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Paddling the Rideau Canal
Edmunds Lock to Kars
by: Don MacKay

Route: Edmunds Lockstation to Kars Public Wharf
Time: 2 days
Best Map: NTS 31B/13 & 31G/4 or Chart 1512
Online: Regional Map - Paddler's Trip Planner (use BACK button to return)

Put-In: At the bottom end of Edmunds Lockstation. It is recommended, due to the prevailing southerlies, to start here and not at Kars. This station has a good boat launch.

Directions: From Smiths Falls, take Jasper Ave. Road (Cty #17road) off of HWY 15. The lock is located on the left side of the road as you head south on #17.

Take-Out: Kars Public Wharf

Directions: The Kars Public Wharf is located in the village of Kars, Ontario. Kars is located on Rideau Valley Dr. South just off of the 416 and County Road #6.

Difficulty: Medium. There are only two lakes on this route. One should be aware of large power boats, particularly during the peak season (July and early August). The difficulty level of the trip can be increased by changing the take-out location. For example, the distance from Burritt’s Rapids to Long Island is 40.1 km. It is recommended that one purchase a day pass for Day 1 due to the number and close proximity of the locks.


Day 1:
  • Paddle from Edmunds Lock to Kilmarnock Lock following the channel or the shoreline. This lake is reed shored with no significant features. It is 6 km to the next lock.
  • At Kilmarnock Lock, one can purchase a lock pass. (See fees brochure for rates. It can be used at the others locks that will be encountered through-out the day). If portaging, portage on the right side. The distance to the next lock is 12.5 km.
  • The next stop is Merrickville. There are three locks here with a down hill portage. To portage, take out on the left side at the log raft. Cross the bridge and walk along the right hand side to the bottom lock. One should walk the route prior to portaging. This is a great place for a lunch at the picnic table or a restaurant.
  • After Merrickville, follow the channel 3.3 km to Clowes Lockstation. This is a short portage on the left side.
  • The next two lockstations are within visual distance of each other. Upper Nicholsons Lock is 0.8 km away from Clowes and Lower Nicholsons is 0.3 km away from Upper Nicholsons.
  • If you have a canoe, one can make an easier portage at these two sites by using the back channel. The back channel eliminates having to portage Lower Nicholsons. The put-in places you in the back channel. For kayakers, unless you mind getting your feet wet, this put-in can be problematic due the thick reeds. There is only a narrow strip cut in the reeds from the shore to the river.
  • The last lock for the day is Burritt’s Rapids. It is located 5.4 km from Lower Nicholsons. There is ample camping here with a restaurant located on the opposite side of the road. Ask the lockmaster for the best place to set up a tent.

Day 2:
  • During the second day, no locks are encountered at all. The river channel winds through the countryside. One can stretch at various different points along the way. The first prospect is Rideau River Provincial Park located 13.1 km away. Two other opportunities present themselves at Baxter Conservation Area (19.4 km) and the W.A Conservation Area (24.1 km).

Natural Features: After the first two shallow lakes from Edmunds Lock to Merrickville, the route is now truly on the Rideau River. The Rideau River is classified as a National Heritage River. The shoreline is dotted with occasional houses, reeds and overhanging mixed vegetation. The surrounding area from Merrickville to Burritt’s Rapids is used heavily for horses. Rideau River Provincial Park, created in 1959, has sandy beaches, a fitness trail set in silver maples and pines. Baxter Conservation area has a wide variety of vegetation ranging conifer plantations and alder thickets to extensive nut groves and a solar energy display. Also, don’t miss the rare Blue Beech tree. W.A Conservation area is known for its fishing and relaxing atmosphere.

Historical Features: Unlike the locks located in the southern section of the canal (Kingston Mills Locks to Narrows Locks), the locks located in this area have overflow dams that allow extra water to flow down stream unimpeded by lock structures. When Lt. Colonel John By, the engineer in charge of building the Rideau Canal from 1826 to 1832, built the waterway as a way of connecting various rivers, lakes and beaver meadows that would allow men, troops, and vessels to travel from Montreal to Kingston without depending on the St. Lawrence River, he choose to put overflows dams in this area to decrease the amount of land that would be flooded during freshet.

Kilmarnock Lock is the smallest lift on the Rideau at 0.6 metres. This lock has a defensible lockmasters house and a swing bridge.

Merrickville Locks, located in the village of historic Merrickville, was constructed after settlement had started by William Merrick, a Jesop Ranger who came to Canada after the United States gained independence. The three locks here propel boats down 8.6 metres to the river below. Merrickville has the largest block house that was built during the construction of the canal. Today, it operated as museum by the Friends of the Rideau.

The next lock, Clowes, brings the paddler down another 2.3 metres. Upper and Lower Nicholsons lockstation are amongst the prettiest the canal has to offer, complete with a wooden King Truss Swing Bridge at Upper Nicholsons. These two locks drop a total of 4.4 metres.

The last lock, Burritt’s Rapids, is well known for its tip-to-tip trail that runs between the manmade canal leading to the entrance of the lock and the original river channel. Also, there is the story of the Lady in Blue who wandered the trail for many months for some unknown reason. One day she disappeared on the trail. Some say she still walks the trail as a ghost.

This canoe route produced by:
Don MacKay
Parks Canada Agency


Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

©1996-2013 Ken W. Watson