Canal locks and dogs, who knew? Victor, my adventurous terrier, is running along the cement walkway above Ottawa’s historic Rideau Canal as if he has somewhere to be.
Victor’s looking particularly dapper in his handmade cowboy-themed collar and bowtie. Keeping him cute gets us off-leash forgiveness and today even positive attention can’t deter his focus.
For some reason, he’s on a mission in the nation’s capital – a few people reach out a friendly hand but he gives them merely a sideways glance.
Where’s he going?
He has no idea, but he’s tapped into Ottawa’s energy in Ottawa this year. The city’s abuzz with Canada 150 celebrations and hotel prices are high and parking spaces scarce. One hundred and fifty years ago, this country signed a Confederation document establishing its sovereignty from Britain. No revolution necessary. The Queen remained on the money – just ‘cause. (Well, because we’re a constitutional monarchy).
Where are we headed? Rideau Canal Locks 1 to 8
Starting at the Byward Market in Ottawa, Ontario, I’m walking Victor toward Parliament Hill then down the stone staircase to check out the eight most impressive locks (of 24) along the Rideau Canal, a 200km long historic engineering feat that cuts its way through the city.
It’s also a Parks Canada historic site, and it’s the sixth stopped on our yearlong quest to visit as many dog-friendly Parks Canada sites with our Canada 150 Pass as possible. Previously, we’ve been to Pelee National Park and Fort George.
After racing down the steep stone steps – I let Victor go, fearing he’ll pull me head first – we make it to the gardens around the eight-locks that staircases boats, one step at a time, down an elevation.
From the bridge above, there’s a great view of Gatineau, Quebec ahead, the Parliament Buildings on the left and the grand historic (and dog-friendly) Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel on the right.
Designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, the Rideau Canal is actually 202 km (126 miles) long with a series 45 locks and 24 lock stations in total. Opened in 1832, it was an engineering marvel at the time cutting through rocky terrain, connecting Montreal to the Great Lakes, bypassing much of the St. Lawrence River lined with then hostile U.S. neighbours.
The canal was an important transportation route in the 1800s, but now it’s primarily used for recreation – including skating in the winter.
Today, we’re standing near the water at locks one to eight. I keep a close hold on Victor. There’s no barrier between the water and the edge – one paw over the wooden plank and you’re wet. In fact, people are standing on the lock gates to take photos. Victor hates swimming, but falling in is possible… even likely.
The Byward Museum is also here, housed in Ottawa’s oldest building dating back to 1827, and there’s a set of Parks Canada red Muskoka chairs begging for photos.
What’s dog friendly nearby? The Byward Market
Downtown Ottawa is a walking destination, so Victor’s ready to rock.
The grounds around Parliament Hill are expansive, green and easily accessible despite current political/security concerns. Parliament Hill is also a public sculpture park dotted with bronze representations of historical moments – a popular one depicts Canadian suffrage activist holding a decree declaring women persons under the law.
On the other side, beyond the pet-friendly looming castle called the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel, is the Byward Market, the place to peruse when visiting … even President Obama made an unscheduled stop for a cookie during his first official Canadian visit.
Rows of shops, food vendors and outdoor farmers market stalls make this area tourist central – and it’s here you’ll find iconic Beaver Tales (deep fried pastry) and Obama Cookies. Yes, the bakery is still capitalizing on that, though I suspect there’ll be no Trump cookies.
Victor meandered through stalls easily, eliciting admiring comments and a few pats, and stopping at the wine store’s water bowl.
Also, the Quebec-based La Masion Simons department store in the adjacent Rideau Centre shopping mall had no issue with Victor and me roaming every floor to cool off and yes, shop. I love Simons.
Victor, however, preferred racing along the canal.
Been to Ottawa with the dog? Please share your experience in ‘comments.’