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A watery detour: the Rideau canal

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If you’re travelling from Kingston to Ottawa, the obvious route is east along Hwy-401 and then north up Hwy-416, a journey of 175km. With more time, however, it’s worth considering a slower route along two country roads – Hwy-15 and then Hwy-7. En route, you’ll pass a battery of signs to the 24 lock stations of the 202km-long Rideau Canal (t 613 283 5170, w pc.gc.ca), which cuts through the slab of coniferous and deciduous forest, bogs, limestone plains and granite ridges that separate Ottawa and Kingston. Completed in 1832 after a mere six years’ work, the canal was built to provide safe inland transport at a time of poor Anglo-American relations, but after the political situation improved it developed as an important route for regional commerce. The canal’s construction led to the development of Bytown, renamed Ottawa in 1855, but in the second half of the nineteenth century the railways made the canal obsolete and today it’s plied by holiday boats. For the motorist, one of the more impressive lock stations is Kingston Mills (Locks 46–49), 12km inland from Kingston on Hwy-15, where a steep flight of locks negotiates a wooded ravine overlooked by a blockhouse and lock offices. It’s a lovely spot and there’s more of the same, albeit in a wilder setting, at Jones Falls (Locks 39–42), 3km off Hwy-15 and about 40km from Kingston. Here, a huddle of old timber buildings is a prelude to a rickety footbridge that leads over a lake to a steep flight of locks guarded by several old stone buildings. By boat it takes five days to get from Kingston to Ottawa on the Rideau Canal with Ontario Waterways (t 705 327 5767, t 1 800 561 5767, w ontariowaterwaycruises.com); there are between three and six cruises monthly from mid-May to mid-October, the cost is $1800, and reservations are essential.

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