Completing the Canal

The Rideau Canal was technically completed in the fall of 1831, though it was not officially opened for business until the following spring. The grand opening took place during the week of May 24, 1832, when Lt. Col. By and his family, along with several of the canal’s contractors and various dignitaries, set out from Kingston to Bytown on board the steamboat Pumper to mark the occasion. Unbeknownst to the happy travellers, an order had also just set sail from England recalling By to London to face disciplinary action for going over budget on the project. By had little time to celebrate his accomplishments and those of his workers before returning to London to defend his actions in British court.

Points of Interest

Photograph of the Rideau King steamboat near Chaffeys Lock Enlarge

[Source: Rideau King near Chaffeys Lock. [Ont.].  J.M. Mills fonds, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1951-038 NPC, C-009417]

By’s Final Voyage

In the spring of 1832, aboard the steamship Pumper, Lt. Col. By took his final voyage down the entire 202-km length of the canal. He took great pride in knowing that other canals of that time period were only half the size of the Rideau-and often took twice as long to build. In the end, By’s final design allowed large steamboats to be able to use the waterway. The Rideau King, as seen in this photograph, would travel up and down the waterway for many years to follow.

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Painting of the Ottawa Locks and surrounding areaEnlarge

[Source: Ottawa Locks, Rideau Canal. John Burrowes fonds , Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1979-12-12, C-092930]

The Grandeur of the Bytown Locks

The finished locks of Entrance Valley had all the grandeur of the entrance gateway Lt. Col. By had hoped for when he first began the project in 1828. They remain today an iconic symbol of Ottawa, as well as a World Heritage Site.

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Painting of a lumberers' regatta, OttawaEnlarge

[Source: Lumberers Regatta, Ottawa. George Henry Andrews, C. Williams collection, Library and Archives Canada, accession number No. 1990-555-2, C-013285]

Regatta on the Ottawa River

Although initially intended to serve as a military stronghold, the canal was predominantly used for commercial and recreational purposes upon its completion in 1832. Many regattas have been held in Ottawa over the years, much like the one seen in this photo.

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Other Architectural Endeavours«