The Rideau Canal: a heritage site running through the capital

by Valerie de Winter

Every day, hundreds of people enjoy running along Ontario’s only UNESCO world heritage site: the Rideau Canal.

And every May, over 40,000 people come to run alongside it during one of the races at the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

But the Rideau Canal is more than a designated national historic site.

It’s also a calm water oasis running through a busy metropolitan centre, a gateway to numerous lakes and rivers between Ottawa and Kingston, and an unexpected place to run, stay and play.

During the summertime, there are several paths on which to run and hike, with one of the largest being the Rideau Trail.

Totalling 387 kilometres between Ottawa and Kingston, the Rideau Trail travels through the Frontenac Arch UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and alongside the canal and its tributaries.

In Ottawa, the trail starts at the bottom of Ottawa Locks and heads west along the Ottawa River Pathway. Traveling south, it snakes through Stony Swamp as well as the Marlborough Forest, and then on down the Rideau River past lockstations like Burritts Rapids, Nicholsons, Merrickville, Old Slys and Smiths Falls.

As for the Rideau Canal, the historic waterway spans 202 kilometres in total, and offers opportunities to camp and moor overnight, as well as the chance to rent oTENTiks, structures that are a bit like a cross between a cabin and a tent that can sleep up to 6 people comfortably.  

And did you know that as part of the 150th anniversary of Confederation celebrations in 2017, visitors can enjoy free admission to all Parks Canada national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas? This also includes free lockage for those travelling on Parks Canada canals.   

With the Ottawa locks positioned next to the finish line of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, why not moor overnight and make the Rideau Canal your jumping off point to participating in Canada’s largest running weekend?

Navigation season for the Rideau Canal runs from May 19 to October 9. Enjoy free lockage all season.