Your location: Rideau Canal Home Page > Ecology > Boathouse Construction
Guidelines for Boathouse Construction
on the Rideau Canal

Unofficial Information Only: these public friendly guides are no longer being maintained by Parks Canada so you must check with Parks Canada for the current regulations. I've left them here since they still provide good basic information, but please be aware this is unofficial information.

The following is adapted from a brochure published by Parks Canada (last updated in 2010). This has been posted for information purposes only, please contact the Rideau Canal Office of Parks Canada for the latest guidelines and an application form.

Parks Canada official information and application forms are available on their website at:

Any marine work, including the construction, repair, modification or removal of a boathouse on, in or adjacent to the waters of the Rideau Canal (including Dog Lake, Adams Lake & the Tay Canal) requires written approval from Parks Canada – Rideau Canal Office. Copies of the application form may be obtained from

Rideau Canal Office
34 Beckwith St. S.
Smiths Falls, ON
K7A 2A8

or by calling the office at (613-283-5170 or 1-888-773-8888.

In particular, we require the following with your application:
  • the current fee* ($52.50 for private residential applications);
  • a photocopy of your deed & plan of survey;
  • a sketch of the shoreline along your property, showing the location of your proposed boathouse and all existing marine structures;
  • plan view & side view sketches and brief description of your proposed boathouse, indicating dimensions and materials;
  • directions on how to reach your property;
  • the assessment roll number (the number on your tax bill with all the “0’s”);
  • the lot and concession number, the township or municipality (& ward), the numbered civic address; and
  • Your signature on the application, or alternately, a letter signed by you authorizing someone else (e.g. your contractor) to act on your behalf;
Over time, many of the boathouses built along the Rideau have become a valued part of the canal’s heritage. In recent years, however, the increasing pace and impact of waterfront development on the Rideau’s remaining natural landscape, combined with improvements in boat building technology, have resulted in public concerns about the need for new boathouse construction. As a result, while we don’t encourage this type of building, we do allow new boathouse construction in some canal areas provided it strictly adheres to Parks Canada-Rideau Canal guidelines. Many of these guidelines are summarized here to help you decide first, if a boathouse is likely to be permitted on your waterfront, and if so, what factors should be considered in the boathouse design.

New boathouses should be located:
  • a minimum of 15 feet (4.5 m) in from either side lot line (to help avoid disputes with a current or future neighbour);
  • outside of wetland marshes, especially those designated as provincially significant, or any river wetland between Mooney’s Bay and Beckett’s Landing;
  • away from any known or potential fish spawning area or shoal;
  • outside of special preservation or narrow channel areas or restrictive development zones as determined by the Rideau Canal, local township or other agencies;
  • outside the field of view of a lock station.
In an attempt to conserve as much of the remaining natural shoreline as possible along the Rideau, no more than a combined total of 25% or 50 feet (15 m), whichever is less, of a property’s waterfront may be developed with marine works or structures such as docks, boat houses, ramps, etc. as a result of an application for new work.

We prefer a boathouse in its simplest form – a structure in which a single boat and associated equipment can be stored and protected from the weather, wave & ice damage. The following features are most readily approved:
  • wood or vinyl siding; and a double-pitched roof with a pitch no less than 3:12 (rise: run), made of cedar shakes, coloured steel or asphalt shingles. Note: from an environmental perspective, asphalt shingles are not recommended;
  • outside dimensions of the boathouse (which includes any cribs, doors, attached walkway, dock or decking) that do not exceed 32ft (10m) in length by 26ft (8m) in width. No one external section of attached walkway, dock or decking is to exceed 8ft in width. The combined footprint of any of these structures associated with the boathouse must not exceed 496 sq. ft (46 sq. m);
  • colours that blend in with/complement surrounding landscape;
  • one story in height, as long as the roof peak is not more than 14ft (4.2m) above the upper controlled navigation water level.
Types of Foundations & Other Considerations:
  • A crib-and-span foundation will be approved only if fish habitat concerns can be met. Cribs must be open-faced and filled with clean, imported rock. Cribs should occupy less than 50% of the boathouse’s foundation/support footprint, to a maximum of 160 sq. ft. (15 sq. m.). There should be an open span of at least 10 feet (3 m) between the shore and the first crib, to allow for natural water circulation;
  • A boathouse (and any associated marine railway) built in part on land and in water (e.g. over an inland mooring slip) will also require our approval. If your proposed boathouse is to be located partially or entirely on land, a building permit will also be required from your township office;
  • Boathouses designed on a solid in-water foundation (e.g. concrete) will not be approved;
  • Boathouse designs that incorporate a flat roof or living space (e.g. a spare bedroom or outside deck) will not be approved.
  • You may run electricity (but not plumbing & other services) to your boathouse. We encourage you to keep outside illumination subdued & directed downwards.
The presence of a boathouse must not interfere with or pose a hazard to navigation and other recreational activities in the surrounding area. The offshore end of your proposed boathouse must thus be at least 100ft (46m) from the navigation channel. To protect fish spawning activity, no in-water work will be permitted between March 15 and June 30 in any year.

Representatives of the Rideau Canal Office-Parks Canada and the Rideau Valley & Cataraqui Region Conservation Authorities, together constitute the Rideau Waterfront Development Review Team. This team reviews all shoreline work applications. Most boathouse applications are also subject to review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Some also require approval from other agencies such as the Canadian Coast Guard, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and/or your local municipality. The Rideau Canal Office will co-ordinate any such requirements. In most straight forward cases, decisions on properly completed applications are made by our staff within six weeks.

Keep in mind
  • To meet the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, projects with potentially greater environmental impact will need a longer period of time for approval.
  • If you proceed with your work without written approval, you are subject to a fine or prosecution under the Historic Canals Regulations &/or the Federal Fisheries Act.
Keep in mind that there are situations or considerations that may have been missed or not covered in this fact sheet. If you have a question or need something clarified, give us a call at 613-283-5170 ( toll free: 1-888-773-8888 ).

Good luck with your project!

* fee is current as of 2015 and is subject to change. Contact the Rideau Canal Office.

Parks Canada official information and application forms are available on their website at:

Back to the Ecology Page     Top of Page

Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

©1996- Ken W. Watson