Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada

Submerged Cultural Resources Inventory
Parks Canada marine archaeologist Ryan Harris surveys a wreck in Big Rideau Lake.
©Parks Canada

Submerged Cultural Resources Inventory

Two rivers and over a dozen lakes are connected to form the Rideau Canal, which covers an area hundreds of square kilometers in size. Thousands of years before the construction of the canal, the Rideau and Cataraqui Rivers and the various lakes in between were plied by First Nations peoples using canoes for fishing, hunting and travelling between Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River; habitation sites dotted the shoreline. European settlement of the Rideau-Cataraqui corridor was sparse until the completion of the canal in 1832, which allowed direct navigation by steam vessels between Kingston and Bytown (present day Ottawa). Soon more farms, settlements, and mills sprouted along the canal. Until recently, we knew very little about the extent to which traces of this past human activity survived under the water's surface.

In 1998 a team of underwater archaeologists from Parks Canada launched a systematic underwater survey of the Rideau Canal. Our first step has been to assemble a resource inventory to gain an understanding of the number, location, and type of sites preserved underwater. We have conducted research in archives, used sophisticated underwater searching equipment, and employed S.C.U.B.A. diving over the last five years to assemble the inventory. Along the way we have also gained insights from local residents, researchers, canal staff, fishermen, and boaters.

Many different types of underwater archaeological sites have been found. Some shipwrecks, including examples of barges, scows, and steamers have been explored and documented. Old docks, wharves and bridges are also scattered along the shores of the canal. We have also examined vast tracts of land once covered by trees which were flooded by the construction of the canal. Engineering structures which were once part of the canal infrastructure were also found underwater, such as old dams. Industrial sites, including mills and mines have also left visible remains. Collectively these sites are referred to as submerged cultural resources and they all tell us a great deal about the history of the canal. It is Parks Canada's duty to protect and manage them for the benefit of the today's public and for future generations. For further information regarding this project, please contact:

Jonathan Moore
Underwater Archaeologist
Underwater Archaeology Service
Parks Canada Agency
1800 Walkley Road
Ottawa, ON Canada K1A 0M5

Telephone : (613) 993-2125
Fax : (613) 993-9796
Email : jonathan.moore@pc.gc.ca