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Riding the Rideau

Riding the Rideau

Touring for Canadian History Buffs

In 1613 while searching for a navigable route to China, Samuel de Champlain coined this waterway Rideau, meaning Curtain, because the falls where it dumps into the Ottawa River appears to be a curtain of white.

The open grating of the LaSalle Bridge howl in resistance to the Gold Wing's tires. Just around the bend lies the ruins of old Fort Cataraqui, circa 1673, and beautiful historical Kingston, Canada's "almost capital". Here the battle lines were drawn thwarting the plans of American aggressors during the War of 1812, and here ends the beautiful Rideau Canal a shipping backwater away from American guns.

Fort Henry, a state-of-the-art fortress, stands majestically, suspended in time, casting morning shadows across Royal Military College far below. A Celtic Cross in Douglas R. Fluhrer Park silently honours Irish immigrants who built the Rideau Canal, many who died from malaria. Started in1826, Colonel John By completed this monumental engineering challenge in just 6 years.

Soon, Kingston harbour fades from view as we ride north past limestone homes built by canal masons. At Codes Corners we wind our way back to the last set of locks and park the bike at the Kingston Mills locks. Cut through solid rock the final 30 ft. drop brings boaters to the Cataraqui River and then Lake Ontario. In 1783 a gristmill and a sawmill could be heard supporting the thriving community of Loyalist settlers arriving from America. A blockhouse, one of four along the canal, still stands guard.

Approximately 19 kilometers of man-made waterway connects a series of lakes along its 202 kilometer length and makes this a wonderful weekend ride exploring part of Ontario's history. Its 45 locks at 23 lock stations were opened in May of 1832 and have operated continuously ever since. In 1925 the Rideau Canal was designated a National Canadian Historic Site and in 2007, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Determined to see all that we can, we ramble on north to beautiful Brewers Mills, and later, as we exit onto CR 33, the road narrows and the fun begins. Wild flowers line our flanks covering the shoulders, as we thread through the curves. Crossing Ontario's oldest triple arched stone bridge we ride into the beautiful hamlet of Lyndhurst, where below, kids enjoy the warm summer day swimming in the river.

From Lyndhurst CR 42 takes us into Delta and a three-storey colossus on Beverley Lake. The Delta Mill is one of the finest examples of an early Canadian mill. Still in pristine working condition, we take a tour of this working museum. Every Saturday the miller sets the giant water wheel in motion and grinds wheat between the granite millstones, and on Saturdays during the summer months, the smell of freshly baked bread fills the air.

We head across CR 8 to Elgin and then south on CR 15 to Cr 11 and over to Jones' Falls. The canal drops 60 feet here, through four locks, and a huge 62 ft. high, hand-built dam, provides electricity for the area. Several plaques tell of the history. And at the foot of the locks stands the historic old Kenny Hotel.

Backtracking, CR 15 takes us north to Crosby and then to Newboro where another blockhouse stands, and just outside the village, a straight cut through solid rock connects the Big Rideau Lake with Newboro Lake. A plaque, across the road from the Old Presbyterian Cemetery, honouring the sappers and miners who died here. Chunks of rough stone mark the graves of the unknown workers.

Beautiful Westport's historic Cove Country Inn overlooking the Upper Rideau, provides the backdrop for great conversation over our evening meal, as we realize we are only halfway along our trek.

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