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On this page you will find several articles about various aspects of the Rideau. Many of these are taken from the Friends of the Rideau newsletter, which I write, including a lead article dealing with an interesting aspect of Rideau Canal history.


 The Indigenous Canoe Route via Hart Lake - A Geographic Evaluation by Ken W. Watson, 2024. Prior to mill and later canal dams, the south central part of the Rideau Canal was non navigable by boat, a floodplain above water during summer and fall. This was the reason for two indigenous canoe routes, the main travel route from the Ottawa River at Rideau Falls to the St. Lawrence River at Gananoque Falls and a secondary more local travel route, up the Cataraqui River to its headwaters in Loughborough Lake and to Opinicon Lake, via Hart Lake. This article provides the pre-canal geographic support for the Hart Lake route. See "The Indigenous Canoe Route via Hart Lake" (PDF)

How Much of the Rideau Canal is Manmade? by Ken W. Watson, 2022. This is an article that looks into how much of the Rideau Canal consists of excavated cuts compared to natural waters and flooded natural features (i.e. existing gullys). For instance, in Ottawa (Ottawa Locks to Hogs Back Locks), only 62% of that section is excavated with the other 38% consisting of flooded natural features.

Rideau Lockstation Offices by Ken W. Watson, 2021. Purpose built lockstation offices date back to the 1870s. The design of these have changed over the year, including several lockstations today that feature a more modern, 1970s design. This article looks at how these have changed over time.

Rideau Contractors by Ken W. Watson, 2021. An article about the contractors who were tasked with building various sections of the Rideau Canal between 1827 and 1832.

Botany of the Rideau in 1843 by Philip Whiteside Maclagan, 1847. A description of botanical observations made during a slow, 4 day steamer trip from Ottawa to Kingston in 1843.

Disease During the Building of the Rideau Canal by Ken W. Watson, 2020. When the Rideau Canal was built, most diseases were a mystery and medical science was in its infancy. The vast majority of the deaths during the building of the Rideau Canal were due to disease, the article provides a brief review.

A World Class Example of Adaptive Engineering by Ken W. Watson, 2019. The Rideau Canal is a world class example of adaptive engineering, coming up with engineering solutions to meet local conditions and trying different engineering methods during construction to see which would work the best.

Rideau Myths by Ken W. Watson, 2018. For years now I've been trying, with limited success, to beat down misconceptions about the building of the Rideau Canal. Certain erroneous beliefs are persistent. Many people still think that the malaria that affected the workers was brought to this area by British soldiers and that it was unique to the Rideau – that’s incorrect on both counts. Many people think that workers who died were buried in unmarked graves – they weren't. Many people think that the Rideau construction camps were like a gulag with a callous disregard for the worker – they weren’t.

Indigenous Use of the Rideau Waterway by Ken W. Watson, 2018. A brief look at indigenous use of the Rideau Waterway spanning from a time after the retreat of the glaciers that covered this area to the building of the Rideau Canal.

Canada and the Rideau Canal by Ken W. Watson, 2017. A look, in 2017, on Canada's 150th Anniversary, of what the Rideau Canal means to our nation.

Women at the Rideau Worksites by Ken W. Watson, 2015. One of the great untold stories of the Rideau Canal is the life of women and children at the worksites during the building of the canal. This article introduces this topic with the little bit of information that we know. It's a topic well work further research.

The Rideau Canal in Ottawa by Ken W. Watson, 2014. The Rideau Canal in Ottawa is usually referred to as being a completely excavated channel, but that's not true. Colonel By used the slackwater system in Ottawa, taking advantage of existing topography to avoid excavation, just as he did for the rest of the Rideau Canal.

The Fight at Chaffey’s – 1834 by Ed Bebee, 2014. A poem written by Captain Ned Fleming tells of a fight between “Big Joe” Mufferaw (Joseph Montferrand) and Lockmaster William Fleming in 1834. While the poem is most likely fiction, Ed looks at the poem and the possible circumstances of the event.

The Legend of Peter Bray by Ed Bebee, 2014. A long poem written by Captain Ned Fleming (see Poem section below) tells the tale of a man convicted and hanged. It is based in truth, Ed takes a look at that story as told by the poem and the truth of the matter.

The Irish Creek Route - The Canal That Wasn't by Ken W. Watson, 2014. In 1816 an alternate route for the Rideau Canal, by way of Irish Creek, was proposed by a young Royal Engineer by the name of Joshua Jebb. This is a web version of a talk I made on that topic.

A Capital Problem, The Under-Capitilization of the Rideau Canal by Ken W. Watson, 2014. The lack of capital for needed repairs to Rideau Canal structures is not a new problem, but the magnitude of the problem, now at over $104 million dollars, is.

 The First Steamboat Trip by Ken W. Watson, 2013. On May 22, 1832 the steamboat Rideau, aka Pumper, fired up the boiler feeding its 12 hp engine and left Kingston on the first full transit of the newly constructed Rideau Canal.

James Sutton Elliott (280K PDF) by Ed Bebee, 2013. James Sutton Elliott was one of the most strong-willed and powerful men among the competing forces driving the development of Bytown and the Rideau Canal. His careers in both Canada and England show remarkable parallels with different endings.

The Military Roots of the Rideau Canal by Ken W. Watson, 2012. The Rideau Canal was built as a military canal, the need to build it sparked by the War of 1812. The article looks at the military roots of the canal - why it was built and elements of its military heritage that can still be seen today.

Water Water Everywhere by Ken W. Watson, 2011. Three apparently unrelated events on the Rideau: whale bones near Smiths Falls, paddling a canoe in 1816 between Jones Falls and Upper Brewers and lake bottom sediments near the top of Rock Dunder, have a common link. Read the article to find out what that link is.

