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Driving Tours of the Rideau Canal

ECOLOGY TOUR - Southern Rideau

The Rideau is a host to several different ecosystems. The central portion of the Rideau is underlain by rocks of the Canadian Shield, known as the Frontenac Axis. This shield terrain is characterised by rocky ridges and a series of lakes (the Rideau Lakes). To the south and north of the Frontenac Axis are flat lying sedimentary rocks (limestone, sandstone, and shale). This gentle terrain makes for ideal farming country, and the Rideau Waterway in this area is made up of rivers; the Rideau River in the north and the Cataraqui River in the south. Newboro represents the top of the watershed, with water to the south of Newboro, being part of the Cataraqui Watershed, flowing into Lake Ontario and the water to the north of Newboro being part of the Rideau Watershed, flowing into the Ottawa River.

heronA new ecosystem was formed with the building of the Rideau Canal in 1826-1832. Some sections of the Cataraqui River were turned into lakes, old marshes were drowned, new marshes were created, and several low lying forested areas were flooded. In the central lakes area, the flooding of forested land created a haven for Largemouth Bass, leading to one of the most spectacular bass fisheries in North America by the late 1800s. On the Rideau today, you can spot many species of birds, including Ospreys and Blue Herons, several species of frogs and turtles (always a favourite with the kids), darting dragonflies, muskrats and beavers, and even the occasional otter. The central lakes host healthy populations of Loons and dozens of species of fish abound in both the lakes and rivers.

In the central Rideau, you will find a blend of hardwood forests, featuring oak, beech, birch, elm, ash and maple trees and coniferous forests, with white pine and spruce. In many areas the white pine tower above the rest of the trees, their wind swept branches a symbol of Canada's natural landscape.

There are many ways to enjoy the ecological diversity of the Rideau. In addition to driving trips, take the opportunity to bring along your boat, or rent one at places like Chaffey's Lock or Portland, and spend a day or two on the water, puttering through the back bays, enjoying the diversities of the natural Rideau habitats.

Those contemplating several visits to the various conservation areas will be interested in obtaining an annual pass, which will allow you unlimited visits during the season to the conservation areas within a single district (Rideau or Cataraqui).


This tour features two conservation areas. Keeners may wish to do both in one day. Those looking for a more leisurely outing may wish to do one or the other on any given day. Both these conservation areas are open in the winter with trails available for skiing or snowshoeing.

Kingston to Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area via Cty. Rd. 10 - Head north out of Kingston on Division Street, up Cty. Rd. 10. About 2 kilometres north of the junction with the 401, you'll see a sign for the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area on your left (west). There is a small day use fee. Once in the conservation area there are lots of things to do. Visit the outdoor centre. Take a hike along one of the nature trails. Go bird watching or view the wildflowers. Stay until noon and enjoy a picnic lunch. In the spring take part in Maple Madness at the conservation area (lots of maple syrup).

Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area to Foley Mountain Conservation Area, via Cty. Rd. 10 - After lunch head north along Cty. Rd. 10 to Westport. On Cty. Rd. 10 north of Westport, look for the signs pointing to the Foley Mountain Conservation Area. In summer your first choice will be whether to have a swim on Upper Rideau Lake at the Foley Mountain Beach, or go right to the top, and visit the lookout at Spy Rock, overlooking scenic Westport and Upper Rideau Lake. There are 10 km of trails for hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. The Rideau Trail, which extends from Kingston to Ottawa, passes through this conservation area.

Westport to Kingston - If you've stayed to enjoy the sunset from Spy Rock, and enjoyed a picnic dinner or dined in Westport, you may wish to head straight home down either Cty. Rd. 10, or take Cty. Rd. 42 to Crosby and then Hwy. 15 south to Kingston. If you have time for more nature viewing, take Cty. Rd. 42 to Hwy. 15, then Hwy. 15 south to the Chaffey's Lock turnoff. Take Hwy. 9 to Chaffey's Lock. Stop at the lock and have a look at the charm of the Rideau as it passes through this narrow stretch between Clear Lake and Opinicon Lake. Continue along the Chaffey's Lock Road, following the winding road through various types of countryside. Enjoy the landscape and the views. You will end up on Cty. Rd. 10, take it south back to Kingston.

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