The purpose of the project was to protect British territory and ensure smooth trade. Today it is a pleasant site that, during the winter, is transformed into the largest natural ice rink in the world.
In the early 19th century, the only navigable corridor to join Montreal, Quebec to Kingston, Ontario required ships to navigate a narrow passage of the St. Lawrence River whose south shore is a northern part of the United States. This obligatory route made the route vulnerable to attack. To prevent the worst, the construction of a canal further from the US border proved to be the solution.
It is, therefore, with determination that men, mainly of Irish and French origin, were recruited to dig by hand different sections totaling 19 km of canals and thus creating a waterway of more than 200 km which still connects Ottawa to Kingston via several bodies of water.
Supervised by John By and completed in 1832, it was a relief to have a safer waterway to move goods from Montreal to Kingston. The river route quickly became a popular and active commercial artery. Heavy materials, wood, cereals and minerals were, at the time, exchanged by boat.
Then came rail transport and road transport and the canal ended up being less useful.
Today, recreational boating is practiced there. The canal stretches along several villages: Ottawa, Smith Falls, Merrickville, Westport, Newboro and Kingston. Along the way are waterfalls, mills and Fort Henry on the Kingston side.
On the Ottawa side, since 1970, during the winter season, the waters of the canal freeze and a portion (7.8 km) is transformed into a beautiful natural skating rink. Since the cold is necessary, the beginning and end of the season varies from year to year. You have to see the site for information. Also, note that it is possible to rent equipment to enjoy this place.
When you walk along the canal promenade, at the north mouth, near the Ottawa River, you can see the oldest stone building in the city. Built in 1827, the three-story building has long served as a warehouse for materials for the construction of the canal. The building is now the Bytown Museum, showcasing Ottawa’s history in a place that existed before the city was the capital.
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