Ottawa – Rideau Canal & Ottawa Locks

August 22, 2019

As I mentioned in a previous post, Lt. Col. John By was the Master Engineer behind the creation of the Rideau Canal, which runs through the city of Ottawa.  Pre-trip research had flagged this canal as a must-see destination during my trip but as I drove in to town each morning from the west side my route took me along part of the canal south of town and I could see there was some fairly significant construction underway on either side of the canal so I decided not to walk very far away from town as I had originally planned.  What I could see in town was impressive enough, though….

Looking south from the main street which runs in front of the Parliament complex this was the view of the canal at “city level”:


And this is the view of the “destination,” the Ottawa River located some 79 feet below as seen from Major’s Hill Park (slightly above “city level”):


Getting from Point A to Point B is achieved by passing through a series of locks, or compartments, which can either let water in one end or let water out the other end of the compartment depending on the desired direction of travel.  As I was observing the process in action they were lowering a medium sized pleasure craft from city level down to the river.

Here is the boat in the first “compartment”:


And this is the direction of travel:


To add to the fun, people can easily cross on narrow walkways over each level on the way down:


As this ship was working it’s way down to the river, huge gates were slowly opened allowing water to escape the compartment, lowering the water level to match that of the next compartment.  That process is repeated until the ship finally reaches the surface of the river.



I was quite surprised to learn that the gates are still opened and closed by manual cranks!


And given that this facility is managed by Parks Canada there are of course red chairs where visitors may watch the fun and enjoy the view:



And after the final compartment is emptied…


…. the ship reaches the river:


The process can be reversed by having a ship enter the lowest compartment, then filling it with water from the canal at “city level” until it matches the level of the next highest compartment, and so on until the ship reaches the canal at “city level”.  According to signs at the canal that process takes about an hour and a half.

And if you think this process is pretty slick, wait until I get around to posting pictures from Sault Saint Marie on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where the Soo Locks raise and lower gigantic cargo ships to allow them to pass between Lake Superior, whose surface is 601 feet above sea level and Lake Huron, whose surface is only 579 feet above sea level.  Same logic but using only one compartment and obviously on a MUCH bigger scale.


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