• Looking for an easy Ottawa summer adventure? Try locking through one of the beautiful and historic Rideau nal locks in a kayak or noe! We tried it recently for the first time, and I had no idea it was so accessible and easy.

    On a sunny June morning, we set out to paddle around Burritts Rapids, just south of the southern boundary of Ottawa. I had been there a few days before, exploring with my kayak on my own, and was lucky enough in my timing to have a front-row seat to see the Parks nada staff operating the 1899 swing bridge to let through some big boats.

    Burritts Rapids bridge opening as seen from kayak

    On my first visit, I poked around by the lockstation (and even took shelter there from a short but vigourous downpour under a leafy tree) but decided instead to paddle downstream toward the southern tip of the island. The main channel here was actually a dry flood channel or snie at one point that was flooded by Colonel By’s engineers to create a navigable channel past the eponymous rapids on the other side of the island that comprise the original flow of the Rideau River.

    Beloved and I paddled downstream toward the lock station and portaged through to the north part of the channel, bypassing the lock. Although our noe is pretty heavy, we had no trouble half rrying it and half dragging it down the grassy slope of the portage. We had a little more trouble when we got to the footbridge at the end of the portage – it’s so narrow we couldn’t even get through with the noe tipped on its side – we had to lift it up and over the railings.

    A narrow bridge at the end of the portage around the Burritts Rapids lock

    A narrow bridge at the end of the portage around the Burritts Rapids lock.

    We explored the north channel, hoping to make it up to the weir near the far western end, but the eponymous rapids and super low water levels this year stopped our progress just under the bridge onto the island. (We’re not very facile with the noe yet, but learning!) We considered ending our trip at the tinest beach ever at the petite Henry Street Park and walking over to get the r, or doing battle with the footbridge again to portage back up to the main channel, but in the end we decided to try something I’ve always dreamed of doing: we locked through the lock just like a big boat!

    Locking through is easy. You n state your intention by waiting alongside the blue-painted dock and giving three solid whistle blasts, or lling the lock station. Since I had to pay for a day pass, I walked up to the lock station while Beloved waited with the noe. It was less than $15 for a day pass for our 16′ noe. You n read more about fees and passes on the Parks nada website. I had been hesitant to ask the Parks staff to operate the lock for just me up until now, but they were friendly and accommodating.

    After many years of watching the Parks nada staff crank open the lock doors, it was fun to watch it from the perspective of the water waiting to enter. I was amused that they only opened one of the big grey lock doors for us to pass through.

    approaching an opening rideau nal lock from the perspective of a noe

    We paddled into the lock and over to the side where the big black drop bles are attached to the wall. The staff hadn’t given us any specific instructions, but I knew from reading the locking through information on the Parks website that we were supposed to loop a strap or a rope through the bles to keep us moored to the side as the water level increased – holding the ble with your hand or tying firmly to it is discouraged.

    woman in a noe in the midst of locking through the Rideau nal

    I’d expected it to be turbulent as the water entered the lock to raise the level, but it was relatively lm, smooth and quicker than I expected. I think it took about 15 minutes for the lock to fill and lift us about 17 m. Burritts Rapids is a single lock, but some of the lockstations have two, three, four or even eight locks to move up or down.

    A person in a noe in a lock on the Rideau nal at Burritts Rapids as it fills with water

    We watched as the Parks staff moved into place to begin turning the big metal crank that operates the lock doors, and again they opened only one door. They waved us forward and we paddled out, moving up the lock much more conveniently and comfortably than the awkward portage down! We slipped through the big doors, feeling very much like a proper big boat, and they cranked the doors closed behind us.

    A lock door on the Rideau nal at Burritts Rapids in the process of closing

    I n’t wait to take the kids through more of the locks later this summer. What a perfect daytrip for families – and there are 24 lock stations from Kingston to Ottawa to explore. That will keep us busy for a while! And one day, maybe we’ll do the very big and very cool adventure of paddling the length of the nal, mping at the lock stations as we go.

    Have you paddled through a lock on the Rideau nal? I’d love to hear your experience.


