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History of the Rideau Canal
What sets the Rideau apart from other lakes and river systems is its rich history. The oldest continuously operated canal in North America, the locks work today much as they did when first opened in 1832. The canal, built in a wild frontier of lakes, rivers and swamps is an engineering marvel and a testament to human genius, sacrifice, and perseverance.

This page is a jumping off point for you to explore the fascinating history of this area from the formation of the rocks, to the Rideau's use today as a vacation paradise and a living showcase of Canadian heritage. Use the links below to start your exploration

General History

bbCommunity Histories
bbHistory of the Rideau Canal
bbHuman History of the Rideau
bbGeology of the Rideau

Detailed History

bbHistory of the Rideau Lockstations
bbThe Rideau Route (pre-canal waterway)
bbThe Irish Creek Route

Parks Canada & Other Reports
external independent website
not affiliated with Parks Canada

bbGeneral Documents
bbManuscript Report Series
bbMicrofiche Report Series

En français

bbConstruction du canal Rideau:
 Histoire Illustrée
(70Mb PDF)


bbA Rideau Bibliography

Articles and Stories

bbTales of the Rideau (many factual)
bbRideau Articles

Visible History

bbRideau Paddling Guide*

Audible History

bbTalking Up the Rideau


bbYour Rideau Ancestor


bbNational Historic Site of Canada
bbUNESCO World Heritage Site
bbCanadian Heritage River


bbRideau Memorials and Markers


bbUnited Empire Loyalists

* My paddling guide lists dozens
of Points of Interest along the
Rideau Canal - many relating
to Rideau heritage.

The Rideau was a sparsely populated frontier when construction of the Rideau Canal first started. In some places, water power of rapids had been tapped for saw mills, grist mills and carding mills. A few small communities were in existence, but most of the settlement was in the form of widely spaced farms, laboriously hacked out of the forest. A few rough roads connected some of these communities.

Construction Camp at Brewer's Lower Mill, 1829
This painting shows a typical Rideau Canal construction camp. The site has been cleared of trees to help prevent malaria. On the right, rough cut stones are ready to be finished by the masons. The meandering nature of the Cataraqui River is evident as is the width of forest cleared for the future navigation channel (the river will be flooded by the dam at Kingston Mills). The lock pit is being dug with picks and shovels, the waste material being removed using wheel barrows. "Brewer's Lower Mill; View down the Cataraqui Creek, & and Clearing made for the Canal. Excavation for the Lock just commenced, 1829" by Thomas Burrowes, 1829, Archives of Ontario, C 1-0-0-0-67.

Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

©1996-- Ken W. Watson