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Lockstation camping, also known as "Boater Camping," is a great alternative for those who don't mind "roughing it" a little bit (if one can call camping on verdant lawns, roughing it). Camping is available at 22 of the 26 lockstations, plus Colonel By Island (see the Lockstation Services Chart for details). The following is a brief FAQ regarding lockstation camping:
Who can camp at a lockstation and how much does it cost?
Anyone arriving by water, or by bicycle, or people hiking recognized hiking trails. Those arriving by water have access to one camping site with the purchase of a mooring permit. Those arriving by bicycle, on foot, or can haul their boat out of the water (i.e. canoes & kayaks), may purchase a camping permit. For current fees see the fees and schedules page.
Can I camp if I arrive by vehicle?
Normally no unless renting an oTENTik (see oTENTik section). The only exception are those arriving at a lockstation by vehicle if they are launching a boat (power, sail, canoe, kayak, etc.) with the intention of travelling beyond one or more lockstations. Permission from the Lockmaster is required.
Do I need a reservation / Can I make a reservation?
No. All camping is on a first come, first serve basis except for oTENTiks. Crowding is rarely an issue. You'll be pitching your tent on one of the lawns at the lockstation so there is always room.
What are oTENTiks?
Parks Canada introduced oTENTiks to the Rideau Canal in 2015. These are a canvas topped A-frame cabin with a capacity for up to 6 people. They can be rented by anyone, including those arriving by vehicle. Prior reservation (through the Parks Canada website or phone) is highly recommended. They can be rented on a "by chance" basis if you arrive during operational hours and an oTENTik is available. As of 2021, oTENTiks are available at Upper Brewers (2), Upper Beveridges (4) and Upper Nicholsons (2).
How long can I camp at a lockstation?
The normal camping period is a maximum of 48 hours (a maximum of two, 24 hour permits). Anyone wishing to stay longer than this must get permission from the local Lockmaster.
What camping services are provided at the lockstation?
All lockstations offer toilets, picnic tables and water (check with the lockstaff at each lockstation regarding potability). Many also offer BBQ grills and a few lockstations sell ice. Showers are available only at lockstations with oTENTiks (available to anyone with paid access to the Rideau Canal - lock pass, mooring pass or camping pass). Camping usually involves pitching a tent on the lawn of the lockstation. Large shade trees are present at many lockstations. Only a few of the lockstations have a public telephone. Have a look at the Lockstation Services Chart for details.
What camping services are not available at a lockstation?
The lockstations do not offer showers (except for oTENTik sites), power (other than in the washrooms) or telephone connections. For greater camping amenities choose one of the local private campgrounds.
Where can I pitch my tent?
Upon arrival at a lockstation, ask one of the lockstation staff where you can pitch your tent. This will normally be any flat spot on the lawn that doesn't interfere with lock operations (i.e. not adjacent to the lock, gate opening mechanisms, service buildings or roads). If you arrive after the lockstaff have left, then pitch your tent anywhere on the lawn, out of the way of the lock.
Is there a maximum allowable number of campers?
Camping is only limited by the space available at a lockstation. However, if you are in a group of 20 or more, the canal staff would appreciate advance notice of your arrival.
Can I have an open fire while camping at a lockstation?
Only in the designated BBQ grill. You may burn charcoal or wood. If you plan to burn wood, you must bring your own since Parks Canada does not sell campfire wood or allow it to be cut or scavenged on site. If you bring your own wood they ask that it not be ash because of the risk of importing the emerald ash borer insect.
Can I use a camp stove?
Yes – using the appropriate fuel and following the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.
Can I drink alcohol at a lockstation?
No – the land (including wharfs) of a lockstation are considered to
invite or allow public access and therefore no alcohol can be consumed on
Rideau Canal property.
Can I consume cannabis at a lockstation?
Yes – Parks Canada's policy is that cannabis can be consumed in public use areas and also at a visitor's campsite (for those camping at a lockstation) and at oTENTiks. However, if smoking or vaping, please have courtesy and consideration of others. It is always best to check with the lock staff regarding permitted areas.
Where do I put my garbage?
All lockstations provide garbage cans (green barrels) and most also provide recycling options for aluminum and glass (blue barrels).
Are there quiet hours?
Yes - excessive noise is not permitted between the hours of 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m [Historic Canal Regulations]. Please be courteous of your neighbours.
Can I charge my electronic device?
There is no official power for campers, however there are power outlets in the washrooms where you can plug in a charger (unsecure so you'll have to monitor your device while on charge).
Are there any wildlife issues?
No. The most common wildlife in the vicinity of most lockstations are muskrats, raccoons, porcupines and the occasional skunk. Deer are common in the area but not often seen. Black bears, while present in some of the more remote areas, are extremely uncommon. Normal wildlife precautions, such as keeping food in well sealed containers, cleaning your meal dishes, and properly disposing of garbage should be taken.
Can I bring my pet?
Yes – however, the pet should be:
a) restrained by a harness or a leash that is no longer than 3 m or
b) confined in a container or enclosure
and every person who is in charge of a pet shall ensure that any excrement or
other solid waste that originates from the pet is disposed of in a
receptacle. [Historic Canal Regulations]
Your dog should have up to date rabies shots and be on heartworm medication during the summer months.
Are there safety issues?
Yes, there are a number of things you should be aware of when camping at a lockstation. Please see the Lockstation Safety Page.
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©1996- Ken W. Watson