Your location: Rideau Canal > Save Our Rideau > Operating Season

Save Our Rideau
Operating Season

This is an archived page (no longer updated)
see the Archives Page

June 23, 2014 Update: Parks Canada announced an additional hour per day during the summer for the Rideau and Trent-Severn (and an hour less for Fridays in the fall). The most significant change was not for the Rideau, but for the Trent-Severn with the restoration of on-demand service at all lockstations. For the Rideau, more hours at the busy lockstations are still badly needed.

December 1, 2012 Update: Parks Canada announced the 2013 operating season and hours. See the Parks Canada Press Release. (PDF)

October 18, 2012 Update: Minister Kent announced that there will be no reduction in the length of the 2013 season although hours of operation will be reduced. However, the severe budget cut to the Rideau Canal remains and so that and the many other issues outlined on this website also remain. See the Parks Canada Media Release. Also see my editorial on this topic: Saving the Season is not all Good News.

Note: The following was written in July 2012 when Parks Canada proposed to reduce the operating season down to the peak boating season, ignoring the economic impact this would have on the local economy and on the heritage presentation of the Rideau Canal:

The value of the Rideau Canal to the local economy is as an operating canal attracting tens of thousands of land based visitors. The heritage value of the Rideau is not as a static display, but as a heritage site operating the same way as when it was opened in 1832. There are no other sites in Canada (or North America) that can claim this. So, from both an economic viewpoint and a heritage viewpoint, cutting the season is going to have an adverse affect.

Parks Canada has apparently taken the myopic view that it is just a numbers game with the boaters - shorten the season down to the peak boating season. They seem to have entirely missed the point that it's not about the boaters (although this will of course affect them), it's about the heritage presentation of the Rideau as an operating canal and it's about the economic effect the Rideau Canal has on the struggling economy (mostly tourism based) of this part of Eastern Ontario. See The Heritage Value of an Operating Canal on the Parks Canada page for more details

Parks Canada has decided to take a sledgehammer approach to the problem, simply cutting the season in order to reduce staffing costs. There are other options (such as flexible hours at lockstations) - but it is unknown if Parks Canada has considered these.

I could go on, but there is another group representing local tourism and business operators who will be directly impacted by these cuts and they have started a campaign to maintain the operating season. For details on this see:

For those interested in a comparison of 2012 season/hours to those of 2013, I've posted both below. I've done some of the math and 2013 has an 18% drop in the operating hours (1160 hours in 2013 vs 1422 hours in 2012):

2012 Hours of Operation

May 18 - June 14Monday - Thursday8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
 Friday-Sunday, holidays8:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.
June 15 - September 3Every Day8:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.
September 4 - 10Every Day8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
September 11 - October 10Tuesday - Thursday9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
 Friday to Monday8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

2013 Hours of Operation

May 17 - June 20 Monday - Thursday10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  Friday to Sunday, holidays  9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
June 21 to Sept. 2 Monday to Thursday  9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  Friday to Sunday, holidays  9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
September 3 - October 14Monday - Thursday10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
 Friday to Sunday & Thanksgiving  9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

  • 2013 Hours for Beveridges Locks from May long-weekend to Thanksgiving are: 10 am to 4 pm Monday to Thursday, and 9 am to 5 pm Friday to Sunday. To book passage through Beveridges Lock during the shoulder seasons (May 17 to June 20 and Sept 3 to Oct 14), boaters will need to pre-book by calling 613-692-2581 at least forty-eight hours in advance

Due to lobbying by the Trent-Severn Working Group, hours were extended in late June 2014 (June 27, 2014 to be exact.) So 2014 saw a mix of the old hours with the new extended hours. The 2015 hours shown below are a full season with the new hours.

2015 Hours of Operation

May 15 - June 18 Monday - Thursday10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  Friday to Sunday, holidays  9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
June 19 - Sept. 7 Monday to Thursday  9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
  Friday to Sunday, holidays  9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
September 8 - October 12Monday - Friday10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
 Saturday to Sunday & Thanksgiving  9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

As can be seen, this is still short of the pre-cut hours (shown as the 2012 hours above). Those offered 11 hours of lockage, every day, during the peak season. We currently (2016) have 9 hours during weekdays and 10 hours on Friday to Sunday and holidays.

The real question with the numbers is how it will affect boating flow which in turn will affect boating numbers. Those numbers have been in steady decline since 2009 - see the chart below for the numbers since 1980. Part of the reason for the decline is lack of marketing of the Rideau Canal by Parks Canada to boaters. This is a bit puzzling since from a business perspective the Rideau is a fixed cost operation, there is little additional cost to service more boaters (lock staffing remains constant whether 1 boat is passed through a lock or 100). So it is advantageous from a revenue point of view to have more boaters pass through the Rideau Canal. Shorter hours, particularly in the peak summer months, is going to affect boat traffic - if the boaters decide they can't get from Point A to Point B in a reasonable amount of time, they will go boating somewhere else.

We've already seen one casualty of the reduced hours, the loss of Rideau Boat Tours (moving to the 1000 Islands) since the new hours preclude the tours that boat did (which involved getting through a couple of locks). The 2013 boat traffic numbers will be interesting to see

2015 update - as the chart below shows, boating numbers for 2013 and 2014 were both down - but numbers for 2015 were up (up 13% from 2014 but still below 2012 numbers). Was that due to the new extended hours implemented part-way through 2014 (2015 was the first full season with the new hours)? There are of course other factors such as weather and marketing of the canal to boaters. But the additional hours presumably was of some help in encouraging boaters back to the Rideau.

The chart above shows yearly vessel passages from 1980 to 2015. The big jump in 1982 was due to publicity surrounding the Rideau 150 celebrations. That same level of publicity wasn't achieved for Rideau 175 which saw a much more modest increase in boaters. The large declines appear to be mostly due to closures of part or all of the canal. In 1983, the Ottawa locks were closed for repairs. In 1991 and 2004 the union went on strike, closing the canal. Fee increases have a negative impact, but these tend to be much smaller than the effect of canal closures.

The steady decline from 2009 to 2014 reflects the change in Parks Canada's administration of the canal away from boaters (much less marketing to boaters for one).

Top of Page


Email Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

© 2012- Ken W. Watson