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The Rideau (pronounced "Reed-O") is many things to many people. It is a superb area for recreation, it's a wonderful part of our Canadian heritage and it is a celebration of nature.

To answer the initial question, What's a Rideau?, the word rideau is French for curtain, the appearance of the falls where the Rideau meets the Ottawa River, to Samuel de Champlain who travelled up the Ottawa River in 1613. The name Rivière du Rideau first appeared on maps in about 1700.

Rideau Heritage
Hand Winching a lock gate
Kids helping canal staff winch open a lock gate
The Rideau Canal Waterway is living history. The locks operate today much as they did when first opened in 1832. You can go to a lock, put your hand on a massive stone that was quarried with human labour, hauled by sledge to the locksite, hewn into a finished shape by stonemasons and lifted by hand cranes into the spot that you see it today. Massive wooden lock gates are opened using hand winches, just as the were when the canal was first built.

The canal, used as a commercial waterway through to the early 1900s, helped to shape local communities. The Rideau Corridor has never lost the quiet pastoral charm of its early history.

Rideau Natural Environment
Loon with Chicks
Loon with a pair of chicks on her back
The Rideau is home to a large diversity of wildlife. From ospreys, loons and herons, to turtles, salamanders and frogs, to otters, muskrats and deer, to bass, trout and pickerel, the Rideau provides a wonderful habitat to all. This is in part due to human intervention since the building of the canal in the early part of the 19th century created a slackwater system in which the water levels are strictly controlled.

The Rideau traverses a varied terrain, flat sedimentary plains in the north and south with the rocky exposures of the Canadian Shield in the center. It is this exposure of shield rock that created the beautiful Rideau Lakes. Of the 1,000 plus kilometres of shoreline along the Rideau, a significant portion remains undeveloped, a haven for local wildlife. Conservation areas, provincial parks, and fish and bird sanctuaries provide further protected habitat along the length of the Rideau Canal.

Rideau Recreation

Canoe on Opinicon Lake
Canoe and Fall colours on Opinicon Lake
The Rideau is probably best epitomized by the town of Perth's motto "make haste slowly". The Rideau is a place to kick back and relax. A leisurely boat trip along the waterway, a scenic tour by car along the Rideau Heritage Route, every turn along the way brings new opportunities to enjoy life. The Rideau Canal is one of Parks Canada's heritage canals and it is set up to welcome the visitor. In fact all the Rideau welcomes visitors with a wide variety of services; marinas, B&Bs, lodges, hotels, campgrounds, cottages, stores of every variety, restaurants, golf courses, and museums.

The Rideau is also a place of festivals - the Tulip Festival in Ottawa, Canalfest in Merrickville, the Delta Fair, the Perth Garlic Festival, Seeleys Bay's Frost Fest, the Lyndhurst Turkey Fair, Busker's Rendezvous in Kingston, Colone By Day in Ottawa, Rideau Valley Art Festival in Westport, Winterlude in Ottawa, maple syrup festivals up and down the corridor, there is a celebration for every turn of the season.
Friends of the Rideau
P.O. Box 1232, Stn. Main
Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, K7A 5C7

email: info@rideaufriends.com

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