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Paddling the Rideau Canal
Newboro to Poonamalie
by: Don MacKay

Route: Newboro Lockstation to Poonamalie Lockstation
Time: 2 days
Best Map: NTS 31C/9 & 31C/16 and/or Chart 1513
Online: Regional Map - Paddler's Trip Planner (use BACK button to return)

Put-In: At the top end of Newboro Lockstation onto the Upper Rideau Lake (also known as the Little Rideau). It is recommended, due to the prevailing southerlies, to start here and not at Poonamalie.

Directions: Turn onto HWY 42 off of HWY 15 roughly half-way between Kingston, Ontario and Smiths Falls, Ontario at Crosby, Ontario. After entering Newboro, look for the signs indicating Newboro Lock. Turn left down a hill before you cross the bridge. As you go down the hill, take the first road to the right. This will bring you to the top end of the lock.

Take-Out: Poonamalie Lockstation.

Directions: Poonamalie Lockstation is located off of HWY 15 just south of Smiths Falls, Ontario on Poonamalie Lock Road. Go to the end of the road to a small parking lot. Please notify the lockmaster of your plans due to leaving your car.

Difficulty: Medium to hard. The lakes in this area can become very rough. Before leaving, get a weather forecast and talk to the lockmaster about possible conditions on the Upper Rideau and the Big Rideau. Watch for power boats exceeding speed limits. Depending on your overnight choice, the second days paddle can be longer or shorter. Take the next day’s weather forecast into consideration.


Day 1:
  • Travel north through the Newboro Cut and follow the south shore (right hand side) of the Upper Rideau Lake to your first stop: Narrows Lock. One may purchase a pass (a single lock pass is the cheapest) or portage. If portaging, there is a small gravel beach/boat ramp on the left. On the opposite side, a floater is provided for launching canoes and kayaks.
  • After the Narrows Lock, proceed along the north shore (on your left).
  • Overnight camping can be found at two locations: Murphy’s Point Provincial Park or Colonel By Island. Colonel By Island is located in the center of the Big Rideau Lake. Murphy’s Point is directly on route on the north shore. Overnight camping fees are charged. See Rideau Canal Fees Brochure for camping rates at Colonel By Island. Contact the Ontario Provincial Parks service for Murphy’s Point Provincial Park. There are designated boat-in camp sites.

Distance: The distance from Newboro Lock to Narrows Lock is 8.4 km. The distance from Narrows Lock to Colonel By Island is 5.6 km and from Narrows Lock to Murphy’s Point Provincial Park is 13 km.

Day 2:
  • If leaving from Colonel By Island, proceed north along the south shore (right hand side). If leaving from Murphy’s Point Provincial Park, follow the same shoreline as Day 1. Both routes converge at the Rocky Narrows (a narrowing of the lake). After passing through the Rocky Narrows, proceed along the south shore (right hand side). After passing under the Rideau Ferry Bridge, paddle down the center of the lake for the shortest route. Eventually, the lake turns into a winding channel through marsh. The channel is marked. If you have a topo, time can be saved by going through the short cut: Mud Cut. It is not marked and not safe for power boaters.

Distance: The distance from Murphy’s Point Provincial Park to Poonamalie Lock: 17.2 km. The distance from Colonel By Island to Poonamalie Lock: 24.6 km.

Natural Features: The two lakes are among the largest lakes in the area. As one paddles through the winding Newboro Cut, the vegetation around the edges hangs over. In early morning, deer can be seen along the waters edge. After passing through Narrows Lock, rocky shoreline and cold deep clear water await you. At Murphy’s Point Provincial Park, there are many hiking trails, two sand beaches, and beautiful camping sites.

After passing through Rideau Ferry (first named Oliver’s Ferry), the setting changes from rocky shoreline to marsh. The last 0.8 km. to Poonamalie Lock is a winding man made channel.

Historical Features: Newboro Lockstation is a unique station. It is one of three lockstations that were converted to hydraulic operation in the mid 1960’s. It has the only steel lock gates on the canal and commands one of four defensible block houses built during the construction of the canal. This lockstation was built as an after thought due to the difficulties of construction in this remote area. The Newboro Cut connects the Rideau Canals two watersheds: the Rideau and the Cataraqui. This 1 km canal caused contractors to go broke due to the difficulty in blasting away the granite and the high cost of keeping men employed at this malaria infested station. This is only one of two sites on the canal where the Royal Miners and Sappers were called in too complete the task. Such was the undertaking, that two additional locks, Newboro and the Narrows, were constructed to overcome the difficulties in digging this canal connecting the Upper Rideau with Newboro Lake (Mud Lake).

The Narrows Lockstation was constructed in the shallowest and narrowest part of the Big Rideau Lake. The causeway and the lock divide the original lake into two lakes. This lock has a 0.9 metre lift and one of four blockhouses that were constructed on the Rideau Canal. This very busy lockstation is noted for its wind.

Poonamalie Lockstation is a quiet lock located within 4.8 km of Smiths Falls, Ontario. Originally referred to as First Rapids, Poonamalie received its name from an officer who served in India. The cedars that edge the shoreline of this lock reminded him of a place in India.

This lockstation has a pleasant walking trail that leads to a hydraulic controlled dam and a defensible lockmasters house that is still used today by a lockmaster.

This canoe route produced by:
Don MacKay
Parks Canada Agency


Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

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