World’s Longest Skating Rink!

English: Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada, Janua...
English: Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada, January 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Rideau Canal between the Ottawa River and Lake Ontario is now used only by pleasure boats.  The lift from the Ottawa River to the canal is through a series of picturesque locks between the Parliament Buildings and the Château Laurier Hotel.  The first stone of one of the locks was laid by Sir John Franklin, the famous explorer.

The project that eventually led to the building of the Rideau Canal began on September 29, 1783, immediately after the end of the American Revolutionary War.  British military leaders wanted a route from the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario that would not be exposed to the American border.  Lieutenants Jones and French were assigned to survey what was ten wild territory and reported that a canal was possible by using the Rideau River and a chain of lakes.

Nothing was done until after the War of 1812, when the building of the canal again became an issue.  In 1824, Upper Canada became impatient with the delay and had another survey made by Samuel Clewes.  The British Government offered to lend upper Canada £70,000 to build the canal, but Upper Canada would not go through with it.  In 1826, the British Government sent Colonel John By to build the canal.  he built the eight locks up the steep cliff from the Ottawa River and reserved the land on either side for military purposes.

By coincidence, the opening ceremonies for the building of the canal in 1827 were on the same date that Jones and French began their survey, September 29.  People came from near and far, on foot, in canoes and by ox-teams.  It was an Indian summer: the forests were rich in colour, with scarlet maples and golden birches.  During the opening ceremony, where Governor Dalhousie turned the first sod, frogs in nearby marshes provided their “musical” accompaniment.  The first steamer, Rideau, made the journey from Kingston to Bytown in 1832.  The route was busy until nearly 1900 when railways made it unnecessary.

However, it becomes the “World’s Longest Skating Rink” in the winter!

The Rideau Canal is amazing, as is its beginning.  To learn more about it, I suggest going to the Rideau Canal World Heritage site, the Bytown Museum, the Canadian Encyclopedia, the Parks Canada. If you would like to take a holiday in Ottawa, then I would suggest clicking your way to Ottawa Tourism!



    It’s only 200 km (124.3 or so miles) long, but the occasional Elfstedentocht, a race held in The Netherlands only when the whole route is frozen over, follows waterways and canals through Friesland.

    Last year almost was cold enough, but the 1997 race was the last one held, thanks to a really cold winter. Once, in 1940 through 1942, three consecutive races were possible, thanks to bitter cold. (Remember, Nazi Germany occupied The Netherlands in May of 1940 till the very end of the war- it was, perhaps, Providence’s way of giving the skate-enthusiastic Dutch something to cheer about!)

    In 1985-6, I think it was, was the only other time the Elfstedentocht could be held consecutively.

    The whole country participates by television, by lining the route, by skating in the race (from children through seniors!): It is BIG! The route links 11 towns (the elf+steden part of the name, which translates as “eleven cities tour”).

    It’s been held only 15 times since the first one in 1909 (I think it is…I should google it!), and my Amsterdammer friends were especially excited last year when it almost was cold enough for the Elfstedentocht.

    I note that the Canadian “skating rink” is slightly longer, but I bet only a Stanley Cup championship series unites you to a degree a good old Elfstedentocht unites the Dutch. Heck, even the royals come out to cheer in the cold!


    • Yes, you are probably right about the Stanley Cup championship uniting. When it’s cold enough, the skating rink/canal is quite the “place to be”! But it shounds like Elfstedentocht is quite the event!




    • I’d say for the past few years it hasn’t been good for skating for too long because our winters have been getting mild, so if you do come to Ottawa, you might want to check out the status … it’s worth it, though! 🙂


Let me know what's on your mind

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.