Selecting Entrance Valley

Lt. Col. By’s first major planning decision upon arriving in Canada was to reject both of the proposed sites for the northern canal entrance – one near Richmond’s Landing, the other near Rideau Falls. By instead chose a natural valley located along the Ottawa River between these two proposed sites, known at the time as Sleigh or Rafting Bay. With 80-foot (25-metre) cliffs on either side, Entrance Valley (as it was renamed) was largely chosen for topographical reasons, since it would require the least amount of excavation before the construction of the locks could begin.

Points of Interest

Painting of the Eastern and Greater Fall of the Rideau RiverEnlarge

[Source: Archives of Ontario, C 1-0-0-0-2. Thomas Burrowes fonds. Eastern and Great Fall of the Rideau River [1830].]

Eastern and Greater Falls of the Rideau River

In the original Rideau Canal route proposed by surveyor Samuel Clowes, the northern entrance of the canal was located a few hundred metres downstream from the grand Rideau Falls. Although the falls were visually stunning, Lt. Col. By rejected this site in part because it was expected to require a staggering thirteen locks to overcome the elevation, five more than Entrance Valley needed.

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Painting of the first eight locks of the Rideau Canal, from the Quebec side of the Ottawa RiverEnlarge

[Source: First eight locks of the Rideau Canal, from Quebec side of the Ottawa River [1834]. Thomas Burrowes fonds. Archives of Ontario, C 1-0-0-0-13.]

The Eight Locks and Entrance Valley

By choosing Entrance Valley, Lt. Col. By spared his workers many kilometres of laborious and often dangerous rock excavation. Entrance Valley already had a natural ravine that could be expanded upon and steep 80-foot (25-metre) cliffs on each side. And it wasn’t just a safer and more economical choice, but also provided the visual grandeur that By desired in an entrance.

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[Source: ‘Unknown Artist,“Sketch of Bytown and of the Rideau Canal from the Hogs Back to the Ottawa River”, The National Archives of the UK, MPH 1/ 918 / 19; “Proposals for the Northern Canal Entrance” [Animation]. Dr. Stephen Fai. Carleton Immersive Media Studio. 2012.]

Duration: 29 seconds
Download "Proposals for the Northern Canal Entrance" (.mp4 17 MB) View the transcript of this video.

Proposals for the Northern Canal Entrance

The above video starts by showing the proposed entrance site from the Ottawa River that would serve as the northern entrance for the Rideau Canal. The first is Richmond’s Landing, found on the western edge of Bytown near Chaudière Falls, and the second is Rideau Falls, found a few kilometres northeast. Both sites were examined based on recommendations from previous surveys. Situated between the two is Entrance Valley, which would be selected by Lt. Col. By in 1826 as the official entrance. 

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Planning for a Canal» Surveying«