The Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada, the core of the Rideau Waterway, was built between 1826 and 1832. It is the oldest continuously operating canal in North America and is managed by Parks Canada.

    The Rideau Waterway is unique to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System in that it is the first waterway based on a Heritage Canal to be recognized as a Canadian Heritage River.

    For over 8,000 years, the Rideau Waterway has provided the opportunity for establishing settlement and cultural development. While forming part of the grand strategy of defence for the British Commonwealth it served as a secure transportation route away from the American border and serviced the timber and agriculture industries. It remains as one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 19th century.

    The Rideau Waterway is a cultural living landscape of villages, small towns, farms, cottages, cities, and private residences, all of which contribute to its wide appeal and unmistakable cachet. A healthy natural environment is the backdrop for recreation and heritage appreciation. The Rideau system is one of Canada's finest recreational waterways with extraordinary boating, cottaging, camping, fishing and hiking opportunities within an hour's drive of over one million people.

    In 1998, the Rideau Waterway Coordinating Committee began work to seek the designation of the Rideau Waterway as a Canadian Heritage River. In November 1999, its nomination as a candidate Canadian Heritage River was accepted.

    The Rideau Waterway was considered for CHRS recognition from Ottawa to Kingston for its outstanding historical and recreational values. Originally built for military use, it quickly became the "highway" for early settlement and commercial traffic. It has an absolutely unique assemblage of working historical buildings and engineering structures that is unequaled anywhere in Canada.

    Sound and sustainable economic development throughout the corridor is at the heart of the CHRS recognition. Rideau residents, lake associations, environmental groups, municipalities and other levels of government all actively participate in safeguarding the well-being of the Waterway's rich heritage including high water quality standards for fish and wildlife and the protection of scenic shorelines.

    The Canadian Heritage River status for the Rideau places it in the very elite company of 28 other designated Canadian rivers. Over 9,000 km of Canada's river heritage is recognized through the CHRS program for their pivotal role in shaping Canada's history and society.

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