Rideau Waterway


312 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-2573-0




Reviewed by Claude A. Guldner

Claude A. Guldner is a professor of family studies at the University of


Robert Legget was the first director of the Division of Building Research of the National Research Council of Canada. His architectural and historical background is evident in this well-researched and written account of the Rideau Waterway. This is really a trilogy, in that the book is a biography of Colonel John By, the chief engineer of the Rideau Canal. It is also a history of the building of the canal from Ottawa to Kingston. Finally, it is a detailed description, really a travel guide, to the treasures and pleasures of modern day boating through the canal.

The Rideau Canal was built by the Royal Engineers of Great Britain, essentially for military purposes, but it was never used in that way. John By was sent from England to oversee and expedite its construction. He and his subcontractors overcame many difficulties to achieve their goal, including dense forests, swamps, impossible terrain, illness, and construction setbacks. The canal was formally opened in spring, 1832, taking only six years to build.

Rideau Waterway is a fine account which describes old mills, fieldstone homes and lockhouses, and intricate byways which border the canal. Any travel enthusiast, whether going by car or by boat, will find the book a worthy companion to exploration of the area. The last chapter details the history of Ottawa from its origins as Bytown (named after Colonel By) to its adoption of the name of Ottawa in 1923. John By was nearly forgotten until the last decade when many of the historical mementoes have been resurrected to give more prominence to his important role in the founding of Canada’s capital. The book has an excellent bibliography and a number of appendices including the current fishing limits on the canal. In addition, it is filled with pictures, both past and present, to entice the reader to journey through the Rideau Waterway.


Legget, Robert, “Rideau Waterway,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35274.