Rideau Reflections
Newsletter of the Friends of the RideauSummer 2008


I remember the first time I was asked why I love the Rideau. I hesitated with an answer – not because I couldn’t think of a reason, but because I was thinking of many reasons. Which one to choose? I enjoy all aspects of the Rideau including its rich history, the beauty of its varied ecological settings and the many wonderful recreation opportunities it affords. So, I usually end up saying that I enjoy the variety that the Rideau provides – it’s not a monocultural landscape, every turn on the Rideau presents something new to see and do.

When I first moved here, my mind held two images of the Rideau, one was of a canal populated by large cruisers, the other was of the skateway in Ottawa. Arriving here I learned that the Rideau is much more, and that the word canal is misleading since the Rideau is actually a series of natural settings, rivers and lakes, connected by locks. It’s located in a corridor that is a fascinating blend of natural, rural, and urban landscapes. Because of this, it provides a wide variety of experiences, both on land and on water.

Running a large website about the Rideau Canal (www.rideau-info.com) for the last twelve years has brought me in touch with many people, all of whom love the Rideau, for many different reasons. This, together with my own experiences, has greatly expanded my view of the Rideau. I initially developed the website on a boating theme; cruising, recreational boating and fishing. Then someone asked about driving, then about cycling, then about hiking, then about guided tours, and on it went. In addition, as I delved into the history of the Rideau, I became intrigued by the fact that you can go out today and touch that history. This isn’t possible in many areas in Canada, where the early history of our country has been significantly altered or paved over. History on the Rideau can be a direct experience.

Now, when opportunity permits, I drive, boat, paddle, cycle and hike various areas of the Rideau. There is never a lack of new things to experience on the Rideau. By new, I mean new to me, not necessarily new to the Rideau. For instance, in 2002, I spent many pleasant days in my boat taking photographs of cottages and boathouses. I’d passed by interesting cottages and boathouses before, but never really focussed on them. When I did, it was fascinating to explore the different types of architecture and the various styles people incorporated into their cottages and boathouses. This is one of the hidden secrets of the Rideau, the ability to enjoy a new experience even if you visit here many times, cottage here, or in my case, live here. Think about your own interests and answer the question that was posed to me, why do you love the Rideau? Do you encompass all aspects of the Rideau in your answer? Perhaps this year is the time to go for a new experience. Take a voyageur canoe tour, hike to the top of Rock Dunder (lovely at sunrise), learn how to kayak, take a “let’s get lost” drive down our charming rural roads – experience something new.

- Ken Watson

Nancy Lake - Thanks

Nancy Lake, our Office Manager, has retired. Nancy has been the friendly, warm voice answering the phone, “Friends of the Rideau” ever since – gee, forever.

Nancy’s home away from home was in the Lockmaster’s House at 1 Jasper Avenue, Smiths Falls. It’s become a pretty comfortable place over the years with new “heritage” carpeting, heating, lighting, air conditioning and phone service. Nancy reigned in there – summer and winter – organized and neat. Well, Nancy has left the building.

Nancy is one of those rare creatures – she likes to be busy, she likes dealing with people, and she likes coaxing people to buy things – maybe more than they intended. I firmly believe that she could sell snow to the Inuit –there was a lot less snow in the Falls this winter than in Ottawa. Hey! I just realized where she was selling it!

In the early days, Nancy and I worked together to build up the Inventory Sales and Purchases system from scratch. We worked through the Income Statement and the Balance Sheet categories, trying to make sure that we knew where the dollars were coming from and where they were going. The system finally started to run pretty well. Dave Edwards came in and gave it a professional polish. In 2007, Rideau 175 activities marked a whole new level of “busy-ness” for Nancy. She had an assistant, Lorrie, to bring up to speed. There was a flood of Rideau 175 merchandise to order, track, sell, and ship, plus all the regular activities at the Depot.

We (the Board members) were also going to community events up and down the Canal – Smiths Falls – Long Island (twice) – Newboro – Westport – Rideau Ferry – Jones Falls. Nancy and Lorrie devised a system of plastic bins to hold the merchandise and a system of sales slips, etc., that even Board members could follow to keep track of what was being sold.

Nancy and Lorrie went to every event – in fact, they went by themselves to some in the Falls on their own initiative. We’d arrive at a site, I’d unload the gazebo that we used as a booth, along with the tables and chairs, and we’d start setting up. We were getting good at it toward the end – Nancy was VERY patient with me. Then Nancy would start laying out all the items, sell all day and pack it all up each night.