Mountain Climbing - By Boat by Ken W. Watson, 2011. There are few places in Canada where it can be said "I boated over a mountain." Well, if you’ve boated the Rideau from Kingston to Smiths Falls, you can boast to all your friends that you did, truly, boat over a mountain. "What mountain?" you ask - read the article to find out.

The Rideau Canals that Never Were by Ken W. Watson, 2011. We're familiar with the current Rideau Canal - but what about other canal/route proposals. These fall into three general categories: seriously studied, passing thoughts and fictional creations. The first two categories are briefly reviewed in this article and then a couple of examples of the latter category (the Dead Lock and the Murphys Bay Route) are examined in more detail.

Death - A Rideau Mythconception by Ken W. Watson, 2010. The building of the Rideau Canal was difficult and it took a human toll. But the number of deaths and how death was treated has been greatly exaggerated. This article examines the facts and how they've been distorted over the years.

Celebrating the Tay Canal by Ken W. Watson, 2009. The Tay Canal, connecting the Rideau Canal with Perth, is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2009. This article describes the Tay Canal today and the history of the First Tay Canal (1834).

Rideau Canal: Endurance Of Its Military Rationale, 1812-1871 by Robert B. Sneyd, 2008. The Rideau Canal served its intended purpose by acting as a deterrent to American invasion and helping to keep the peace during these decades of most vital Canadian social, economic and political development.

Rideau Boom Years: British Immigration to Upper Canada, 1832-46 by Robert B. Sneyd, 2008. The Rideau played a pivotal role in the 1830s and 40s in safely transporting tens of thousands of loyal British immigrants into Upper Canada.

Rideau Boom Years: Commercial Success by Robert B. Sneyd, 2007. Most people don't know that the Rideau was a commercial success, particularly in its early years.

Rideau Heritage Viewscapes by Ken Watson, 2007. Parks Canada has started to restore some heritage viewscapes on the canal. It's a good start, I hope to see more of this in the future.

The Rideau Route by Ken Watson, 2007. A glimpse into the pre-canal waterway - what it looked like prior to the Rideau Canal being built and information on the first surveys of the route.

Long Term Capital Plan for the Rideau Canal by Bill Pratt, 2007. The Chief Engineer of the Rideau Canal outlines the capital plan for the years 2007 to 2009.

Malaria - A Rideau Mythconception by Ken W. Watson, 2007. During the building of the Rideau Canal, August was known as the "sickly season." That sickness was malaria. A number of myths and misconceptions have developed over the years about malaria on the Rideau - this article sets the record straight.

Solar Cruising On The Historic Rideau Canal by Monte Gisborne, 2006. Monte Gisborne and family cruised the Rideau on the "Loon," a solar powered pontoon boat.

Electric Tug completes Rideau Canal Transit by John Hayes, 2006. John Hayes took his electric Tug, the Greenhorn I, on a quiet trip through the Rideau Canal.

Retirees on the Rideau by Jim Graham, 2005. A group of four retirees from Elliot Lake paddle the Rideau Canal from Kington Mills to Ottawa - this article recounts their adventure.

Along The Rideau by James Swift & Co., 1898. This article appeared in "The Picturesque Rideau Route" an 1898 booklet describing the trip up the Rideau aboard the Palace Steamer James Swift. This is a tourist promotion description of Rideau - a wonderful bit of prose, well worth a read.

Those Who Laboured by Ken Watson, 2003. This article appeared in Rideau Reflections, the newsletter of Friends of the Rideau. It is about those who built the Rideau, the thousands of Irish and French Canadian labourers.

Water, Water Everywhere by Ken Watson, 2002. This article appeared in Rideau Reflections, the newsletter of Friends of the Rideau. It is about water levels along the Rideau and how they are controlled.

The Other Rideau by Ken Watson, 2003. This article appeared in Rideau Reflections, the newsletter of Friends of the Rideau. It is about the Rideau in winter, the Rideau that many don't experience.

All That Swims, Crawls and Hops on the Rideau by Ken Watson, 2001. This article appeared in Rideau Reflections, the newsletter of Friends of the Rideau. It summarizes a talk given by three scientists with the Canadian Museum of Nature about fish (Claude Renaut), amphibians (Francis Cook) and turtles (Mike Rankin) studied as part of the Rideau River Biodiversity Project.

The Rideau - A Journey Through Time by Ben Rayner, 1997. An article written for the Ottawa Sun describing the Rideau from Ottawa to Kingston.


The Hanging of Peter Bray by Captain Edward (Ned) Fleming, c.1930s. A long poem, loosely based on a true story. See the article by Ed Bebee at the top of this page for the story behind the poem.

Jurassic Marsh by Allison Goldstein, 2009. The story of a misty morning encounter on Little Crosby Lake.

Prayer Of The Fisherman's Wife by Allison Goldstein, 2009. A little poem about a fisherman's wife that prefers steak to fish.

The Rideau Canal by John Morrison, 2007. The tale of the Rideau.

The Lady of the Stones by John Morrison, 2005. The tragic tale of the death in 1861 of Ann Crosby.

Rideau Hues by John Morrison, 2004. The ever changing Rideau.

Thanks for the Memories by Allison Goldstein, 2005. A lovely little poem about happy Rideau days.

C.D.H.A.Q. - a poem by David Boyd about the notations in the diary of Lockmaster Peter Sweeney (Catherine Drunk Had A Quarrel)

Ghosts of the Opinicon - a poem by Captain "Ned" Fleming (1868-1953).

If you have an article that you think would be suitable for inclusion on this page, feel free to contact me. Please note that I can only accept articles for which copyright permission has been given for posting to this website.

Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

©1996- Ken W. Watson