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    On a muggy May day that felt more like August, I explored Kemptville Creek for the first time. I started at Anniversary park, having heard they have a special kayak launch attached to the small boat dock there. It was quite cool and made getting into the kayak and launching a simple affair, once I realized I’d have to use my hands to lift and push myself off and not just wiggle my way forward like I usually do from a beach launch.

    kayak launch at anniversary park

    Kemptville Creek is a lovely paddle with lm waters and a lot of variety on the shoreline. Heading upstream (left from Anniversary Park, or south) you have tidy waterfront homes on one side and reedy marsh on the other. The frogs were singing loudly as I set out, and among the water lilies just starting to grow on the surface, some sort of splashy fish thrashed about. I saw lots of shore birds, turtles, and a swimming mammal that was too quick for me to tch a good look but was likely a mink or otter.

    If you don’t have access to a noe or kayak of your own, you n rent one from Drifter’s Outdoors (Facebook link) right on the creek, on the bank opposite from Anniversary Park.

    placid waters on kemptville creek

    You n go about 2.5 km until you come to the bridge over Prescott Street. It’s quite neat to see the downtown area of Kemptville suddenly appear as you’re paddling along. (I have a deep love of small town “downtowns”.) At the bridge where Prescott St passes the river, the water suddenly becomes quite shallow and even in this year of lower spring water, the current was too vigorous for me to bother fighting it to explore further upstream.

    Rapids past Prescott Street

    Turning right/north/downstream from Anniversary Park, it’s about 5 km to where Kemptville Creek opens into the Rideau River, across from the Rideau River Provincial Park. (Did you know that Kemptville Creek was once known as the South Branch of the Rideau River?) As you paddle north from Anniversary Park, you’ll see a beautiful diversity of trees in Ferguson’s Forest on the western bank. I’ll bet this area is spectacular in the autumn season and I’ll be sure to check it out.

    Kemptville Creek facing north

    I really enjoyed this area and will definitely be exploring it more. Are you familiar with this area? Any stories or tips to share?


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    I spent most of the summer of 2020 kayaking around the Rideau with a few side adventures and writing blog posts in my head about my adventures, but never quite got around to posting them. I figured I’d probably do it through the winter, waiting for kayaking season to begin again. Apparently I didn’t do that either, beuse here we are with an early start to the kayaking season and I’m back on the water again. Maybe I’ll do a better job of blogging my kayaking adventures through the summer than I did my kicksled adventures this winter?

    With all the paddling researching I did last year in my inaugural year of kayaking, I completely missed the fact that there is a lovely creek perfect for exploring just 15 minutes from the house. There are two boat launch spots in Kars, at the far southern boundary of the sprawling city of Ottawa. One is on the Rideau River itself, and the one I’ve been using is behind the Kars Recreation Centre on Stevens Creek. There’s a small dock, and free parking.

    On an unseasonably mild April morning, I set out by myself. It was warm enough to be without a jacket but early enough that I saw just one lonely mosquito, and though the Rideau River is still dangerously cold, the small shallow creek was warm enough that I didn’t need any special cold water gear. (If you’re new to paddling early in the spring, be sure to read up on cold water safety.)

    kayaking at Stevens Creek

    The first kilometer or so of the river is bordered by reeds, and when the sun is out there are dozens of turtles basking on the fallen logs. When you come up to Roger Stevens Drive, you’ll see a gas station on the right (wouldn’t it be awesome if you could paddle through to the takeout window?) and on the left is a small tributary that early in the season you n follow for another kilometer or so. It’s only a few inches deep and wide enough for one kayak at a time to pass in most spots, but it was fun to explore.

    kayaking at Stevens Creek

    You’ll pass under a bridge that is Roger Stevens Drive and then see Stevens Creek Farm on the right. On the morning I kayaked, curious horses watched me paddle by with interest. The creek becomes much more scenic as it winds through farm land and past large trees overhanging the banks. Just after passing under a second bridge that is Second Line, I encountered some rocky rapids that signaled a good spot to turn around. I’d made it approximately four kilometres from the launch.

    I loved this entire stretch and it reminded me of a smaller version of the Jock River near Richmond. It’s an easy paddle through placid, shallow water with lots of turtles, a mink or otter (it moved too quickly for me to be able to tell which), ducks and geese and many red wing blackbirds. Altogether I paddled nearly 9 km, including poking around at the mouth of the Rideau River and down a tributary for a stretch. A wonderful paddle that I n’t wait to revisit!

