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Paddling the Rideau Canal
Rideau Day Paddling Guide 9

Paddling Newboro to Narrows
Camping at a Lockstation            
Map 9 Location
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Northern Part of Big Rideau Lake

This is the northern part of Big Rideau Lake, with Tar Island and Murphy Point Provincial Park at the south end and Rideau Ferry at the north end. There is quite a bit of unsheltered open water, so paddlers, particularly canoeists, should ensure that they do a weather check to make sure the winds are light prior to heading out.

No specific route descriptions have been given for paddling the lake - you should explore it on your own. It's a big lake (hence the name) and has opportunities for several day paddles. The detailed map in this guide (which can be enlarged while viewing the PDF to any level of detail you desire) will allow for travel planning.

You can view or download the PDF file:

Rideau Day Paddling Guide 9:
Tar Island to Rideau Ferry (Big Rideau Lake - north)
(1.4 Mb PDF)
(Clicking this link will open the PDF. You can also just right mouse click the above link and use "Save Target As" to send the PDF directly to your computer.)

Big Rideau Lake (north)

Water Access

Big Rideau Lake (north): The are two points of access to this section of Big Rideau Lake; Murphys Point Provincial Park at the south end and Rideau Ferry Conservation Area at the north end.

Murphys Point Provincial Park offers a ramp (44° 46.815'N - 76° 13.030'W) and lots of parking. Since it's also a campground, it makes a very good "base of operation" for paddling both north and south from the ramp. The Rideau Ferry Conservation Area boat launch ramp (44° 51.400'N - 76° 08.130'W) offers easy access with lots of parking to the north end of this section of the Rideau There is also a small gravel municipal ramp in Rideau Ferry (44° 50.900'N - 76° 08.570'W), but there is no parking in the immediate vicinity. There are also two marinas in Rideau Ferry.


Lodging: If you're paddling and camping, the lockstations are a good choice for camp spots (a camping fee applies). There are also a few campgrounds, many B&Bs and hotels (in Westport, Newboro and Smiths Falls). For information about local accommodations see:, and (this website).

Supplies: Local sources for supplies are the villages of Elgin (off Hwy. 15 opposite Davis Lock Road - grocery, pharmacy and hardware), Westport (grocery), Portland (grocery) and Smiths Falls (full services).

Big Boats

You'll be sharing the Rideau with big power boats (cruisers). The Rideau is generally not a crowded waterway and often you'll find the large boats in "packs" - travelling from lock to lock - once they pass by you won't see any for awhile. Some of these boats can generate a large wave. The general rule for a paddler and large waves is to meet them head on, this can actually be fun in a kayak (not as much fun in a canoe).

The main navigation channel is shown on the map as a blue dashed line - this is where the big boats will be travelling. So, if you wish to avoid these, pick a route away from the navigation channel. Many paddlers prefer paddling near shore, it's more interesting (i.e. wildlife, cottages) and it keeps you farther away from the waves produced by big boats.

There are several "no wake" zones on the Rideau - these have been marked on the maps. Boaters within these areas are supposed to be travelling at a slow enough speed (less than 10 kph) that their boat doesn't generate any potentially damaging or dangerous waves.


A question often asked is which way does the wind blow? The prevailing wind, powered by the jet stream, is from the southwest. That's about the only rule of thumb. If a front is moving in then the wind can come from any direction. I've been on several paddles where I've been paddling into the wind on the way out in the morning and into the wind on the way back in the afternoon because the wind swung around 180 degrees (for some reason it never seems to work the other way around - at your back both ways). So, if you're going to travel the entire Rideau, going from Kingston to Ottawa improves the odds of having the wind at your back - but be prepared for anything.


Your trip planning should include a "leave no trace" approach - carry out what you carry in. Many areas are un-serviced (no garbage cans) - so plan to be self-contained. The lockstations provide waste disposal facilities.

Preparation & Safety

Please read the trip planning information on While these lakes are easy paddling, normal paddling preparations should be made (all required safety gear, maps, food, water, first-aid kit, etc.). Zebra mussels are present in many areas along the Rideau, so a pair of water shoes (to avoid cut feet) is recommended.

