A Motorcycle Journey Into Canada's Past Continues

In part two of Ron Keys' motorcycle journey into Canadian history we see him continuing further up the top-notch riding roads that weave through the countryside along the Rideau. The locks, towns and historical sites along the way make this one of Ontario's most interesting motorcycle routes for the curious rider. 

As the sun rises over the Upper Rideau, the setting is tranquil and calms the spirit, a perfect start to another perfect day. We back track a bit, passing through Newboro again out to Crosby then south a bit and catch Opinicon Rd. 

Like a snake's back, and just about as narrow, Opinicon Rd. take us west through the Canadian Shield with outcrops of granite rising from tiny fertile fields that have provided small farms with income over many generations. A milk tanker goes by making his pickups at all these small farms along the way.


The Opinicon at Chaffey's Locks, is one of those great old tourist resorts of years ago. Its yellow and white clapboard buildings date back over eighty years, and soon will probably go the way of the dodo bird, as times change and the great old resorts lose their popularity.

As we approach the hamlet of locks we stop at another grave yard where simple rocks mark numerous graves of the unknown and unremembered who sacrificed their lives to build this edifice called the Rideau Canal. It is Canada Day and the flags are out on this perfect summer's day as boats are quietly lowered from Indian Lake into Opinicon Lake. Named after the original pioneer brothers Benjamin and Samuel Chaffey, the area captures the hearts of everyone who visits.


We backtrack to Crosby and take Cty. Rd. 14 north to The Narrows. The lockmaster, who has his Suzuki H109R parked nearby, tells us that the water height difference here is only 3 feet. Because of difficulties at Newboro, Colonel John By decided to separate the Rideau at this isthmus and thus the small lock in the middle of a lake.


We continue on craning left and right trying not to miss anything. Bambi and her fawn stand next to a pond covered in floating green leaves and white lilies watching us as we stop to watch them. Just down the road a turkey buzzard flies up, startled by our quick approach, as we interrupt his road kill lunch.


We turn right onto CR 10, the Perth Road, and then left to Glenn Tay where the gentle Tay River gurgles along through this quaint little village. A right turn onto CR 6 takes us into the prettiest town in Ontario, Perth on Tay. We stop at Stewart Park and across from a statue of the great jumping horse, Big Ben, we have a coffee at Codes Mill. Off again on we take CR 43 to Smiths Falls, home to the highest lock on the Rideau. At 26 feet, this newer lock takes the place of three previous locks and is operated by pushing buttons rather than muscle power. Canada day celebrations are underway in the park and we take a leisurely stroll along the waterside as I show my wife where I first learned how to swim as a little boy. I am in my familial homeland now. Here, just beside the actual Smiths Falls is the Rideau Canal Visitor Centre with exhibits telling the story of the canal.


From Smiths Falls, Cty. Rd. 42 meanders along the Rideau River on its way to Merrickville another picturesque town full of history. A big blockhouse is the centre of attraction in the park. Here we pause for dinner at Gad's Hill Place, where the menu is enclosed in a Charles Dickens novel. Gadshill in Higham, Kent, England was the country home of Dickens.


After a good night's sleep here, we continue along the south shore of the Rideau and stop and McCuigan Cemetery that contains even more unmarked graves. All along the way are wonderful cut stone homes built by the Irish masons who, after building the canal, continued their craft creating these beautiful centuries old homes.


The road wanders between river and farms, past Nicholsons Locks, Burrits Rapids, and finally to Hogs Back Park in Ottawa. Anglers test their skill, and swimmers paddle about, as the nearby falls roar through the chasm to a lower elevation. Following along the Rideau yet further, we find the end. The most even waterfall I have ever seen creates a perfect curtain of water as it  pours forth, dropping 30 feet into the mighty Ottawa River. I now see why Samuel Champlain exclaimed many years ago "C'est le Rideau", "It is a curtain".

About Ron Keys

Ron Keys is a 5 time Canadian National Motocross Champion, who was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2008. Among other things, he has worked as a lithographer, police officer, home builder and freelance writer.

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