The Rideau Canal – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

On June 27, 2007, at its 31st Session, the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee inscribed the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site to the World Heritage List. The Rideau Canal now joins a very select group of exceptional cultural and natural icons.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is either a natural or cultural place of sufficient importance to be the responsibility of the international community as a whole. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located. The Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Taj Mahal in India are a few examples of sites that are considered to be of outstanding universal value by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). There are currently 830 sites of cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value inscribed on the World Heritage List.

The Canal’s designation is of particular importance due to the fact that it is the first World Heritage Site in Ontario. Officially opened to navigation in 1832, the canal is the best-preserved “slackwater” canal in North America. The Rideau is the only canal from the great 19th century canal-building era that still operates along its original route and with most of its original structures intact. This engineering marvel and the fortifications built at Kingston to protect it illustrate a globally important stage in human history- that of the fight to control the north of the American continent.

The year 2007 marked a very special anniversary in Eastern Ontario, the 175th anniversary of the opening of the Rideau Canal (1832-2007). The year featured hundreds of celebrations of the culture, heritage and uniqueness of this national historic site and the communities through which it passes. From books to monuments, many Rideau 175 legacies have been left along the Rideau Corridor.

Over the next five years Parks Canada, which owns and operates the Rideau Canal, will be investing $20 million to conserve and safeguard the historic assets in the Rideau Heritage Corridor and replace some of its aging visitor facilities. As part of this plan, Parks Canada’s approach has been to work with some of its community partners to revamp some of their current exhibits. The intent behind this project is to enhance visitor experience and celebrate and communicate the importance of the Rideau Canal to all Canadians.

Parks Canada has been an active and valuable partner of the Smiths Falls & District Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber would like to applaud the team at Parks Canada for their dedication to the preservation and presentation of the Rideau Canal in our community. It truly is an honour for Smiths Falls to be situated at the Heart of the Rideau!

Victoria Park

Enjoy your stay alongside the newest UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Smiths Falls & District Chamber of Commerce invites you to enjoy a bit of relaxation this summer in the HEART of the Rideau.

Victoria Park Campground and Boat Docks alongside the Rideau Canal offer a number of services for visitors. The Park is conveniently located just steps from downtown where sensational restaurants, pubs, gift shops, three museums, wireless internet venues, banks, shopping are all within a leisurely stroll. From the comfort of their RVs, boats or tents guests can gaze across the Rideau to the 100,000 blooms in Centennial Park or take in one of the many memorable festivals and celebrations that are hosted there.

From opening day on the May long weekend until the Canal closes on Thanksgiving weekend in October, onsite facilities for visitors include: 30 Amp electrical hook-up; running water, sewage pump-out station; laundry & shower facilities; boat tie-ups; finger docks; playground and wading pool; tourist information center; ice. Day, weekly and seasonal rate packages are available.

Word about the popularity of Victoria Park, its wonderful location and the park’s friendly, helpful staff is spreading quickly so reservations are recommended. During the summer season, campers and boaters can call ahead to book a spot by calling 613-283-5112. Payments can be made by Visa, MasterCard, debit card or cash. Victoria Park is closed for overnight visitors when the Canal closes for the winter season. From October to May, reservations can be made by calling the Smiths Falls & District Chamber of Commerce at 613-283-1334 or 1-800-257-1334.

Come find out why we are called the HEART of the Rideau Canal.

Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario

The Canadian Northern Railway Station in Smiths Falls was officially opened in 1914. Construction began in 1912. The building was to serve as a model of the company’s high architectural standards and featured a decorative turret and expansive main waiting room, with adjoining men’s smoking room and ladies waiting room. It was a design of grand scale considering the relatively small population of Smiths Falls at the time.

For most of its life, Canadian National Railways operated the station. Traffic through the station included passengers en route to Toronto and Ottawa as well as mail and express shipments. There were in fact two train stations in Smiths Falls so traffic was never heavy. The last passenger train through the station was in 1979.

The Smiths Falls Railway Museum Corporation acquired the building in 1983. Work began in 1985 to transform the building. Volunteers worked tirelessly to restore the facility to its current glory.

Today the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario undertakes the preservation of its collection of heritage railway buildings, locomotives, rolling stock and smaller railway artifacts. Over the last 20 years the Museum has been entrusted with railroad collections from hundreds of donors from Canada and beyond.

The Museum is successfully operated by several faithful volunteers. They welcome individuals, schools and tour groups throughout the summer. Each year the Museum participates in celebrations and special events such as the Smiths Falls Chocolate & Railway Festival. The Board and volunteers invite you to join in the fun. Visit the museums website  for more information.

90 William Street
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
7 days a week
May 14 to Labour Day

(613) 283-5696

History of the Rideau Canal Museum

Of the many historic buildings in Smiths Falls of interest to canal travellers are the buildings on the North end of Jason Island that house the Rideau Canal Museum and the Rideau Canal Office of Parks Canada. The original building on this site was a mill, erected in about 1830 by Abel Russell Ward to replace his original mill that was taken down to make way for the canal works. In 1852, Ward built a new gristmill and in 1868 he also built an oatmeal mill. In 1880, Alexander Wood bought the mills, and in 1887 he rebuilt the gristmill in stone. By 1924, the complex known as Wood’s Mills ceased operation. The Town of Smiths Falls acquired the complex when the Water Works Commission purchased it. It was sometime during this period that the granary attached to the mill either burned down, or was torn down. In 1981, Parks Canada purchased the property, which was housing offices and an apartment complex, from Smiths Falls’ resident David James. A four million dollar restoration of the complex, including rebuilding the granary, was launched in 1989. The museum was officially opened to the public in August 1991.

The Parks Canada Rideau Canal headquarters moved from Ottawa to Smiths Falls in about 1973. In 1991 Parks Canada moved into their new offices in a portion of the restored Wood’s Mill Complex while the Rideau Canal Museum is housed in the granary and the stone building.

Update 2013

Opening for the 2013 season not as the Rideau Canal Musuem, now called the Rideau Canal Visitor Centre. An interactive visitor centre that explaines the workings of the Rideu Canal. Closed for the season in early September.

Heritage House Museum

Heritage House is situated in a picturesque area of the Rideau Canal and is a restored classically styled Victorian home depicting the life style of an upper middle class family living in Smiths Falls around 1867 to 1875.

Built in 1860-1861 by Joshua Bates, the house is located near the Rideau River where he built two mills, a gristmill and woolen mill that were powered by Old Slys Rapids.

A visit to Heritage House includes a tour of 7 period rooms furnished to depict the lifestyle of the times. The museum’s unique mirror-image facades, indoor brick bake oven and two-story privy preserve an atmosphere of the past in the once derelict house.

Enjoy a picnic near our gardens or take a short stroll through parkland to the Rideau Canal and Old Slys Lock station.

Presented year round are changing exhibitions and art shows, a variety of special events, workshops and school and children’s programs. Also available are meeting space rentals, gift shop and a Victoria setting for wedding photos.

Heritage House Museum is also the home of the Lanark County Genealogical Society Reference Library.

11 Old Sly’s Rd,
Smiths Falls

Hours: Open Year Round
May 1 to December 21 Open daily, 10:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m;
January 2 to April 30 open Monday – Friday 10:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m

Phone: 613-283-6311






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