Please take all normal safety precautions, including checking the weather forecast before you head out and making sure that someone on shore knows your planned travel route and itinerary.


While the Rideau is generally easy to navigate, taking along a set of maps is a must (in addition to any GPS you might have). Although the map in this guide is an accurate 1:50,000 representation of the waterway (when printed to 8.5" x 11"), you may also wish to also have the 1:20,000 hydrographic chart for this section (Chart 1513). For power boat navigation, the charts are an absolute must (the map in this guide should not be used for power boat navigation). The charts are also very handy for the paddler, since they show the Rideau in great detail, including depths (which can be helpful when looking for wildlife habitat or just interesting places to paddle).

The charts also show all the navigation buoys. These are all numbered (red buoys have even numbers, green buoys have odd numbers) and so can be used as an aid in locating yourself on the map when you're on open water. A subset of those buoy numbers have been included on the paddling guide maps.

For those wishing to go off the beaten path or want to know more of the topography and geographic features of the surrounding countryside, the 1:50,000 NTS map for this section is 31C/16.


Circumference distances are approximate, following the main shorelines & bays. The navigation channel is shown on the map.
  • Tar Island to Rideau Ferry along the navigation channel = 12.5 km (7.8 mi)
  • Murphys Point Provincial Park (ramp) to Rideau Ferry along the navigation channel = 10 km (6.2 mi)
  • Big Rideau Lake north Circumference (Rocky Narrows to Rideau Ferry - not including Adams Lake): = 40 km (25 mi)
  • Adams Lake Circumference: = 8.3 km (5.2 mi)
The Lakes

Big Rideau Lake
In the pre-canal area this was a single lake that stretched from Westport to Stonehouse Island (Stonehouse Point at the time). The dam at Poonamalie raised the water in the lake by about 6 feet (1.8 m). The lock and dam and Narrows created the western end of the lake into a separate lake (Upper Rideau Lake). The lake has a maximum depth of 330 feet(100 m) with an average depth in the area covered by this guide of about 50 feet (150 m).

This part of Big Rideau Lakes marks the northern edge of the Frontenac Axis, the exposure of very old (Pre-Cambrian) rocks of the Canadian Shield. North of Adams Lake, the geology changes to younger Paleozoic rocks - generally flat lying limestone and sandstone.

The land bordering the lake is mostly privately owned (the exceptions being Murphys Point Provincial Park (provincial - 1243 ha), the Mill Pond Conservation Area (provincial) and the Rideau Ferry Conservation area (provincial). Most of the lake has moderate density cottage and summer home development.

The Locks

Most Rideau lockstations offer facilities such as washrooms, water, recycling cans, waste cans and picnic tables. Most also allow camping for paddlers travelling the Rideau for a modest camping fee. Paddlers can portage the locks for free, but you owe it to yourself to lock through at least one lock in order to get the full experience of paddling the Rideau Canal. See for the current fee schedule.

Points of Interest (listed south to north)

Murphys Point Provincial Park: This is a large provincial park with many interesting features. For the paddler, there are several boat-in campsites (including a couple of canoe/kayak only camping spots). It also features a number of interesting hiking trails (interpretive brochures are available in the park), the historic Silver Queen Mine (a phosphate and mica mine that operated from 1903 to 1920), old homesteads and an historic sawmill site (dating back to the 1820s). You can do a loop trip through the park from Hoggs Bay to Loon Lake to Nobles Bay and back to Hoggs Bay (12 km with 2 portages). The park is located on a beautiful spot on Big Rideau Lake and well worth a visit. For more information see:

Hoggs Bay: This is a small, paddling-only lake (power boats are not allowed). At the end of the lake you'll find the historic sawmill site. A wooden sawmill was built here in about 1820 and was replaced by a stone structure in about 1852. It was severely damaged in the Great Fire of 1870 (which decimated large areas of Carleton and Lanark counties). You'll often find loons paddling around the bay.

Frontenac Axis/Lake Iroquois/Champlain Sea: Geologically, as you paddle from Rocky Narrows to Rideau Ferry, you'll be passing through the irregular northern exposure of the Frontenac Axis, the northern part of glacial Lake Iroquois, and the southern limit of the Champlain Sea. Information about these events can be found in the Geology Section.

