Circumnavigating Sandy Hill by canoe and kayak

On September 9, David Dyment and Jane Gurr of Range Rd., with Lola their dog, were ready for the Carleton portage after the first leg of a 7-hour paddle around the “island” of central Ottawa.   Photo Jan Meldrum

Diane Beckett

If you live in Sandy Hill, you live on an island. Rideau Island, which is formed by the Rideau Canal, Rideau River and Ottawa River.

On a fine Saturday in early September, neighbours from the various communities—Lowertown, Sandy Hill, Old Ottawa East and Old Ottawa South— that share space on this wonderful piece of world, got together and circumnavigated the island. It was seven wonderful hours of paddling and portaging that started and ended right at my own door step. The event was arranged by the Ottawa East Community Association as a Canada 150 celebration.

I pulled my kayak on my little cart through my neighbourhood to the canal and kayaked south to the base of the locks at Hogs Back—where the river and the canal split and become two, creating the southern end of Rideau Island.

We portaged across the Carleton University campus and put in near the base of the Hogs Back Falls on the Rideau River. We paddled down river to Rideau Falls where the small Rideau enters the mighty Ottawa. As water levels were uncharacteristically high on the Rideau River, we didn’t have to portage or line our boats around the rapids or over ledges and rocks.

We portaged around Rideau Falls, past the Governor General’s and Prime Minister’s residences and put in on the Ottawa River right beside the Prime Minister`s residence. We canoed upstream to the locks where the Rideau Canal enters the Ottawa River, portaged up the long steep hill and put our boats back in the canal. We each pulled out of the canal at different places nearest our homes.

Much of the trip was along forested banks on the rivers and parks along the canal, as Ottawa has worked to maintain a connection to nature along its waterways. Often, on the Rideau River, the only sign of the city is the noise and a few distant tall buildings peeking over the trees. It was quite a spectacular trip celebrating community, nature and history.