Birth of Upper Rideau Lake

The highest elevation in the Rideau Canal system occurs at Rideau Lake. From there, the Rideau River flows towards Bytown while the Cataraqui River receives its water from lakes and streams that flow towards Kingston. At first, Lieutenant-Colonel John By saw the large lake as a natural reservoir that could be easily tapped at each end, but when labour costs on a nearby stretch of canal began to spiral out of control, he had to look for a way to save time and money. His radical solution was to divide the big lake in two.

A decade after this channel was completed, Thomas Burrowes painted a scene that barely hints of the misery this stretch of canal inflicted on its builders. The banks of the waterway are littered with the rubble that had been removed by pick axe and blasting powder by hundreds of men who were trying to artificially connect two major riversheds.

 

Narrows Lock cut historicalRocky cut at the Isthmus,to join Rideau Lake and the Waters falling into Lake Ontario, looking South, 1841
Watercolour
Thomas Burrowes fonds
Reference Code: C 1-0-0-0-37
Archives of Ontario, I0002156

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