Nancy is probably the most even-tempered and cheerful person I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I know that there must have been times when she wanted to scream and kick someone (maybe me or Ken?) but she never did.

One of a kind – one of a kind. God bless.

- Ed Bebee

Carolyn Fossey - Welcome

We welcome our new Office Manager, Carolyn Fossey. Carolyn will be running our operations at 1 Jasper Avenue. She has big shoes to fill, but we know that she is more than up to the task. Welcome aboard Carolyn!
Membership Renewal

A reminder that this is membership renewal time (our membership year runs from June 1 to May 31). If your membership is up for renewal, you’ll find a handy renewal form with this newsletter. Please take a moment now to fill it out and return it to us (don’t let it get buried under that pile of papers on your coffee table).

We thank you very much for your support.

Annual Spring Meeting

Our annual spring meeting will be held on May 10 this year. We’re trying a couple of new things this year. One is to hold the meeting in Merrickville, at the Royal Canadian Legion - you’ll find a map on the back page showing the exact location.

The other is to forgo the normal featured talk and instead substitute a short talk followed by a walking tour of the Merrickville Locks. We are very pleased to have Gord Giffin, the new Superintendent of the Rideau Canal, as our speaker and tour leader.

Gord will draw on his own first hand experience as a Rideau canalman and lockmaster to show us all the interesting details of these historic locks.

So, please come out and join us (wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a hat). It promises to be a fascinating morning of Rideau discovery.

Treasurer Wanted

Good with numbers? Interested in helping out Friends of the Rideau? Our current Treasurer, Dave Edwards, is regretfully stepping down, his work obligations simply don’t allow the time to continue as our Treasurer.

So, we’re looking to fill this position. If you have any interest, or know of someone who might, please contact Ed Bebee at: edbebee@sympatico.ca

The Sweeney Diary Book Project

We’re still on track for a summer release of a book based on the diary of Peter Sweeney, the first lockmaster at Jones Falls. Most of the writing has been done, the project is now moving into the proofing and layout stage. There is still lots (and lots) of work to be done before we’ll see it in bookstores, but good progress is being made.

The book will contain a transcription of the entire twelve-year span of the diary (1839-1850), as well as historian Sue Warren's feature article on the life and times of Peter Sweeney and her full listing of who's who in the diary. Maps and illustrations will round out the book.

The book will be a good read for anyone wishing to enjoy a fascinating first hand glimpse into the daily activities of a Rideau lockmaster and of the social life in this sparsely populated section of Upper Canada.

The book will be part of the Rideau’s living history, since you can visit the actual locksmaster’s house where Sweeney penned much of his diary. In her Life and Times piece, Sue Warren writes about her experience as a summer interpreter at Sweeney House: “In the evenings, as the long August shadows extended across the floors of the lockmaster’s house, one could almost sense the Sweeney family – the whisper of an Irish accent, the scratching of a quill on paper, the angry slither of a dress across the threshold. You could conjure up an unhappy Catherine Sweeney hunched in her rocking chair shivering with ague.”

We’ll post an announcement on our website and in local papers as soon as the book is available.

Wash/Wake Survey

The Rideau Canal Office of Parks Canada is soliciting your input about the issue of wash/wake caused by boaters. They are asking two questions, “Have you had a negative experience on, or along, the Rideau Canal as a result of wash/wake caused by boaters?” and “Have you personally witnessed damage to the natural environment, as a result of wash/wake caused by boaters?” Whether your answer is yes or no to the above, please let them know. If your answer is “yes”, provide a detailed response (i.e. where, when, what, and by whom). If your answer is “no”, your response is equally important. Parks Canada is also interested in any suggestions you may have regarding this issue.

Please send your input either by mail to: Parks Canada, Rideau Canal Office, 34 Beckwith Street South, Smiths Falls, ON K7A 2A8, or by fax to 613-283-0677, or by email to rideau.comments@pc.gc.ca

The results will be analysed by Hillary Knack, Head of Resource Conservation, and Mary Ann Stienberg, Head of Visitor Services. Their plan is to:
  • collect and analyze relevant data;
  • assemble a working group;
  • work with stakeholders and regulatory agencies;
  • produce a report of boating practices with observations on the impact and relationship boaters have with the rest of the community; and
  • coordinate remedial action where appropriate and regulatory action where necessary.
For more information about the issues surrounding Wake/Wash, please visit the Friends of the Rideau website: www.rideaufriends.com. You can view Park’s Watch Your Wake brochure (on our brochures and guides page) and also look into issues surrounding excessive wash on our “Stop Wash” page.

