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Driving Tours of the Rideau Canal

HERITAGE TOUR - Northern Rideau

Ottawa to Manotick - Take County Road 73 (or the route of your choice) south to Rideau Valley Drive and follow this to the village of Manotick. Our first stop will be Watson's Mill in the Dickinson Square Conservation Area. It is located on Mill Street in Manotick, watch for the conservation area signs. Built in 1860, it is one of the best preserved mills in Ontario. Mills were synonymous with the early Rideau. In most places where fast moving water was present, a mill was erected. The common uses for mills were grist mills for grinding wheat into flour (ground grain is known as grist) and saw mills, for turning trees into lumber. Watson's Mill has a story of love and tragedy associated with it - be sure to ask about it.

Manotick via Cty Rd. 19, or via Cty Rd. 73 to 416, to Cty. Rd. 43, to Merrickville - Leaving Manotick, you can take the leisurely scenic route south on Cty. Rd. 19 to Cty. Rd. 43, or for those in a rush, get back on Cty. Rd. 73, and take it south to Hwy. 416 and head south to the Cty. Rd. 43 exit, turning west to Kemptville and Merrickville. Follow Cty. Rd. 43 to Merrickville. In Merrickville look for the historic Blockhouse just to the west of the main intersection in town. Park anywhere near the Blockhouse. Merrickville was founded in the early 1800s by William Merrick, a millwright from Massachusetts, who set up a mill on the Rideau River at the site of the falls. The mill is long gone, but the community of Merrickville continues to thrive.

Your first stop will be The Depot, located on the waterfront just a bit west of the Blockhouse. Run by Friends of the Rideau, it offers a great deal of information about the Rideau. Then take a tour of the Merrickville Blockhouse which is operated by the Merrickville and District Historical Society. After your tour of the Blockhouse, head over the bridge and visit the old industrial mill complex, lots of stonework and machinery dating from the 19th century. Take some time on the way back to look at the locks, still operated by hand exactly the same way they were when the canal was first opened in 1832. You will likely have the opportunity to see some boats locking through. If you haven't packed a lunch, ask at The Depot or the Blockhouse for recommendations on where to eat. If you've packed a picnic lunch, then make use of one of the picnic tables in Blockhouse Park and watch the boats being locked through the upper lock. After lunch take a few minutes to look around the town, at the magnificent stonework on many of the buildings.

Merrickville via Cty. Rd. 2 to Burritts Rapids - Cross over the bridge in Merrickville and take Cty. Rd. 2 to Burritts Rapids. In 1793, three Loyalist Burritt brothers, led by Stephen Burritt, established themselves in Marlborough Township and founded the settlement of Burritts Rapids. Turn right off Cty. Rd. 2 to go into the village of Burritts Rapids. The village itself is on a small island. Stop and have a look at the bridge on the south end of town. The present steel truss swing bridge dates to 1897 (rehabilitated since then). The bridge is opened by turning a crank in the pivot at one end of the bridge. Counter weights and a set of roller wheels mounted on a circular track underneath allow the bridge to be swung with little effort.

Burritts Rapids to Burritts Rapids Lockstation - Our last stop of the day is the lockstation at Burritts Rapids. Crossing over the bridge, turn east on Cty. Rd. 23, to River Road and follow this to the lockstation (about 1 km down the road). This is a quiet lockstation, take the opportunity to ask the Lockmaster any questions you have about the operation of the locks. The canal staff are always friendly and more than happy to answer any of your questions. If you have the time and wish to stretch your legs, walk part or all of the "Tip to Tip Trail", which starts on the island just across the lock, and extends 2 km to the west end of the island.

Burritts Rapids Lockstation to Ottawa - Continue east along River Road to Cty. Rd. 44. If you're in a hurry, turn south on Cty. Rd. 44 to Cty Rd. 43 and then over to Hwy. 416. If you have time, turn north on Cty. Rd. 44, crossing over the Rideau to Cty. Rd. 2. Follow Cty. Rd. 2 as it turns north (now Cty. Rd. 5), into North Gower and then into Ottawa.

Heritage Tour North

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