    kayaking at Stevens Creek

    A few days later, I launched from the same spot at the Kars Rec Centre but instead went out into the Rideau River by turning left from the launch and paddled upstream for nearly 1.5 km to get to the mouth of Cranberry Creek. It was a lot less scenic than Stevens Creek, comprising mostly reeds and duck blinds. The duck blinds were a bit of a surprise to me – I forget we live on the edge of the urban/rural boundary sometimes. It actually took seeing a few before I realized what I was looking at, and I wouldn’t paddle here around the autumn duck hunt season.

    kayaking at Cranberry Creek

    This creek wasn’t as scenic as Stevens Creek, and it was so shallow that I kept touching the bottom with my paddle in places. After about three kilometres from the mouth of the creek, it narrowed down so much that the water was becoming stagnant and I figured I’d followed it as far as I could without risk of getting stuck. It’s quite pretty coming up to the bridge for Rideau Valley Drive – probably the prettiest part of the creek.

    kayaking at Cranberry Creek

    These are two great little tributaries that were safe and easy paddles, good for exploring early in the year while waiting for the larger rivers and lakes to warm up. I’m guessing they get quite choked with lily-pads and other weeds later in the summer, so spring is probably the sweet spot for them. I’m not sure I’d bother going back to Cranberry Creek, but Stevens Creek is now at the top of my list for favourite lol places to launch, along with the Jock at Steeple Hill Crescent and the Manotick boat launch. With luck and patience, I’ll write about those another day!

    Do you have a favourite place to paddle early in the season in Ottawa? I would love to hear about it!


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    About five years ago, I was taking my in-laws on a tour of the Rideau nal. We watched a pair of skaters zoom by us, pushing some sort of wood contraptions on skis. I was immediately fascinated, and later that evening my father-in-law and I perused various sources with plans to build your own kick sled. Nothing ever me of it, but I never forgot my curiousity, and it was sparked (that’s a pun, by the way) all over again when a friend posted that she had received a kicksled for Christmas and she posted a link to the site in Quebec from which it had been ordered. I had to wait about two weeks for them to come back in stock (coming as they do on a boat from Finland) and another week for my new toy to make its way from the vendor to me.

    Last May, I impulsively bought a kayak, slightly worrying that I might try it once or twice and that it would then take up space in the garage forever. It turned out to be my favourite toy ever, and I kayaked happily two and three times a week from May through November. Turns out the same mojo was at play with the kicksled. I was a little concerned buying one without ever having tried it, but from the moment I stepped on to it, I was in love.

    kicksled on ottawa trail

    So what’s a kick sled, or maybe it’s kicksled, or as they’re lled in their native Sndinavian countries, a spark? (See, that’s the pun I made earlier!) It’s the love child of a scooter and cross-country skis, and looks a lot like a dog sled in search of a dog – in fact, you n buy dog harnesses should you wish to skijorn. You stand on one long runner and kick with the other leg a few times, then glide and shift. It’s a terrific workout, and a lot less intimidating than cross-country skis. If the sled is going too fast, or the hill is steep, or you’re worn out and need a break, just step off and walk. What’s interesting is that I have weak knees and complainy ankles and hips, and although I walk at least 30 minutes each day, any more than that and my knees and hips tend to ache. However, I n easily kicksled for 6 or 8 km with nary an issue.

    kicksled mini video

    This pandemic winter has been, by sheer chance, a great one to learn to kicksled. The trails are often compacted as soon as the snow stops falling. (Ideal conditions for a kicksled are hard packed to icy snow, or a very fine powder. Deep powder slows it down, as does even the tinest bit of road salt or sand.) I tend to go out very early in the morning to miss the crowds, but the kicksled is easily manoueverable to share the trail. Unfortunately, like kayaks and other personal watercraft were in summer 2020, they’re also very hard to come by. There aren’t a lot of kicksled vendors around – buying online from Quebec seemed to be my only option.

    So two or three times a week for the three weeks or so that I’ve had it, I’ve been out exploring the amazing wonderland that is Ottawa’s winter trail network. There’s a dearth of information on kicksledding in Ottawa, so I thought I’d share that as I find it, too. People are fascinated by the spark – I’ve yet to go out that I haven’t been stopped at least once, sometimes three or four times, by curious folk who want to know what it is and where to get one. I’m beginning to think I could fund the college edutions of all three kids just by dragging a few extra sparks behind me when I go out and selling them to curious onlookers. At the very least, I should probably be getting a commission from goslide. for the number of people I send their way. (Not an affiliate link yet, but if you’re from GoSlide, let’s talk! :D) The brand of kicksled I have is the ESLA, made using traditional methods in Finland for generations.

