Upper Rideau Lake, Ontario, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Ontario -

Also known as:  Rideau Lakes

Upper Rideau Lake holds a prominent place in Ontario’s ‘other Cottage Country’. Although many think of the area around Lake Muskoka as Eastern Canada’s vacation playground, serious boaters all know about Upper Rideau Lake. A marvel of early 1800s ingenuity, the Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal in North America. Upper Rideau Lake lies just about midway along the route of the canal, which connects Ottawa and Kingston. The waterway opened in 1832, leading to the area’s increase in population by opening a route to what was called ‘Upper Canada’. Upper Rideau Lake holds the distinction of actually being the western half of a large lake that was split into two water bodies by building the canal. A lock and dam separate Upper Rideau Lake and Big Rideau Lake at The Narrows. The waterway has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Much of the area around Upper Rideau Lake is a part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve.

Upper Rideau Lake is excellent for water sports. Sailing, water skiing, house boating and windsurfing are favorite summer activities. The many inlets and bays draw paddlers with canoes and kayaks where they can view wildlife along the wooded shoreline. The view of the high rocky granite cliffs to the north from the lake is spectacular. Fishing draws sportsmen to Upper Rideau Lake both summer and winter. Northern pike, yellow pickerel, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, burbot and rock bass are caught in the lake. Some areas are off-limits certain parts of the year as a fish conservation measure. All prospective fishermen need to check local fish and game regulations as some areas are open one year and closed the next due to water conditions and spawning needs. Although most Rideau Waterway fish are safe to eat in large amounts, guidelines should be consulted for recommendations. In winter, ice fishing in the shallow bays, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling provide entertainment for the cold-hardy native and visitor.

Upper Rideau Lake has one town at the west end of the lake and many small settlements and groupings of cottages along the rest of the shoreline. The settlement of Westport originated in 1828 when the first dam was built on the lake. The dam was used to power a mill at the point where Sand Lake ran into Rideau Lake. A succession of mills and associated businesses made the settlement a growing concern even before the completion of the Rideau Canal. In 1904 the village became a self-governing municipality with all the amenities needed to welcome waterway travelers and vacationers who came by car. Today, Westport Harbor provides all amenities necessary for boaters including fuel, slips, shore power, picnic tables, barbecue grills and boat service. Groceries and shopping are available in the village within walking distance. Westport has golf courses and swimming beaches for visitors to enjoy. The Rideau Valley Art Festival is held annually in Westport, and many artists call Westport home; there are many local artists who are pleased to welcome browsers to their shops and studios. There is no public transportation in Westport. Just east along the shore, the Foley Mountain Conservation Area provides hiking trails and a spectacular view of the region. The Rideau Trail, extending from Kingston to Ottawa, runs through the conservation area. Several campgrounds and RV parks are located along the shore, with at least one additional marina located near the Narrows Lock and Dam. Westport itself has a variety of vacation rentals close to town, including inns, hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts and private lakefront and forest cottages.

The entire 125-mile canal system is open to boats less than 90 feet long, provided that their draft is less than five feet. Only about 12 miles of the canal are man-made; the rest utilizes several lakes and the improved courses of the Rideau and Cataraqui Rivers. The waterway was built by the British between 1826 and 1832 to provide a transportation route between Ottawa and Kingston, thus avoiding possible blockage by hostile United States forces on the St. Lawrence River. The entire system contains 47 individual locks, all operated independently. Most of the original locks are still in use. The Canal never needed to be used for security purposes, but became a popular route for settlers to access the interior of the province. Via the Rideau Canal, boaters can sail from the Ottawa River to the St Lawrence River. The waterway is extremely popular, meandering through a succession of lakes and stretches of river. Most lock stations have docking space and rest rooms. Some provide camping and picnic areas also.

The town of Newboro, at the canal’s northern entrance to Newboro Lake, is considered the home of the Rideau canal system. A short stretch of canal brings boaters from McNally Bay on Upper Rideau Lake south to Newboro Lake. This canal was the cause of the unprecedented lock and dam across Rideau Lake: At the Narrows, the Canal’s builder Captain By was forced to dam Rideau Lake to raise water levels on Upper Rideau Lake and points south. Faced with hard bedrock and crews sick with malaria, Captain By managed to ease canal construction into Newboro Lake and forever created two lakes in place of one. Here at Newboro is the dividing line for the two river drainages, with Rideau to the north and Cataraqui to the south. The elevation drop from Newboro north to Ottawa is 318 feet, and the drop south to Kingston is 430 feet.

Visitors need not arrive at Upper Rideau Lake by water. Several improved highways can be taken to Upper Rideau Lake from both Ottawa and Kingston. The Rideau Heritage Route loops through the Rideau Corridor, passing through Westport on its way to Ottawa. The Rideau and Cataraqui Trails wander through the corridor, providing hiking space through some of Ontario’s most beautiful country. Vacation rentals are plentiful along the lakeshore. Most are private homes and provide canoes or small boats for vacationers to use during their stay. Real estate is always available somewhere on the lake, usually existing cottages or cabins. Many families reserve the same cottage year after year, thus making Upper Rideau ‘their’ lake. You’ll want to make it yours, too. Come and listen to the peaceful nature sounds at dawn. You’ll never want to leave.

Things to do at Upper Rideau Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Playground
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Upper Rideau Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Burbot
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pickerel
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Yellow Perch

Upper Rideau Lake Photo Gallery

Upper Rideau Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Parks Canada

Surface Area: 3,366 acres

Shoreline Length: 25 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 407 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 406 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 409 feet

Average Depth: 26 feet

Maximum Depth: 72 feet

Water Volume: 88,965 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1832

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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