World Canals Conference

The 2008 World Canals Conference will be held on September 14-17, 2008 in Kingston. It is being hosted this year by Parks Canada and has the theme “Managing Canal Corridors in the 21st Century.”

To learn more about this conference or to register, contact Parks Canada (1-877-336-7047) or go on-line to: www.canals2008.com

Rideau Heritage Network

Taking care of the Rideau Waterway system from the Ottawa Locks to the Kingston fortifications is an awesome responsibility, not just for various levels of government but for all of us who live close to the Rideau - and those who visit the area each year. The World Heritage Site designation will bring more pressure from tourism and development along the waterway and while we need to allow for growth we also need to protect the cultural and natural heritage that exists along its length.

Among many organizations formed to help protect various aspects of the area’s heritage is the Rideau Heritage Network. Founded nearly four years ago after concern was expressed about the protection of the Rideau’s diverse and distinctive cultural heritage, the RHN has hosted two workshops each year and has also taken part in various celebrations including the International Ploughing Match held in Crosby in September 2007. The RHN attracts representatives from about twenty-five municipalities and organizations to its workshops and is run by a volunteer committee of heritage professionals and volunteers.

Possibly one of the most important projects that the RHN has undertaken is to promote the Ontario Heritage Act. While centres like Kingston and Ottawa have designated Heritage Planners on staff and have active Municipal Heritage Committees to advise Councils on the designation of historical and architecturally important properties, many of the smaller municipalities along the Rideau do not have such resources.

Some municipalities have appointed Municipal Heritage Committees, others have not been able to. The Chair of the Rideau Heritage Network, Manuel Stevens, along with Susan Millar, the Network’s heritage intern, have visited nearly all the municipalities along the Waterway over the past year, to explain the intricacies of the Ontario Heritage Act and to offer assistance.

Another project undertaken by the RHN has been a Cultural Landscape Study. Still in its early stages, the area from Kingston to Seeleys Bay has been examined so far. The end result will be to produce guidelines for private owners, municipalities, developers and concerned individuals to assess proposed developments and to advise how to proceed in order to protect the cultural, physical and heritage values of the Rideau.

The Rideau Heritage Network has also been studying lock stations and the areas immediately adjacent to the lock stations to assess heritage resources and land uses.

In 2006 the Network participated in the Rideau Heritage Initiative, together with Carleton University. A team of graduate students from Carleton examined the Rideau Corridor to help build awareness of heritage conservation and to recommend properties for inclusion in the Canadian Register of Historic Places. In the winter months of 2007/2008 the Network again collaborated with Carleton University and assisted students in the Heritage Conservation program.

The Friends of the Rideau and the Rideau Heritage Network work closely together. Several members of Friends’ Board of Directors serve on the Steering Committee of the Network and this is a good thing. We need to keep communications open between all organizations that have the well-being of the Rideau at heart. We need to work together to protect and preserve the waterway and we need to hold it in trust for our children and all future generations.
- Rowena Cooper

The Sluiced Superintendent

Note: this is a condensed version of the story that appears on the www.rideau-info.com website (Tales of the Rideau section). I thought it appropriate for this edition of the newsletter since Superintendent Gord Giffin will be taking us for a tour of the locks at Merrickville as part of our Annual Spring Meeting on May 10 (see back page). We’ll see if Gord will be willing to give us a live demonstration of how to Sluice a Superintendent – kww
It was a hot day in July 1899 as Long Island Lockmaster George Clark waited for Superintendent Phillips to arrive for his inspection tour of the lockstation. He heard a steam whistle blow – the Superintendent was arriving! Clark could see the steam tug, Shanly, with Captain Nevins at the helm, heading towards the lower lock. He did a quick check of his uniform and then did a last visual check of the lockstation. Superintendent Phillips didn’t tolerate slovenliness, either with his men, or in the appearance of the lockstations. Clark was glad to see that his men were all in proper position, ready to lock the Shanly through. He hastened to greet the Superintendent who was now stepping onto the wharf.