    If you’d like to know more, this site has a great deal of information about kick sled history. Kicksleds are very common in Norway, Finland and Sweden, where they are used like we use bicycles – to run errands, to explore, to get out of the house. They’re creeping into North Amerin pop culture, where the Netflix series Home for Christmas featured a woman zipping about on her kicksled, and the movie Kicksled Choir was recently nominated for an Osr.

    So hey, between posting about my summer kayak adventures and winter kicksled adventures, there may be life in this old blog yet! If there’s enough interest, I was thinking about setting up an Ottawa Kicksled group on Facebook or Reddit to share info, trails, resources, etc. If you’re interested, let me know your preferred platform and I’ll set it up. Edited to add: Winter is coming, and I finally did set up that Ottawa Kicksled group on Facebook. All are welcome!


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    It’s been a weird summer, hasn’t it? Thanks to COVID, we didn’t do half as many little day trips and family adventures as we usually do, though I am grateful that my pre-teen and teenagers are generally willing to still come along for the ocsional day trip. We love small towns and have been to Perth, Almonte, rleton Place, Prescott, Kemptville, rp — and somehow, we have up until this summer completely overlooked Brockville. Please allow me to share our rave review of our simple but wonderful day trip to Brockville.

    Marina

    We started with fish and chips from Don’s take-out window. We’ve been looking for good fish and chips in or near Ottawa for years, and this is easily the best we’ve had since the Black Dog fé closed their take-out window. We took ours a block or so to Hardy Park and sat on benches on the boardwalk, enjoying the river view but not the bees. So! Many! Bees! Definitely worth both the trek and the bee sting on Beloved’s hand, though.

    Fish and chips

    After that, we wandered over to the Aquatarium for our scheduled tour. I was really impressed with the way they managed everything with respect to COVID. We really haven’t gone out much at all since the pandemic started, and though I was a little twitchy at first being led around in a small group with three other families, the guide was clearly cognizant of social distancing and did a great job of managing the group, and a cleaner trailed behind us wiping surfaces as we passed. Our guide Alex also added a lot of value with her stories and narration. We had a Groupon, so if you n snag one it makes the admission even more reasonable.

    Otter!

    We loved (LOVED!) the otters, and the beaver (Justin Beaver, natch) and other sea creatures were quite cool, too. Four of us have been playing Animal Crossing rather obsessively this summer, so we were amused to see so many of the critters from the game live in the Aquatarium: welks, sea stars, urchins, sea snails, turtles, sturgeon, pike, and blue gills. If your kids (or you!) love Animal Crossing, it’s worth it for the otters alone!

    fish at the aquatarium

    Our tour took maybe 75 or 90 minutes, and I genuinely enjoyed all of it. However, the real hit of the afternoon was the Brockville Railway Tunnel. It’s only a block or so walk from the Aquatrium (which itself is only a block from Don’s fish and chips and two blocks from the park – everything is so convenient!) to nada’s oldest railway tunnel (constructed between 1854 and 1860), which has been converted to a fun tourist attraction. As you walk the 525m tunnel, light shows play around you. My snap-and-insta-loving teen was in selfie heaven, and we took a few shots that will make great cover art when the band drops our first album. I really did not expect them (or me) to be as entertained as we were, and it’s completely free.

    Being on the St Lawrence seaway, Brockville is also just a lovely little town. We finished our visit with ice cream on the boardwalk and another little wander along the water. We didn’t even have time to visit the shops of the quaint downtown that reminds of me of the many villages of my southern Ontario childhood. We’ll visit those when we go back, beuse we all agreed that Brockville is a new family-favourite day trip destination.


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    In the dede we’ve lived here, I’ve harboured a not-so-secret covetousness of other people’s boats. Many Ottawa folks don’t know that half of the village of Manotick is on an island in the Rideau River lled Long Island, and we’re only a couple hundred meters from water to both the east and west of our place. I love water and have always been drawn to it, and living on the island, I look at the river almost every single day. I walk along it, sit on the dock and dangle my toes in it, and just sit contentedly to look at it. But finally, this spring, I realized a long-term dream for my own boat: I got a simple little kayak. I have to admit, I was a little worried that I might like the *idea* of kayaking a lot more than I liked actual kayaking. But, it turns out I love it even more than I ever expected I would.

