Planning for a Canal

Unlike aqueduct systems that move water from one place to another, the Rideau Canal was planned as a slack water system. Slack water systems are designed to keep water in one place and eliminate any natural movement or flow. The recommendation given by surveyors to achieve this was by using dams, locks, and flooding of certain areas. However, there were still many questions that remained. Where would the locks be placed? How wide and deep should the locks be made? Where should flooding take place? Where should dams be located? In a matter of months, these critical decisions would begin to be made and the construction of the canal would be underway. As planned, the canal would integrate five major watersheds along a 202-km route between Kingston and the future city of Ottawa.

Points of Interest

Get Flash Player
This video requires Javascript to be enabled and the Adobe Flash Player plugin. The plugin is available at http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/

[Source: John By, “Plan of the line of the Rideau Canal Lt. Col. By Commanding Royal Engineer”, 1829, Library and Archives Canada, H2/410/Rideau Canal/1829, NMC 21972]

Duration: 40 seconds
Download "Plan of the Line of the Rideau Canal" (.mp4 22 MB) View the transcript of this video.

Plan of the Line of the Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal integrates numerous watersheds and large lakes, some naturally occurring along the route, and others that had to be artificially created and connected using dams and flooding. In the end, 12 miles (19 kilometres) of the canal waterway would be man-made. The ingenuity and creativity of linking these waters to carve out the Rideau Canal can’t be overstated. The above map, attributed to Lt. Col. By, depicts this route in detail. Beginning at the Ottawa River, the canal travels through the Rideau River, past numerous small and large lakes, into the Cataraqui River, and ends at Lake Ontario, with the St. Lawrence River as the outlet. It remains one of the best-preserved slack water systems in North America.

X

Get Flash Player
This video requires Javascript to be enabled and the Adobe Flash Player plugin. The plugin is available at http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/

[Source: Bridges Erected Across the Ottawa River at the Chaudière Falls (Truss Bridge). John Burrowes, John Burrowes fonds, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1936-60-1, C-016331; The Union-Suspension-Bridge, Ottawa River, Bytown. Frederick Preston Rubidge fonds, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1999-00513-9-1, C-005040]

Duration: 23 seconds
Download "Connecting Bytown to Wrightsville" (.mp4 14 MB) View the transcript of this video.

Connecting Bytown to Wrightsville

By decided to construct a bridge across the Chaudière Falls in order to gain easier access to the town of Wrightsville, now part of Gatineau. When construction began on the canal, Wrightsville-founded by timber baron Philomen Wright-was already an established town that could provide labourers and officers with necessary supplies and provisions. The bridge proved crucial during the canal’s construction, and thanks to ongoing structural improvements over the years, remains an important link between Ottawa and Gatineau.

X
Watercolour of a plan and section of the waste wier at First Rapids lockstationEnlarge

[Source: Unknown Artist, Waste Wier, n.d., Ordnance Department, The National Archives of the UK, MPH1-238 (5)]

The Use of Locks and Dams on the Rideau Canal

In 1816, Joshua Jebb, a young lieutenant from the Royal Engineers, was tasked with estimating how much it would cost to make the Rideau Route waterway navigable. Jebb started his journey from the Ottawa River and sought a route that would allow large vessels to navigate the waters. He proposed the use of locks and dams in order to create one continuous waterway. In the end, the canal would have 23 lock stations and 45 individual locks. The drawing above shows the plan and section of a waste weir acting as a dam at First Rapids.

X

Get Flash Player
This video requires Javascript to be enabled and the Adobe Flash Player plugin. The plugin is available at http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/

[Source: Unknown Artist, Waste Wier, n.d., Ordnance Department, The National Archives of the UK, MPH1-238 (5)]

Duration: 40 seconds
Download "Map showing Clowes’s Proposal for Uniting Lake Ontario with the Ottawa River" (.mp4 15 MB) View the transcript of this video.

Map showing Clowes’s Proposal for Uniting Lake Ontario with the Ottawa River

Although little is known about civil engineer and surveyor Samuel Clowes, he played a significant role in mapping out the Rideau Canal route. Clowes advised overcoming engineering obstacles by flooding certain areas rather than cutting a channel around them. Clowes’s survey lasted two years as he carefully measured and remeasured the details of what he believed was the best possible canal route and locations for the locks.

X
Selecting Entrance Valley«