Ottawa Locks UNESCO World Heritage Site

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 locks are part of the Rideau Canal – the longest continuously operated canal system in North America.

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, just as they were when operations began in 1832. The construction of the Rideau Canal was a result of the War of 1812. During the war the Saint Lawrence River was in jeopardy of being used by the United States to invade Canada. Of course at that time it was a British colony known as Upper Canada and things were a lot different then – no Tim Horton’s coffee shops for instance.

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. 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. Okay I didn’t know that until now and I’m Canadian so do not feel bad if you had no idea either.

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 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 is closed one 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 had envisioned walking across the bridge to Gatineau but I never got around to it on this trip.

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

Ottawa Locks – Chateau Laurier on left and ByTown Museum on right

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

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Practical Information:

Address: 3 Canal Lane, Ottawa
Phone Number: +1-(613)-283-5170
Hours: Hours change depending on season. Summer hours: Monday – Thursday 9AM – 6PM; Friday – Sunday 9AM -7PM
Admission Cost: FREE

About the Author

Susan Moore's first solo travel experience was traveling around SE Asia for 7 months in 1993. It was life changing and extraordinary. Currently Susan is living a nomadic life, working and roadtripping around the USA and Canada. You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter


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  1. 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,

  2. Roger Green says:

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


  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!
    Wil, ABCW Team

  4. Dave Briggs says:

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

    • Susan Moore says:

      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. 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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