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Rideau Canal is a massive waterway built in the 19th century. It covers a length of 202 km of Rideau River and Cataraqui River, from Ottawa south to Kingston Harbour on Lake Ontario, Canada. The canal was built by the British to strengthen its military position, at a time when Great Britain and the United States were vying for control of the region. Rideau Canal was one fo the first canals that was designed specially for the use of steam-powered vessels. It is the best-preserved example of a slackwater canal in North America, showing how European technology of that period was used in a large scale in America.

Rideau Canal is the only canal from the great North American canal-building era that is still in operation along its original route, with most of its original structures intact. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site during the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee which met in The site inscribed covers an area of 21,454 hectares, surrounded by a buffer zone of 2,363.2 hectares. In addition to the canal itself, the property also includes dams, bridges, fortifications, lock stations and other related resources.

Photos of Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal
Rideau Canal
Author: DY of Richmond BC, and Regina SK (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

Rideau Canal approaching Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada
Rideau Canal approaching Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada
Author: Hussein Abdallah (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Generic)

More on Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal was built shortly after the War of 1812, when the British felt that Upper Canada was still vulnerable from attacks by the United States. To deter the Americans from carrying out offensives against Canadian territory, the British built a few canals, including Grenville, Chute-à-Blondeau and Carillon, and a few forts such as Citadel Hill, La Citadelle and Fort Henry. The Rideau Canal was also built with the same purpose in mind. It provided a safe passage for military supplies between Montreal and Kingston, Ontario.

From Montreal, waterborne traffic goes up the Ottawa River until Bytown, then southwest through Rideau Canal to Kingston and onwards to Lake Ontario. This allows ships to bypass the St Lawrence River which faces New York State, a path exposed to American blockade.

The construction of Rideau Canal claimed many lives, most of them through malaria and accidents. In total, as many as a thousand workers died constructing the canal. Several memorials were erected to them.

World Heritage Site Inscription Details

Location: N 44 59 39.79 W 75 45 54.45 in the Province of Ontario
Inscription Year: 2007
Type of Site: Cultural
Inscription Criteria: I, IV

Location Map


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Getting there

You can reach the canal either from Kingston to the south, or from Ottawa to the north, as well as from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Finding Accommodation

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Local Tours of Canada

It is often cheaper and more practical to join a local tour of, if you are looking for a specific travel experience. Here are some local tours of Canada that you may want to include to your itinerary. These tours are arranged by Viator, one of the most reputable tour agencies in the market.

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