I like to think I’m familiar with the Rideau Canal and all the hiking possibilities it offers, since I hiked the entire Rideau Trail two years ago. However, in the last few months, I discovered that there were many trails that I had never explored before: the trails at Baxter Conservation Area in Ottawa for example, or those at Rock Dunder near the Rideau Lakes. This weekend, I also hiked the Tip to Tip Trail in Burritts Rapids for the first time.
As its name suggests, the Tip to Tip Trail allows you to cross an island located on the Rideau Canal from one tip to another. As it passes through a lock station and into the charming village of Burritts Rapids, the trail is also a great way to learn more about the Rideau Canal and its construction.
The island on which Burritts Rapids sit today was created during the construction of the Rideau Canal in the 19th century. The canal was dug there to bypass rapids on the Rideau River and a lock station was added at the eastern tip of the newly created island. Like almost all the locks along the canal, this one is still activated by hand.
We had to walk over the lock gates (there is a narrow footbridge that goes over them) to get to the trailhead of the Tip to Tip Trail. Once on the island, the path goes under the trees while following the canal.
After less than a kilometre, we reached the village of Burritts Rapids. Burritts Rapids is a cute little hamlet, one of the first to be born on the banks of the river (late 18th century). It has preserved several of its historic buildings, including a church built in 1832.
I had walked through Burritts Rapids on my Rideau Trail hike, but the Tip to Tip Trail made me rediscover it from another angle. The trail even literally passes through the backyard of some residences. We crossed the main street and passed by the swing bridge dating from 1897 (it too is still hand activated) and then found ourselves under the trees again.
There, the island shrinks into a thin strip of land. Between the trees we could see the canal to our right and the Rideau River to our left. Since it was the weekend, there were a lot of people on the trail. Everyone, like us, had the idea that a hike on the banks of the canal would be a great way to enjoy the fall colours.
Just before reaching the tip, the trail descends near the Rideau River where there is an old dam that is used to regulate the water level on the river. The dam has also changed little since it was built 170 years ago. It is also hand activated and we spent a few minutes there, fascinated by the old mechanism.
Then finally, we arrived at the western tip of the island, where there are two red chairs, emblems of Parks Canada (the Rideau Canal being a national historic site, it is managed by Parks Canada). From the tip, the view is quite pretty, and almost allows one to imagine what the Rideau River looked like before the canal was built.
As we had reached the western tip, we had to retrace our steps to the lock station. In all, the out and back trail totaled just under 5 kilometres. The trail is fairly flat and wide, which doesn’t make it a difficult hike. Even my boyfriend, who isn’t a big fan of hiking, liked it. It must be said that with such a history-laden route, it’s hard to get bored!