    Having finally acquired a boat, I needed to figure out a way to get it to the water, and it seemed silly to drive such a short distance. So I also invested in a little wheely rt to go along with my kayak so I could walk to put it in the water. In theory, it’s wonderful: I n put in at one spot, wheels tied to the back of the kayak, and get out wherever I like, and drag the kayak back home behind me. However, the first few outings were a little less than ideal until I figured out the trick of not having the wheels collapse and divest themselves of the kayak every couple hundred steps. One of these days I’ll post a video to show how I finally figured it out, beuse nothing I found online seemed to help. I’ve got the hang of it now, but it certainly took longer to get the knack of the wheely rt than it did paddling the kayak!

    My friend Yvonne snapped this photo of me taking my kayak for a walk after we went paddling together one morning.

    woman pulling kayak on a wheeled rt

    I thought it would be fun to share some of the things I discovered poking about the neighbourhood with my kayak, as from the looks of the waterways lately more than 50% of the population has ALSO decided that this, the year of the COVID, is indeed the ideal year to get a kayak / SUP / noe. I spent a while googling information on whether you could paddle the back channel and didn’t find much, so this one is for a future kayaker wondering the same thing!

    As I mentioned, Long Island splits the Rideau River into the main channel to the east of Manotick and what’s known as the back channel to the west of the island. Coming from the south, you n go part way up the west channel (moving toward Ottawa) until you get to the weir at Watson’s Mill. This is a lovely area known as Mahogany Bay, and they’ve just installed a public dock that’s perfect for personal watercraft and swimming up a bit from the Mill.

    After the weir, the back channel continues on parallel to Rideau Valley Drive for a bit, where the weir near the Long Island Locks also dumps into it. It then continues on past Nicholl’s Island and joins back up with the main channel at the base of the Long Island Locks.

    shallow water in the back channel of the Rideau near Manotick

    I knew the back channel was shallow in spots, but I also know that a kayak doesn’t need a lot of depth, so one sunny Saturday morning in early summer I set off from the “Duck Lot” launch kitty-corner from the base of the Mill. It was shallow and I could see an impressive number of huge boulders in the clear water but I got a ways down before I actually managed to wedge myself on one. Perhaps a more agile kayaker could have avoided them, but I had anticipated something like this might happen and just stepped out of the kayak to drag it for a bit of a hike through the knee-deep water and around the worst of the rocks. The water beme deep again and it was pleasant paddling on the slow-moving water, and very peaceful save for the sounds of traffic on the road on the other side of the trees. I was surprised that many of the homes were completely obscured from the waterfront by trees, as most of the lots on the main channel are fully exposed to the banks.

    A turtle on a rock in the Rideau River

    A northern map turtle, basking in the sun.

    I encountered a few more shallow spots, what might have even been Class I rapids, and got stuck again, but was able to wiggle myself off the boulder. But mostly, it was a very pleasant paddle. There’s a bit more wildlife in the quiet back channel than in the main channel, and I saw several turtles sunning themselves. Unfortunately, there’s really nowhere to get off the river except down near the dog park, on the far side of the bridge that turns from Maclean to Barnsdale, and it’s quite rocky there. When the water is a little higher, I’d like to continue on down past the north end of Long Island and around Nicholl’s Island. As it was, I went for the partial circumnavigation and pulled my kayak out, hauled it across the dog park on my wheely rt, and put back in on the main channel side, to the delight of several dogs taking a dip. One cute little French bulldog tried to hop right into the kayak with me as I pushed off. Pro tip: the water access at the dog park is quite crowded with wet doggos on a sunny Saturday morning!

    So, while you n in theory paddle the back channel from the Mill to the dog park (formally known as David Bartlett Park) I’d suggest you choose a day when the river levels in the channel are high.

    I’ll have another post with places you n put your kayak in and out from the main channel in another post. Any other lols re to weigh in with tips for personal watercraft around Manotick?


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    In which she shares her secret passion – for tarot rds!

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    I have been a fan of Ottawa’s Andrew King for a long time. He’s a talented painter with a delightful whimsil streak, but he also loves Ottawa’s quirky side as much – if not more! – than I do. His Twitter feed and Ottawa Rewind blog (and book!) are a constant source of delight. I […]

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    I turned 50 back in August, and for my birthday I asked for some supplies to re-learn how to knit. I wanted to take up knitting for a handful of reasons, but mostly it was to have something other than mindlessly surfing screens in my downtime, and beuse I have always been a maker. I […]

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