Hog’s Back Falls/Les Chutes De Hogs Back, Ottawa, Ontario (Location)
The morning had started pretty early for me since Adell was taking an early morning flight to Winnipeg and that meant driving her to the airport for about 5:30AM. I knew from publications of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) and from seeing the water levels of the Jock River for the recent Jock River Canoe-Kayak race that water levels in the Rideau River waterway were lower than normal for this time of the year. There had also been a bit of discussion in recent newscasts about the impact of recent budget cuts on the timing of the opening of the Rideau Canal. Since I was already up bright and early and driving around, I decided that it would be as good as time as any to head over to Hog’s Back Falls and see what impact the water levels were having on the appearance of that bit of the Rideau River.
First off, I was rather surprised to see the limited amount of water in Mooney’s Bay which is locate upstream from the falls. For flood control reasons, the level of Mooney’s Bay and this part of the Rideau River is allowed to draw down each Spring, but I was still surprised at how low the levels were this year. A lot of bare rock is now visible below the dam so it is interesting to see the actual geological structure that lies below the water flow and directs its fall to the next level.
The Hog’s Back location is the site of the separation of the Rideau Canal from the Rideau River itself. The Rideau Canal officially opened in 1832 and runs the approximately 200km distance from the Ottawa River at Ottawa, Ontario to Kingston, Ontario at the easterly end of Lake Ontario. For Lt. Colonel John By, the only solution for getting boats from this location at Hog’s Back Falls downstream to the Ottawa River was to separate the route of the canal from the natural water course of the Rideau River and use a weir and control dam structure at a point above Hog’s Back Falls to raise the water level above the falls and to stabilize the water flow levels feeding water into this separate canal and the lower series of locks.
Although there have been a number of changes instituted over the years since its original construction, the locks at the entrance into the Rideau Canal’s last 8 or so kilometers canal section down to the Ottawa River continue to be located adjacent to the tourist attraction of Hog’s Back Falls with the controlled water level of the canal much easier to navigate than the Falls themselves or the many rapids below the primary falls. From time to time the foaming waters of the Falls and the rapids below are the playful domain of whitewater playboaters/kayakers but there were none there at this time of the morning.
Despite the recent government budget cutbacks, Parks Canada which operates the Rideau Canal had indicated that the canal will be open for business as usual in mid-May as upstream dams are adjusted to provide a controlled level of water flow both in the Rideau River and in the Rideau Canal. To accomplish this, beams will be added to the control dam and weir structure above the Hog’s Back Falls , Mooney’s Bay will refill and water will then be directed into the canal structure and series of locks from Mooney’s Bay down past Dow’s Lake, past Parliament Hill and into the Ottawa River. In the meantime, unless we receive large quantities of rainfall, Mooney’s Bay will resemble a partially drained wetland and the amount of water flowing under the road on its way to the Falls will begin to seem but a trickle when compared to the torrent of a few weeks earlier when elevated Spring temperatures caused a rapid snow melt upstream.
The Rideau Canal system has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The canal itself would have been impossible without the engineering work around Hog’s Back Falls and the many rapids downstream from that location and it is interesting to read about the engineering work on the many information displays along the pathways.
As I was leaving the area and heading back to my car, I passed a phone booth which, of course, I had to photograph. The Falls will certainly be around next year but the phone booth may not be!