Click here to print this page
Click here to send this page via email

Cultural History

What sets the Rideau area apart from other lakes and river systems is its rich history. The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal in North America, the locks work today much as they did when first opened in 1832. Back then, the Rideau was a wilderness of lakes, rivers and swamps.  Out of this wilderness sprang up communities, most of which were settled in the 1800's by entrepreneurs purchasing mills, seeking better livelihoods.   We welcome you to please explore our history and that of the very beginnings of our great Nation.

Although it was constructed as an alternative to the St. Lawrence River in case of war, the new Rideau Canal was more easily navigable than the St. Lawrence River with its series of dangerous rapids between Montreal and Kingston. As a result, after its opening in 1832, it became a busy commercial artery from Montreal to the Great Lakes. But its glory days were short-lived. By 1849, the rapids of the St. Lawrence had been tamed by a series of locks and commercial shippers were quick to switch to this more direct route.

The Rideau Canal's heyday as a busy national highway ended. in the 1850s, but the region it passed through remained ill-served by roads and railways until after the First World War, and so the Rideau continued to be an important local transportation system. It was even enlarged during this period, when the Tay Canal was completed in 1887 to connect the town of Perth with the main Rideau system.

After the First World War commercial traffic disappeared almost entirely from the Rideau. It was no longer of any value for military, commercial or transportation purposes. All that saved the system from abandonment was the high cost of taking it apart. canal map







Map courtesy of Parks Canada