This engineering and scenic marvel fills with pleasure craft in summer and transforms into the world’s longest naturally frozen skating rink in winter.
The Rideau Canal is a water channel that runs 126 miles (202 kilometers) between Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario. Built between 1827 and 1832, the canal is North America’s oldest continuously operated canal system. Today the canal is the scenic and recreational centerpiece of Ottawa, filling with boats in summer and skaters during winter.
Ottawa’s parks, gardens, museums and scenic walkways line the canal. In the summer months, the canal is a thriving waterway. Go boating, take a cruise or walk, jog or rollerblade along the sidewalks. At Dows Lake at the southern end of the canal, rent a paddleboat, kayak or canoe.
Combine your canal visit with a trip to one of the many cultural attractions along the waterway. Start at the northern entrance with the Parliament Buildings, then visit the Bytown Museum and learn how the canal was built. Explore the National Arts Centre and enjoy the views it has of the canal. At Dows Lake, walk through the ornamental gardens in the Arboretum of the Central Experimental Farm. The wetland areas that were created as a result of its construction are now home to a diverse array of plants, animals and fish.
For about 50 days during winter, you can ski or snowshoe along the canal when it freezes into the world’s longest naturally frozen skating rink. Rent skates and sleds from one of the handy locations along the canal. You’ll find washrooms, heated changing rooms and local vendors selling BeaverTails fried dough and beverages along the way too.
Rideau Canal runs south through the center of Ottawa. Boat access is via the Ottawa River in the north. In winter, the skateway can be accessed via ramps at the Mackenzie King Bridge, Fifth Avenue (Queen Elizabeth Drive side), Bronson Avenue (Colonel By Drive) and Dows Lake Pavilion. Parking is available at a number of locations.