Boating on the Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal National Historic Site

Boating on the Rideau Canal is the best way to experience this amazing National Historic Site. Launch your own vessel and cruise from end-to-end, or rent a boat and enjoy a vacation of any length with your friends and family. Parks Canada welcomes you to experience a boating adventure rooted in many generations of tradition. When you voyage the Rideau Canal National Historic Site and begin to feel the true spirit of the waterway, you will see the canal as a boating community that tells a story of struggle, success and changing landscapes.

At a glance:

  • 202 km (miles) of navigable waterway from Kingston to Ottawa
  • Takes approx. 5 days (1 week) to complete end-to-end
  • Plan a trip of any length, including simple daytrips
  • 26 historic locks to visit; many overnight options


For other information not found on this page, contact Parks Canada:

Know before you go

These resources and travel tips below will help make sure your visit to the Rideau Canal National Historic Site is smooth sailing. New boaters and annual visitors can both benefit from reviewing these important links before they visit.

How lockage works

Locks are designed to raise and lower boats from one water level to another. They use historic engineering, including a series of dams, to bypass rapids and waterfalls. In some locations, two or more locks are joined together to overcome greater changes in water levels.

  1. If you are heading upstream, the water in the lock chamber begins at the same level as the downstream channel
  2. The lock gates are cranked open with either hand winches or electrical power, and then boats proceed into the lock chamber
  3. Once inside, the lower gates are cranked shut, and the valves in the lower gates are closed; the chamber is now watertight
  4. The lock staff then open the upper sluice valves to allow water to enter from the upstream side
  5. This water gradually fills the lock, raising the boats, until they are at the same level as the upstream water
  6. Finally, the upper gates are opened and you can leave the lock chamber, proceeding slowly (10km/h) and watching out for other boaters and paddlers
  7. If you are heading downstream, things happen in the reverse order

Boating Safely brochure

Includes: How to read buoys and beacons; speed zones; and boat wake restrictions.

Renting a boat

Parks Canada does not offer boat rentals to visitors on the Rideau Canal National Historic Site, but many private marinas and licensed local operators exist along the canal to help you travel. Get out on the water in a large family cruiser, or sit back and relax on a charter a tour. Check your local listings for rental information and outfitters in various regions along the Rideau Canal.

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