Ottawa Locks UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Rideau Canal

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On my recent solo trip to Ottawa I visited the Ottawa Locks on the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A series of eight locks allow boats to travel between the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal with a total lift of 79 feet.

Located between Parliament Hill and the Chateau Laurier Hotel, the Ottawa Locks are an interesting attraction. The longest continuously operated canal system in North America is the Rideau Canal and the locks are part of this system.

Ottawa Locks UNESCO World Heritage Site - 8 locks viewed from Wellington Street

Ottawa Locks view from Wellington Street – Ottawa River and Gatineau Quebec


My first full day in Ottawa I walked past the locks while in search of food and beer after taking in a free tour at Parliament Hill. I made a point to visit again when I walked from Wellington West neighborhood to Dows Lake and along the Rideau Canal to finish up at the Ottawa Locks. It was a wonderful walk.


Ottawa Lock UNESCO World Heritage Site Rideau Canal - hand operated since 1832

Ottawa locks are operated manually just as they were since 1832


Open from mid-May to mid-October the Ottawa Locks are still operated by hand, same as when operations began in 1832.

The construction of the Rideau Canal is a direct result of the War of 1812. During the war the Saint Lawrence River, in jeopardy of being used by the United States to invade Canada needed security. Of course at the time Canada was a British colony known as Upper Canada.


Happy face balloon - Ottawa Locks - Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site

Happy face balloon stuck in the Ottawa Locks – but still smiling


The northern entrance to the Rideau Canal is the Ottawa River and boats can travel 202 km all the way to the shores of Lake Ontario and Kingston, the former national capital of the Province of Canada. Apparently another war brought about the desire to combine Upper Canada and Lower Canada under the unified name Province of Canada.


Canoe locking through 8 locks Rideau Canal

Canoe locking through Ottawa Locks on Rideau Canal


The Ottawa Locks is the largest flight of locks on the Rideau Canal. It takes around 1.5 hours for a vessel to lock through all eight locks.


Ottawa Locks UNESCO World Heritage Site Rideau Canal - 202 km from Ottawa to Kingston

Canoe passing through the Ottawa Locks – Rideau Canal


It takes an average of 1.3 million litres (343,000 US gallons) of water for each lock lift, approximately 10 feet.


Between Parliament Hill and Chateau Laurier visit Ottawa Locks - Rideau Canal

Lock chamber filling with water – Rideau Canal Ottawa Locks


I didn’t realize it at first but when the lock gate closes you can walk across the top of the lock gate to the other side of the canal. Or just stand atop the gate and watch the water fill the lock chamber.


Rideau Canal - standing atop the Ottawa Locks

Ottawa Locks – watching the lock chamber fill up with water


I walked down to the end of the 8 locks and enjoyed a great view of the Ottawa River. Gatineau Quebec is just across the river. Before my trip to Ottawa I envisioned walking across the bridge to Gatineau but never got around to it on this trip.


In between Chateau Laurier and Parliament Hill - Ottawa Locks Rideau Canal

Chateau Laurier on left of the locks and ByTown Museum on right


Ottawa Locks on the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site is definitely worth a visit.


Ottawa Locks info


3 Canal Lane, Ottawa

Phone Number



Hours change depending on season.

Summer hours: Monday – Thursday 9 am – 6 pm and Friday – Sunday 9 am – 7 pm

Admission Cost


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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling solo around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 5 of a solo road trip around the USA and Canada, living a nomadic life, and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

9 Replies

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  1. Way cool. I was by some locks near Toronto a couple years ago.


  2. Diane Westwell says:

    That was most interesting Susan something I didn’t know about the locks flowing in to the lake, brave of the canoeist to paddle through there, he looked so tiny!
    Love the painted toe nails,
    Best wishes,

  3. Reader Wil says:

    I have always been fascinated by locks! Especially those locks which can take ships up to a height of almost 26 meters.
    Have a great week!

  4. I didn’t realise they were a world heritage site, and would love to visit them now!

    • The locks are part of the Rideau Canal which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was added in 2007. There are so many interesting sites close to the Ottawa Locks as well – I highly recommend a visit to Ottawa.

  5. ellen b says:

    Looks like a great Lock system. We enjoyed the smaller locks in England, too, where we helped open some…

  6. Yogi says:

    Well that is totally cool. I had never heard of such a thing.
    I would think it would be rather tedious in a canoe though.

  7. Laurie Kazmierczak says:

    Wonderful feat of engineering…lovely series♪

  8. Joy says:

    I love walking by canals, there is always something going on either on the paths or on the water. Amazing flight of locks and interesting history.

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