In the area near Rocky Narrows (very generally in the area of Otty Lake and west of Nobles Bay) there was quite a bit of small scale mining done in the late 1800s and early 1900s, primarily for phosphate (apatite) and mica, plus a bit for graphite. See the maps in the Geology of the Rideau Canal section.

Conglomerate: A bit of an oddball rock exposure, geologically speaking, can be found on the east shore in the southern part of Rocky Narrows (44° 47.050'N 76° 12.090'W). of the lake, opposite of Nobles Bay. A conglomerate is a type of sedimentary rock containing poorly or unsorted rocks (often of different rock types). In this case it contains pieces and boulders (up to 0.6 m / 2 feet in size) of marble, granite, pegmatite and some quartz in a matrix of limestone. The oddball part is that it post-dates the older Precambrian rocks (it sits unconformably on top of these) but appears to pre-date the younger sedimentary rocks, perhaps representing the erosional remnant of an early member of the younger Paleozoic rocks.

William McLaren Cottage: As you come into Rideau Ferry, you'll notice a group of red roofed buildings with a distinctive roof shape on the southeastern shore. William McLaren acquired this property in 1898. It contained the pine log house built by the Donaldson family (a neighbour of the Oliver family - see below) in 1817. This log house can still be seen, it's the closest building to the water. In 1901 the veranda, second storey and chimney were added.

Rideau Ferry: There are two marinas, a restaurant and extensive public dockage in this location. In its heyday, this was a busy spot with a couple of hotels servicing the Rideau traveller. This location was originally known as Oliver’s Ferry after John Oliver, who set up a ferry business here in 1816 (the same year that Perth was founded). John met an untimely death in about 1821 (suicide) and the ferry business was taken over by his son William (who also met an untimely death – shot by a neighbour in a dispute over trespassing cows in 1842). Over time, stories have grown that the Olivers didn’t ferry all their customers, that skeletal remains of some of these unfortunate travellers were found in Oliver’s buildings. That story is recounted in Tales of the Rideau. The Oliver's ferry business was taken over by Archibald Campbell in about 1832 when he built a wharf and warehouse on the north shore at Rideau Ferry to service both Rideau Canal traffic and his ferry service. He died in 1834 and his wife Elizabeth continued the ferry service.

Rideau Ferry Bridge: This location was used as a crossing to Perth starting in the fall of 1816, when a road was built from present day Toledo and a ferry service was set up by John Oliver. A ferry service continued in this spot until 1874, when a fixed bridge with an incorporated swing bridge was built (similar in style to the Brass Point Bridge). The fully wooden bridge was replaced with fixed steel spans in 1896 (the swing bridge remained wood). The entire bridge was replaced with the present concrete high level (8.0 m / 26 ft) bridge in 1968.

Route Suggestions

No specific route suggestions have been provided. If you're launching from the ramp in Murphy's Bay Provincial Park, do a paddle first in Hoggs Bay - motorboats are not allowed in the bay so it can be very peaceful


As you paddle the Rideau Canal, the route you follow is defined by its geology. Geological highlights have been included in the Points of Interest listings and a general geological history of the route can be found on the Geology of the Rideau Page.

Wildlife Viewing

A section about wildlife viewing, what you might expect to see on your Rideau journey, has been included in text form in the PDF. A version of this information, that includes photos of some typical Rideau wildlife, can be found on the Fauna of the Rideau Page (in the ecology section of this website).


If you find any errors or omissions in this guide, please let me know ( and I'll get them fixed.

Terms of use
This guide may be freely used for personal purposes. Have fun on your Rideau paddling adventure.

Commercial use is not allowed in whole or in part without express written permission.

©2010- Ken W. Watson, All Rights Reserved.

You can view or download the PDF file:

Rideau Day Paddling Guide 9:
Tar Island to Rideau Ferry (Big Rideau Lake - north)
(1.4 Mb PDF)
(Clicking this link will open the PDF. You can also just right mouse click the above link and use "Save Target As" to send the PDF directly to your computer.)


Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

©1996- Ken W. Watson