Walking on the pathways of Colonel By Drive along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada，I’m really amazed by the peaceful and harmonious scene between man and nature: with clear water, Rideau Canal is sided by the shared cycle and pedestrian pathways and green belts, which are enlivened by people jogging, biking, skating, canoeing, rowing, sightseeing cruise and fishing.
In winter, Rideau Canal will be turned into a skateway, the longest skate rink in the world. The skateway and the network of the recreational pathways of Rideau Canal traverse the capital city of Canada roughly from north to south, uniquely linking the green spaces, the urban core, which was created thanks to the vision of Douglas H.Fullerton (Chairman at National Capital Commission 1969-1973).
The initial purpose of the Rideau Canal was totally military, aimed at providing a secure supply and communications route between Montreal and the British naval base in Kingston to deter any American invasions of Canadian territory after the War of 1812, a 32-month military conflict between the United States and Great Britain.
Later the canal once also served a commercial purpose. The Rideau Canal was easier to navigate than the St. Lawrence River because of the series of rapids between Montreal and Kingston before the construction of a system of locks on Saint Lawrence Seaway. As a result, the Rideau Canal became a busy commercial artery from Montreal to the Great Lakes. Now Rideau Canal has long been lost its transportation function, perfectly switched to the recreational purpose.
The original construction of Rideau Canal was mainly supervised by Lieutenant-Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers. Much of the construction work was done by thousands of Irish and French-Canadian labourers.
The building of canal started in 1826, and it took a total of 6 years to complete by 1832. The 202 kilometres of the Rideau Canal incorporate sections of the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers, as well as several lakes, including the Lower, Upper and Big Rideau lakes. It is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America, and it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
Rideau Canal always reminds me of the Grand Canal (also known as the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal), starting from Hangzhou of Zhejiang Province in the Yangtze Delta area of China and ends in Beijing, the capital city of China. The Grand Canal is regarded as one of the two greatest projects in ancient China and the other being the Great Wall of China. It is the longest and oldest canal in the world with a total length of 1794km, 1442k,still navigable and 877km navigable all year round.
Like Rideau Canal, the initial construction of the Grand Canal was also for the military purpose. It dates back to the the 5th century BC when King Fuchai of Wu, ruler of the State of Wu (today’s Suzhou), wanted to conquer the neighbouring State of Qi in the north. He ordered a canal be built for shipping ample supplies north. The construction started in 486 BC and completed in three years.
The Grand Canal was completed in Sui Dynasty (581 – 618); prospered in Tang Dynasty (618–906) and Song Dynasty (960–1279); the actual straight canal from Hangzhou to Beijing was completed in Yuan Dynasdty (1206–1368), different from the canal in Sui Dynasty which had linked Luoyang (Capital of Sui Dynasty) to Beijing and Hangzhou in a triangle; cleared and reconstructed in Ming and Qing dynasties ( 1368-1911). The Grand Canal’s construction started in 486 BC and navigated from Hangzhou to Beijing in the year 1293.
The present day’s Grand Canal traverses 4 provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong and Hebei as well as two municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin. The Grand Canal links 5 great water systems of Qiantang River, Yangtze River, Hui River, Yellow River and Hai River. It is the longest and oldest canal in the world with a total length of 1794km, 1442k,still navigable and 877km navigable all year round.
The purposes for the construction of the Grand Canal is multi-fold. 1.Strengthening the central control over the whole country by enhancing the north and south transportation and communications. 2. Further developing the economy in Yangtze Delta Area ( Jiangnan) 3. Culture cultural immersion between the central China and Jiangnan Area. 4. Convenience for carrying the grain from the south to the north.
The Grand Canal is now generally composed of 7 sections including 1) Tonghui Canal 2) North Canal 3) South Canal 4) Lu Canal 5) Mid-Canal 6) Inner Canal and 7) Jiangnan Canal. Except for the north two sections of Tonghui and North canals, all the other 5 sections still play an important role in waterway transportation and culture exchange.
Unfortunately, most part of the Grand Canal in Beijing, or popularly known as Tonghui River ( Tonghui Canal) is not navigable, only serving as sewage works. The recreational network of Rideau Canal sets us a perfect example of how to transfer a “dying canal” into a live and clean waterway to enliven and upgrade the urban life in Beijing.
Today we are happy to see people are getting more aware of the environment protection, pushing Beijing local governments to use all kinds of resources to clear and renovate the waterways from the city center – Shichahai area, the northern tip of the ancient Grand Canal to the Canal in Tongzhou District.
The Grand Canal in Tongzhou has been opened to sightseeing boating and the Shichahai ( Back Lake) has become a mecca and night hangout in the heart of Beijing. But more efforts should be made to transfer the Beijing Grand Canal into a human-nature harmonious waterway, providing the urban residents with spaces for walking, cycling, rowing, cruising.
Now, it is encouraging to learn that with the the great efforts done by experts and enthusiasts along the Grand Canal, the Grand Canal has been crowned both World Culture Heritage and World Natural Heritage in 2016. Rideau Canal got the World Cultural Heritage in 2007. The Grand Canal China was crowned as UNESCO Heritage Site on June 22, 2014.
Sightseeing cruise on Rideau Canal
Rideau Canal at Sunset
Love padlocks on the bridge over Rideau Canal
The heritage bridge was built in 1882
Jogging along the shared cycle and pedestrian pathways
Cycling along the shared cycle and pedestrian pathways
Skating with her dog along the shared cycle and pedestrian pathways
Sunrise over Houhai Lake, one of the three lakes in Shichahai in Beijing, the northern tip water system of the Grand Canal.
Qianhai Lake, one of the three lakes in Shichahai in Beijing, the northern tip water system of the Grand Canal
Fishing at Qianhai Lake
Boating on Tongzhi Grand Canal in Beijing.
The Grand Canal ends at Gongchen Bridge over the Grand Canal in Hangzhou.
Tip: Hassle-free Beijing Guided Tours
If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours, here are some options for Beijing guided tours:
Top 10 Attractions in Beijing
How to Visit Forbidden City
How to Visit Temple of Heaven
How to Visit Summer Palace
How to Visit Ming Tombs
How to Visit the Great Wall of China
How to Visit Tiananmen Square
How to Visit Hutongs
How to Visit Olympic Sites
Any questions, just drop a line.