The Rideau Canal, also known as the Rideau Waterway, connects the city of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on the Ottawa River to the city of Kingston, Ontario, on Lake Ontario. It is 202 kilometres in length.
The name Rideau, French for "curtain," is derived from the curtain-like appearance of the Rideau River's twin waterfalls where they join the Ottawa River. The canal system uses sections of major rivers, including the Rideau and the Cataraqui, as well as some lakes. The Rideau Waterway is governed by Parks Canada under the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.
The canal was opened in 1832 as a precaution in case of war with the United States. It remains in use today primarily for pleasure boating, with most of its original structures intact, operated by Parks Canada. The locks on the system open for navigation in mid-May and close in mid-October. It is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America, and in 2007 it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The 202 kilometres (126 mi) of the Rideau Canal incorporate sections of the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers, as well as several lakes, including the Lower, Upper and Big Rideau lakes. About 19 km (12 mi) of the route is man-made. Communities along the waterway include Ottawa, Manotick, Kars, Burritts Rapids, Merrickville, Smiths Falls, Rideau Ferry, Portland, Westport, Newboro, Seeleys Bay and Kingston. Communities connected by navigable waterways to the Rideau Canal include Kemptville and Perth.
The Rideau Canal uses a lock system that is still fully functioning. The gates that let boats travel in and out of the locks last approximately 12-15 years. When the canal was originally constructed, the gates would be made at the lock sites by carpenters and blacksmiths. Today they are made in Smiths Falls, Ontario, and sometimes take up to 2 months to build 1 set of gates.