As they walked up alongside the flight of locks, Clark brought up the topic of maintenance funding, or rather the lack of maintenance funding, that was hampering repairs at the lockstation. As they were debating this point, Clark pointed to the wooden grating covering the manhole leading into the tunnel sluice. “Look sir, these are falling apart, it’s not safe for the public.” “Nonsense man” replied Phillips, “wood is as strong as iron in the right application.” To make his point, the Superintendent stood on top of the wooden grating and jumped up and down. The partially rotted wood gave way with a loud crack and Clark watched in horror as the Superintendent disappeared from sight down the manhole.

Clark and his men rushed to the side of lock just in time to see the Superintendent flushed into the lock by the force of water going through the sluice. Clark threw a rope to the sputtering Superintendent as one of the younger lads rushed down the ladder to help him out of the lock. Phillips was shaken, but uninjured.

By the 1900 operating season, all the wooden manhole covers on the Rideau Canal had been replaced with iron grating.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is a true (somewhat embellished) story. The official records simply state that Superintendent Phillips was standing on the wooden grating when it gave way, dropping him into the tunnel sluice, the rushing water in the sluice shooting him out into the lock chamber. Phillips himself wrote in his journal "Long Island - Dropped through lower manhole of upper lock & came out in lower lock at 5 PM. Most miraculous escape" [Bebee, 2008]. On his August 1899 inspection tour he made a point of noting the condition of the manhole covers at various lockstations (many in poor condition), and subsequently ordered all the wooden gratings to be replaced with iron gratings.

The interesting question regarding this incident is how is it possible for a man to fall ten or so feet into the sluice and survive, apparently with no serious injury? It has to do with the design of a Rideau lock and the stage of locking that was taking place at the time the Superintendent broke through the grating.

One of the design features of a Rideau lock is the tunnel sluice (or sluice culvert), a method of getting water from the upper navigation level into the lock without creating a huge amount of turbulence in the lock. This is done by means of a tunnel through the breastwork of the lock. The breastwork is the upper foundation on which the upper lock gates sit. It’s a big lump of masonry (stonework), the upper surface of which is at the level of the bottom of the upper navigation channel, the bottom of which is at the level of the lower navigation channel (floor of the lock). To get water from the upper navigation level into the lock, two tunnels, one on each side of the lock, were constructed through the sides of the breastwork. These are curved and sloped, about 3 feet wide by 4 feet high. There is a rectangular entrance to the sluice on the upper level, covered by a gate valve. It is the opening of this valve that lets water into the sluice and into the lock. The bottom of the sluice is simply a rectangular opening into the lock.

The original valves for the sluices were actually constructed inside the tunnel sluice. A square manhole was built, extending from the tunnel sluice to the top of the lock. This manhole provided access to the valves, allowed the lifting rods for the sluice valves to pass through to the rack and pinion valve opening/closing mechanism, and vented the sluice (to prevent an air lock). Only at Kingston Mills and Jones Falls were wall-face valves originally used, and in these locations a much smaller air vent was substituted for the larger manhole. The in-sluice valves caused many problems, and in 1839, all the locks were converted to wall-face valves, but the large manholes (which were built in solid stone) remained.

The reason that Phillips survived relatively unscathed is due both to the design of the manholes and sluices as an open hole with no projections or obstructions, and the fact that it was in use at the time, at the start of the lockage cycle, so there was a cushioning rush of water inside the sluice. If he had fallen through when the sluice wasn’t open, he would have landed hard on bare rock, and bones would likely have been broken. Or if he had fallen through when the lower lock was at full lift, he would have fallen into standing water and possibly drowned before he could have been rescued.

The next time you visit a Rideau lock, stand on the iron grating covering the manhole. Listen to the sound of rushing water when the lock staff open up the sluice valves and think about poor Superintendent Phillips getting flushed into the lock.
- Ken Watson

Friends of the Rideau is a volunteer, non-profit organization, working in co-operation with Parks Canada to enhance and conserve the heritage and charm of the Rideau Corridor. For more information contact: Friends of the Rideau, 1 Jasper Avenue, Smith Falls, Ontario K7A 4B5 – Tel: 613-283-5810 Fax: 613-283-2884 – Email: info@rideaufriends.com – Website: www.rideaufriends.com.
Comments about the newsletter can be directed to the editor, Ken Watson, c/o Friends of the Rideau or by email at: kwatson@kos.net

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©2009 Rideau Waterway Co-ordinating Association (Friends of the Rideau)