Immediately after the opening of the Rideau Canal in 1832 passenger and freight boats plied the canal between Ottawa and Kingston, a 220 km distance. The most magnificent passenger boat was the Rideau King, built in 1890 by the Davis Dry Dock Company of Kingston. She had electric lighting and steam space heating, and many other modern conveniences.  The dining room was beautifully appointed and throughout the interior was finished in white and gold paint and fabrics.

RideauKing Jones Falls large file cleaned in paint

The Rideau King leaving Jones Falls on her way to Kingston Mills and the City of Kingston.

Photo credit: The Kennedy family, Jones Falls, ON.


And below she leaves Chaffey Locks? Note the work boat at the left, the two men look like canal officials. From: Archives Canada.

can  rideau king  locks


The Rideau Queen, built by the Davis Dry Dock Company of Kingston, on the Rideau Canal between Ottawa and Kingston, near Chaffey’s Locks.

can arch rideau queennear chaffeys  locks


can queen ki locks arch of ontario marsden kemp 1898-1902

The Rideau Queen in the locks at Kingston Mills,just south of  the earlier CPR railway bridge. The span of the bridge is much narrower than the current bridge. 

Note the lady; is she one of the passengers who was allowed off the boat to see her locked through? She would be able to go back on board at the lowest lock. Another lady is descending the stone stairway while the lock-master and his assistants are positioned on the top of the lock-chamber door beams.

The dining room of the Rideau Queen

ki mi dining room  ri queen


Other boats on the Rideau.

The steam driven paddle wheel ferry Hunter on Lake Opinicon,.  Water colour by Burrowes, circa 1856. Archives Ontario.

 kingston mills burrowes hunter paddle wheel

ki mi paddle wheel

A model of the steamboat Hunter, a frequent sight on the Rideau Canal in the mid 1800-s.  Model is on display in Lockmaster’s Museum Kingston Mills.


kingston mills burrowes barges 1840

Barges transporting workers and other passengers at Davis Mills Lock to meet the steamboat “Bytown”. Watercolour by Burrowes, 1840. 

During periods of high immigration, passenger traffic on the waterway reached astronomical heights, peaking at 89,562 in 1847, and commercial shipping flourished for a time. Archives Ontario.


kingston mills burrowes 1834 rideau lake steamer arch ontario

A steamboat on Rideau Lake at Olver’s Ferry, now Rideau Ferry, steaming north to Bytown, now Ottawa. Water colour by Burrowes,  1834,  only two years after the opening of the Rideau Canal in 1832.


ki mi drowned land sketch 1844 george seaton lib arch can

The canal through drowned land, near Kingston Mills on Colonel By Lake one of the two largest land areas that were drowned when the canal opened in 1832. This area was flooded by raising the water above Kingston Mills 29 feet of almost 9 meters which made it navigable all the way up to Lower Brewers Mills,  a distance of almost 10 miles or 16 kilometers.

The stands of dead trees must have been a depressing sight, however herons and other predators of fish, and beaver flourished in this man-made habitat. 

The dead tree stumps that still litter the shallow water outside the main canal are the remnants of this period. One can see from the  trunk size of these “dead-heads” how majestic the full grown forests must have been.

Because the Rideau Canal opened up vast areas of forest the lumber trade flourished and there is no original forest left anywhere in these areas.


Thomas Burrowes fonds
Reference Code: C 1-0-0-074
Archives of Ontario, I0002193

What By had not predicted was the success of the lumber trade. His canal opened up rich virgin forests that were quickly leased and cut. By the mid-1830s, the Rideau was choked with floating log booms heading both to the mills of Bytown and to the United States by way of Kingston. In 16 years (1834 to 1850), the locks at The Narrows collected tolls on 382 barrels of flour, 22,000 bushels of wheat, 1.5 million feet of oak and 10,000 sawlogs. Thomas Burrowes showed some of the effects of logging in an 1856 painting of Kingston Mills, where the artist lived after his retirement. In it, he illustrated logs floating on the river near a mill, while others are piled beside the road that runs between Montreal and Kingston.


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5 thoughts on “BOATS ON THE RIDEAU

  1. Captain George Davis had the steam ships Victoria 1 and 2, the Antelope and? Do you have any photographs?
    Thank you in advance,
    I am his grandson, Keith Davis


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