buoys - red to port (left) and green to starboard (right) going downpstream and the reverse going upstream.  On Big Rideau with depths of over 100' in spots, the markers are far apart: on the Rideau River, where the channel twists and turns, they are quite close together and going outside them could land you  .... on mud or rock.

From the river one enters a section of the canal between two markers and proceeds very slowly to the gates of the lock.  There is docking just outside and if you want to lock through you pull up to a blue painted strip of dock and wait for the gates to open and the lock master to tell you what to do.

Here is a boat coming into the lock.  We are already inside and I am taking this picture going upstream.
You can see the lockmaster on the left.  He will shortly crank the gates closed as shown in the photo below.

Next he and his assistants (usually bilingual university students: the lockmaster himself is most often a local with years of experience) will move to the downstream gates and by turning a crank, open the drains that let the water out of the lock.

As the water drops there will be turbulence and boats in the lock keep their stations by holding on to a type of stanchion along the sides.  The canal stanchions are wires run through rubber tubing so that they will not rub the boat sides.

When all of the water is out, the lock keepers will open the gates and direct the boats out.

The gates are opened by cranking the chains (see the two handles on the sides of the drum).  the horizontal timber is the guide to keep the gate straight as it opens.

Unpowered craft go through free and powered craft pay a sum calculated on the length of the vessel.  Parks Canada does not make money at this, in my best estimation.  We buy a lock pass that gives us a number of days of access, any number of locks in a day counting as one day's use.

This shot is from below the downstream gate of a lock being used to lock boats downstream  and you can see the water swirling out as the drains are opened.

This is a photo of water being added to a lock to raise the boats in it.  You can see why the boaters need to hang on to the stanchions.

After a day playing about in the locks, we headed home.  This is taken as we left the Rideau River and headed off into lower Rideau Lake.

The Rideau Canal system is over 175 years old and has a long and interesting history, if you are into such things.  You can find a lot of information here.  I have older posts about playing on the Rideau Canal system.  Here, covering the same part of the canal as above.  And here.  This one is not a photo essay, but a description of the Perils of boating with the YD.


  1. Is it not classified as a World Heritage site now, or part of it? I can't remember, but it's nagging at me.

  2. That was very interesting--I've never seen a lock. great pictures to go along with the explanation.