|We are still in Renfrew, Ontario and will leave tomorrow for Montreal. We spent two days touring Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada. The first day we boarded a double-decker tour bus and we toured the major sites of Ottawa, including the government buildings, tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Ottawa Canal, numerous embassies from several countries including the US Embassy, the Famers Market, Air Museum, and other sites. The following day we drove into Ottawa and since it was Sunday parking was free downtown and we took our own walking tour of the major government buildings, Ottawa Canal and the Farmers Market. The Ottawa canal is an interesting feature and display of engineering. At the bottom of this message will be a copy of a document copied from the internet that gives an excellent discussion of the canal and its history from conception to modern day uses. We did not take any tours of the interiors of any of the government buildings but we did take some photos, some of which are included in this journal update. At the time we were at the canal we were able to observe the operation of the canal gates which continue to be operated by the manual system originally installed in the canal system. The Farmers Market is where the regional farmers and some artisans bring their wares for sale. We bought some fresh tomatoes, green and yellow beans, and some of the best fresh corn we have eaten this year. We extended our stay in Renfrew three additional days for a couple of reasons. One was the fact that the campground would allow us to wash the rig which had about 4,000 miles of grime and the other was the fact we discovered Renfrew is a much larger town than we expected and it has some features we wanted to explore. Renfrew has one of the two remaining swinging bridges in Canada with the other being in Vancouver. Renfrew was first settled in 1820 and it changed from a village to a town in 1875. Renfrew was also the birthplace of the NHL. The NHA, National Hockey Association, was established in 1909 with three teams in the association. In 1917 the NHA became the NHL. The town also has its own dairy called Tracy’s Dairy and they make their own ice cream, a treat we had to try. The ice cream was very good but Ross still thinks that Scotsburn Ice Cream is a bit better. For those of you who have never heard of Scotsburn, it is a small town in Nova Scotia where Ross spent many summer vacations at his uncle’s farm in nearby Black River, Nova Scotia. Today is our 48th wedding anniversary and we plan on having a lunch in one of the local restaurants. We have already tried two of the local restaurants and the food was excellent and we intend to try a third this afternoon. We just returned to the campground from our lunch and final tour of Renfrew a thunderstorm had obviously passed over the campground while we were absent. The rain and thunder has started again as this is being written. There goes the wash job. On top of that the lunch today was not as good as the lunch we had yesterday. That is all for now. Ross & Marge
History of the Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. It first opened for navigation in 1832. The canal was built as protection against American aggression, following the War of 1812. Canada needed to protect its St. Lawrence River route and believed the Rideau Canal system would ably create safe passage and stave off persistent threats of attack by the United States on the British colony of Upper Canada. The Canal’s construction was championed by the Duke of Wellington and supervised by Lieutenant-Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers. To begin work, in 1826 he set up headquarters near the mouth of the Rideau River in a settlement then known as Bytown and later renamed Ottawa. The majority of the construction work that began in 1827, was carried out by thousands of Irish and French-Canadian labourers. During construction, thousands of the workers died from malaria, other diseases and construction accidents. The Rideau Canal was officially opened in the summer of 1832. It is 202 km in length, and, at the time, passed through an unsettled wilderness. The creation of its 47 locks posed a great engineering challenge but foresight and vision on the part of Colonel By, resulted in a design that involved a complex series of dams and associated locks that would let boats travel without impediment from Bytown to Kingston. An amazing feat for its time!
Because the Rideau Canal was easier to navigate than the St. Lawrence River due to its dangerous rapids, the Rideau Canal became a busy commercial artery from Montreal to the Great Lakes. However, in 1849, the creation of locks tamed the St. Lawrence and commercial shippers favoured the St. Lawrence’s more direct route, using it much more often than the Rideau Canal. Although not as busy as the St. Lawrence, the Rideau Canal still remained an important local transportation system, even expanding when the Tay Canal was completed in 1887, connecting the town of Perth with the main Rideau system. After World War 1, however, commercial traffic disappeared almost entirely from the Rideau Canal and it no longer served any military, commercial or transportation purposes. The Canadian Pacific Railway announced plans to close part of the Canal and replace it with railway tracks. Swift action by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce (then known as the Board of Trade) saved it from its ultimate demise, believing strongly in the Canal’s historic value and tourism potential.
Today, the Rideau Canal is one of Ottawa’s most historic and famous attractions. The 202 kilometres of the Rideau Canal include sections of the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers as well as lakes, including the Lower, Upper and Big Rideau lakes. About 19 km of the route is man-made. These days, the Rideau Canal is a haven for pleasure boats, used mainly for recreation. Boat tours are offered in Ottawa, Merrickville and at Chaffeys Lock. Most of the locks are still hand-operated. In winter, a section of the Rideau Canal passing through Ottawa’s downtown becomes the world’s largest skating rink. The cleared length is 7.8 km and has the equivalent surface area of 90 Olympic hockey rinks! It is a very popular tourist attraction and is the main focus of Ottawa’s Winterlude festival.
Very Special Recognition
The Rideau Canal has been recognized in a number of prestigious ways – nationally and internationally. In 1925, the Rideau Canal was designated a national Historic Site of Canada (plaqued in 1926 and again in 1962). In 2000, the Rideau Waterway was designated a Canadian Heritage River in recognition of its outstanding historical and recreational values. In 2007, the Rideau Canal was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing it as the best preserved example of a slack water canal in North America, demonstrating the use of European slackwater technology in North America on a large scale. It is the only canal dating from the great North American canal-building era of the early 19th century that remains operational along its original line with most of its original structures in tact. In 2008, the National Geographic Society’s Sustainable Destinations rated the Rideau Canal second best on the 2008 “Places Rated” Destination Stewardship survey. The survey measures the world’s top historic sites for authenticity, stewardship and tourism footprint. A very exciting award!
Along the Route
With historic and world recognized value, the Rideau Canal area has become an important and high profile tourism draw, attracting visitors from throughout the world. To tie our history together, the Rideau Heritage Route was developed as a tourism region in Eastern Ontario that celebrates the beauty and historical importance of the Rideau River and Rideau Canal. As the link between the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Rideau system has an important place in Ontario's history. It curves slowly through many beautiful Ontario towns and villages, and offers scenic travels for boater and driver alike. The ‘Route’ includes such historic stopovers and sites as Kingston’s Fort Henry, the Rideau Canal Museum in Smiths Falls, the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve – a large 150,000 hectare parcel of preserved wilderness between Brockville, Kingston and Westport, the 1000 Islands, the Perth Museum, Lanark County’s many maple treats and festivals, Merrickville’s stop along the Rideau Canal, the Byward Market and Kingston Market Square along with many other lock stations and quaint, historic villages.