Built in 1826 for military defense purposes, the Rideau Canal is a historical and cultural artifact of a past world and past wars. The interesting part is that the canal was built in relation to prevent an invasion of Canada by the United States. Back in the War of 1812 when the US was at war with Britain there were reports that the US had planned an invasion of British Canada. The Canal was built to provide a way of moving communications and supplies between the Ottawa River and Lake Ontario.
The Canal was never actually used for Defense. History probably would have been very different between the US and Canada if so I’m sure. But it was used for commercial purposes and allowed easier access than the St. Lawrence river. These days it is used a lot for recreational boating and other types of recreation, particularly for ice skating during the cold winter months when the canal is frozen over.
The Canal extends over 200 km however given my place in Ottawa, I was only able to see a small portion of it, but did get a nice view of the canal and several of the locks.
The time I was here to visit was during the winter months when the canal was completely frozen over. It was amazing to see the canal in this way, with ice skaters and people wandering about along the ice. It is also said to be the worlds longest Skating ring! The portion that was open here for skating in Ottawa is said to be over 7km long. I’ve even heard of folks ice skating along the canal to commute to work.
I would love to get back here one day in the summer time to see the Canal in its different form possible with boats actually using the locks. The locks these days are pretty well out of order given how frozen everything is. There was a boat of sorts in the lock, I’m not sure what that is for, but probably a museum.
I did take the time to brave the bitter cold out here in the sub zero weather in Ottawa to explore parts of the canal and get some lovely photos to show.
From its early developments as a military supply and defensive object to its later uses for commercial and recreation, the Rideau canal had a great impact on the development of Canada over its many years. Even though it originally exceeded its initial costs (all military projects seem to do that!), it did provide immense value in Canada allowing faster and easier movement of supplies inland which helped spur along the development of the interior of Canada.
If you get a chance to visit Ottawa, definitely spend some time around the Canal and in particular if you get there during the cold winter months be sure to take a chance to go and ice skate or at least wander along the canal and see how this vital transportation source still provides value and entertainment to the folks of Ottawa and surround areas.
One of these days soon I hope to get back in the summer months to add some photos from the canal in that state as well.
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