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Boating Information

"Lockkeepers are the best we've encountered in several countries including France, England, Scotland, and Holland. They were helpful, knowledgeable, and extremely friendly" - DJ, Alexandria, Virginia, 2018.

The Rideau is a very easy waterway to boat. It caters to the recreational boater and is easy and fun for novice and expert boaters alike. This page lists a few things that a boater preparing to cruise the Rideau may wish to know.

On this page you will find information about:
bbNavigation Charts
bbEmergency Assistance
bbSafety at a Lock
bbHow to go through a Lock
bbLinks to more boating info

Other pages on this website of boating interest:
bbBoater's Trip Planner
bbBoating Rules
bbPaddling the Rideau
bbAmerican Boaters
bbBoat Launches
bbCanal Statistics
bbLockstation Services
bbLocksation Tel. Numbers
bbGPS Waypoints
bbConverters (mi to km, etc.)
bbOil/Gas Fuel Mixing


To boat the Rideau in confidence and safety, you should have a small craft chart. Two such charts cover the length of the Rideau. Chart 1512 covers Ottawa to Smiths Falls, and Chart 1513 covers Smiths Falls to Kingston. Each chart contains several 1:20,000 sheets which covers all the navigable waterways of the Rideau. These charts show the depth of the water and the location of all navigational markers. For more information on these charts, jump to the maps, maps, maps page. Charts may be purchased at many of the lockstations (see Lockstation Services Chart for locations) or can be ordered from World of Maps. See:


Weather, with the exception of thunderstorms, is not normally an issue on the Rideau Waterway. Although winds can produce a chop on the lakes, most boaters will be only minutes away from shelter. The main thing to watch out for in the summer are thunder storms with accompanying lightning and high winds. You can get a general idea of what to expect by viewing the Climate Page

You can check out the most up to date forecasts by checking Environment Canada's weather sites:
Weatheradio Canada is operated by Environment Canada and provides the most up to date warning and forecast information available. Weather details are presented in a continuously repeated program which cycles every 5 to 7 minutes. This information is broadcast over three dedicated VHF-FM bands: 162.400, 162.475, and 162.550.

Canadian Coast Guard radio broadcasts marine forecasts in a continuous cycle on VHF bands 161.65 MHz and 161.775 MHz (ch.21B, ch.83B). They also broadcast information on aids to navigation.

The various types of marine weather warnings are listed in the following table.

Small Craft WarningIncluded in a near shore forecast if winds are forecast to be in the range of 40 to 60 km/hr (25 to 37 mph) inclusive or if the possibility of thunderstorms is greater than 50 percent.
Gale WarningIssued if winds are forecast to be in the range of 61 to 87 km/hr (38 to 54 mph) inclusive.
Storm WarningsIssued if winds are forecast to be in the range of 88 to 117 km/hr (55 to 73 mph) inclusive.
Hurricane ForceIssued if winds are forecast to be 118 km/hr (74 mph) or greater.

Emergency Assistance

Boating search and rescue operations in Ontario are jointly co-ordinated by the Ontario Provincial Police, the Department of National Defense (CFB Trenton), the Canadian Coast Guard and other agencies.

Cell Phone Users: Call *OPP (*677) to reach the nearest OPP detachment. Call *16 to have your call routed to the nearest Coast Guard radio station. In addition, you can reach the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Trenton by calling 1-800-267-7270.

VHF Radio Users: Please note that there is no continuous monitoring of VHF channel 16 on the Ottawa River, Rideau Canal or Trent-Severn Waterway.

CB Radio Users: Channel 9 is monitored by various agencies for emergency assistance.

In an emergency, the distress call MAYDAY is used to indicate the station sending the call is in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. The message, PANPAN is used to indicate the sender requires help on an urgent basis but is not in grave and imminent danger.

Safety at a Lock

  • stay well back from lock chamber walls and dam structures;
  • stay clear of lock operating devices;
  • do not swim or bathe in the navigation channel or within 40m of a lock gate or a dam;
  • accompany your children at all times;
  • ask lock staff for further advice
Parks Canada has prepared information about safety at a lock station. See the Lockstation Safety Page.

How to go Through a Lock

For those of you who have never gone through a lock, the procedures are quite simple. Remember, the lockstaff are always there to give you any assistance you may require. The basic procedure involves moving into the lock as indicated by the lock staff, looping bow and stern lines loosely around the drop cables (plastic coated cables that are fastened to the top and bottom of the lock wall), waiting until the water fills or empties from the lock, and then proceeding out when the doors open. Here are the specific procedures:
  1. When approaching a lock or swing bridge, the lockstaff will normally see you. However, if they don't, the signal to request to enter the lock or have the bridge opened is three long blasts of five seconds duration from a whistle, horn or siren. When approaching the LaSalle Causeway at Kingston, the signal to request the lift-bridge to open is three long blasts followed by one short blast.
  2. When you come into the lock area, tie up at the dock with the blue strip (BLUE LINE) painted on it. This is the dock for boats waiting to go through the lock. It is a good idea to put down fenders on both sides of your boat since you don't know which side of the lock you will be instructed to use.
  3. When the lock gates are open and any departing vessels are clear, the lock will be loaded. Pay attention to the lock staff, they will specifically direct you on when to enter the lock and which side to go to. During busy times, the lock can be filled with boats 3 or 4 across, and you in fact may end up in the middle, rather than on one side.
  4. Proceed into the lock slowly. If there are two people on board, one should be positioned on the bow, with the bow line ready and a boat hook handy in case the boat has to be fended off the wall. If there are more than two, one should be positioned in the bow and one in the stern, with lines ready. Keep your boat under control. Be aware of any crosswinds or currents.
  5. Once in position on the wall, loop your bow and stern lines through the closest drop cables (see picture). DO NOT tie the line, just loop it loosely around the cable and hold the end. Remember your boat will be traveling several metres up or down in the lock, you don't want any lines tied to the wall.
  6. Once you are in position in the lock, TURN OFF your ignition and any other engines on your boat, TURN OFF all open flames, DO NOT smoke above or below vessel deck, and LEAVE ON your bilge blower.
  7. During the lockage, if you are going up you may experience some turbulence in the lock as the water is let in. Maintain control of your boat with your lines. You may wish to loop a line around a deck cleat to give you extra leverage. Never leave a line unattended.
  8. Be prepared to show your lockage permit to the staff, or be ready to purchase a permit from them.
  9. When the lock operation is completed and the gates are fully open, the lock staff will direct you to restart your engine. Make sure your bow and stern lines are back in your boat and proceed slowly under power out of the lock.
  10. Adhere to any posted speed limits and watch out for swimmers and other boats.

For basic information about how a lock works, view the How A Lock Works section of the Friends of the Rideau website.

Exotic Species Checklist

Did you know that exotic species such as the zebra mussel or eurasian watermilfoil could be hitching a ride on your boat, either coming into the Rideau or going from the Rideau back to your home body of water. For information on how to prevent the spread of these invaders visit the Exotic Species and the Boater web page.

Government Links

The following are a few links to some government boating related information:
bbCanadian Coast Guard Website
bbOffice of Boating Safety
bbCanada Shipping Act
bbHistoric Canals Regulations
bbNavigation Protection Act
bbPrivate Buoy Regulations

Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

©1996- Ken W. Watson