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Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada

Boating Safely

Available Information

PDFBoating Safely Guide (1.66 MB)

Q: What is the "Boating Safely" Campaign?

A: Parks Canada's goal is to educate boaters on the reasons why it is important to reduce speed, respect speed limits and watch their wake at all times.

The Watch Your Wake tagline is being used by many organizations to promote good boating safely habits. The logo that Parks Canada uses was created specifically for the "Boating Safely" Campaign.

Q: Who are Parks Canada's partners?

  • The Ontario Provincial Police
  • The Ottawa Police Service
  • Friends of the Rideau
  • Ontario Marine Operators Association
  • Canadian Power and Sail Squadron
  • Transport Canada

Q: Why has Parks Canada decided to launch the "Boating Safely" Campaign?

Issues with wash/ wake and speed are not new. However, over the past few years, Parks Canada has received an increased number of complaints from concerned boaters and other Rideau Canal recreational users regarding excessive wake and speed along the waterway.

In an effort to protect the wildlife, reduce shoreline erosion and offer safe and high quality experiences to visitors that choose to enjoy and use the Rideau Canal, Parks Canada has decided to take action.

Q: What is wake and wash?

A: A wake is a disturbed column of water around and behind a pleasure craft as it makes its way through water.

A wash is a specific component of the wake consisting of loose and broken water. It includes water thrown aft by the propeller and the waves that roll off the side of the boat.

What is immediately on the surface after your boat passes it easy to see but there is also danger underneath your boat.

Drawdown caused by all boats, especially in narrow channels, can be more damaging than surface wash.

Q: Why is it important for boaters to watch their wake?

A: We all wish to enjoy the Rideau Canal in our own way. All of us have the responsibility to ensure that others have the ability to enjoy the waterway to its fullest.

Excessive wakes can endanger swimmers, canoeists and kayakers as well as aquatic and terrestrial animals. It can also damage property (watercrafts, docks etc) and contribute to excessive erosion. Responsible visitor behaviour is essential in protecting the ecology and the history of the Rideau Canal so it can remain intact and strong into the future.

Q: How can my wake endanger other recreational users?

A: Wake may endanger swimmers, fishermen or other recreational users along the shoreline.
It can rock, swamp or overturn boats. Passengers might be thrown off balance or overboard, leading to serious injury.

Q: Have people been killed on the Rideau Canal because of excessive wakes?

A: Luckily, no one has died from excessive wake on the Rideau but it did cause some misfortune to some recreational users.

"... I had concern for my safety in the canoe, where I had little ability to escape their path- most boat captains were unaware of the affect of their wake on small craft…"

"... while repairing our dock, the wash form a fast boat was so violent it threw my husband off his feet onto the dock and he cracked three ribs…"

"... in mid-summer, we were asked to tow a customer's pontoon boat which, while stopped in the water, had been turtled by a quick series of intense washes…"

Boat wake is a major problem on the Rideau Canal and is very dangerous in some areas. The Ottawa Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police and Parks Canada are very concerned with the problem and are working together to inform boaters on the consequences of excessive wakes.

Q: How can my wake kill or endanger aquatic and terrestrial animals?

A: Shoreline erosion caused by excessive wake and wash has many consequences on the environment, including habitat destruction. For example: powerboats can send waves crashing into shorelines, drowning loon nests or endangered species of turtle, like the stinkpots.

Also, sediments caused by shoreline erosion settle to the bottom, silting in fish spawning habitat.

Shoreline erosion increases the sedimentation and the release of nutrients (phosphorous and nitrogen) that promote aquatic vegetation growth.

Q: Aside from the Boating safely campaign, what is Parks Canada doing to protect the natural shoreline?

Parks Canada continues to play a role in protecting natural shorelines through its role on the Rideau Waterfront Development Review Team (RWDRT). The RWDRT is responsible for reviewing applications for shoreline and in-water developments along the Rideau Canal. The RWDRT works to provide advice and guidance to shoreline property owners to help minimize the impact of development on shoreline habitat, and to ensure that the natural and heritage values of the Rideau Canal are protected to be enjoyed by future generations. If you have any questions about protecting your natural shoreline, someone from the Rideau Canal will be glad to offer you advice and direct you to information and resources.

Q: What can I do to protect the natural shoreline?

There is lots you can do! If you are a boater, one of the most important things you can do is keep your wash and wake under control - wash and wake created by boats can have destructive effects on natural shorelines. If you are a shoreline property owner, you could consult with one of the many agencies that can give you guidance, including Parks Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and your local Conservation Authority. There is lots of great information available from these sources in free booklets, pamphlets and brochures. Some of the key things you can do include: maintain a buffer of natural vegetation between your lawn and the waterfront. Avoid the creation of barriers to wildlife movement - turtles and other wildlife may wish to use your shoreline for nesting, but they are not very good at climbing walls! You may also look at re-naturalizing your shoreline. You will want to look at using native plant species that are suitable to your property, and will want to take preventative measures to keep soil and sediments out of the water while you are working.

Q: I heard that Parks Canada was implanting a new enforcement and compliance regime with the help of the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ottawa Police Service. Is that true?

A: Police officers patrolling the canal have always been in a position to charge boaters, under the Contraventions Act, found exceeding the speed limit or endangering the safety of other persons or property.

This summer, Parks Canada employees (on or off the water) will play an active role in the "Boating Safely" campaign. Based on the testimony of front-line staff, police officers may lay charges on boaters who do not respect the law.

Watch Your Wake Zones are now No Wake Zones. When cruising close to the shore, in narrow channels, near other boats or swimmers and docks, boat operators should drive as slowly as possible.

Q: What happens if I get caught being negligent?

A: Pleasure boating on the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site is a privilege. Boaters who display blatant disregard for the safety of others, risk having his or her lockage permit revoked and/ or fined by enforcement authorities.

For example; the fine for failure to comply with a posted sign is $100

Q: What can I do?

A: As you travel, watch behind you. Regardless of the size of your watercraft, you are responsible for your wake.

Be considerate of small vessels such as canoes and kayaks.

Slow down well before meeting and overtaking other boats, posted speed zones and narrow channels. Leave as much room as possible between you and the boats you meet or are passing.

Maintain a proper look-out at all times to avoid emergency manoeuvres.

Q: To whom do I talk to if I have questions or concerns?

A: For more information on the Rideau Canal and the "Boating Safely" campaign please talk to lock operators or contact the Rideau Canal Headquarters by telephone at 613-283-5170 or by e-mail at

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