Burritt's Rapids

Burritts Rapids is a small village located on the Rideau River/Rideau Canal in eastern Ontario.

The hamlet was named after Stephen Burritt, whose family was the first to settle in this area in 1793. At one time, the hamlet prospered due to its location on the Rideau Canal.

The community straddles the river and canal, with much of the village located on an island. The Rideau River passes north of the island and the Rideau Canal passes south of the island. The part of the village on the island and on the south side of the canal is in North Grenville Township, and the part of the village on the north side of the river is located in the rural part of the City of Ottawa.

Lock 17 on the Rideau Canal was built to bypass the rapids here. The Burritts Rapids Bridge, a single lane historic swing bridge, crosses the canal and a stationary bridge on the other side of the island crosses the river.

In 2007 the Rideau Canal and Kingston Fortifications became a UNESCO World Heritage Site by direction of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee. Due to its historic character, the entire village of Burritts Rapids is part of the World Heritage Site.

Walking Tours of Burritts Rapids

Burritts Rapids Walking Tour "A" by Pat Stroulger consists of 16 stops at historic buildings in the village. It will take approximately 30 minutes at a leisurely stroll. Click here to get the full version of the tour including descriptions and illustrations of the buildings. This full version is hosted on Ken Watsons excellent Rideau-Info.com website.

Burritts Rapids Walking Tour A Map Name of Stop
1 = Community Hall
2 = John S. French House
3 = 'Riverview'
4 = Stephen Hurd House
5 = Erastus Harris House
6 = John Healey Grocery
7 = George/Edgar Burritt
8 = John Muir House
9 = Log House
10 = Orange Masonic Hall
11 = Original Bridgemaster House
12 = Patrick McGowan House
13 = Shoe Shop
14 = Hugh Conn House
15 = Old Methodist Church
16 = Richard Guest House

Burritts Rapids Walking Tour "B" by Olivia Mills & Renee Smith consists of 9 stops at historic buildings in the part of the village north of the Rideau River. It will take approximately 30 minutes at a leisurely stroll. Click here to get the tour.

Burritts Rapids Walking Tour B Map Name of Stop
17 = Todd House
18 = Harris House
19 = Patterson House
20 = Christ Church - Anglican
21 = Carlow Lodge
22 = Burritt Farm
23 = Edwin Burritt House
24 = Depencier Hotel
25 = Marlborough Cottage

The Tip to Tip Trail is a nature walk going from one end of the island to the other. The trail is an easy walk with a round trip length of four kilometres, taking about one hour to complete. Numbered trail markers along the path go with texts in the printable document. They highlight features along the trail that were either influenced by or important in the construction of the Rideau Canal. Please be sure not to disturb plants and wildlife you may encounter. The dam that we are planning on using to generate hydro power is near the west end of the island on the tour.

Tip to tip trail map

History of Burritts Rapids

In 1793, Stephen and Daniel Burritt, from Arlington, Vermont, settled in the vicinity of the area now known as Burritt's Rapids. A plaque was erected by the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board commemorating the founding of Burritt's Rapids.

By 1812, Burritts Rapids had become a bustling hamlet. At the peak of its prosperity, it had telegraphic and daily mail, 2 general stores, a bakery, a millinery shop, 2 shoe shops, a tin and stove store, a grist mill, a woolen mill, a tannery, 3 blacksmith shops, 3 wagon shops, a cabinet shop, 2 churches, 2 schools, 2 hotels, a bank and an Orange Lodge.

The hamlet's natural advantages as a transportation centre were enhanced by the opening of the Rideau Canal in 1831. Burritts Rapids was the site of the first bridge across the Rideau River. A post office was opened in 1839.

By 1866, Burritts Rapids was a village with a population of about 400 on the Rideau canal, in the townships of Oxford and Marlborough, and counties of Carleton and Grenville. It had two schools, and many citizens were in the lumber business.

The hamlet was by-passed by the railway, and its economic importance gradually diminished with the decline of the canal as a means of transportation.

History of Burritts Rapids Community Hall

Burritts Rapids Community Hall logo

The Hall was built in 1855 by John French and operated as a general store. In 1892, the building was sold and it changed hands several more times during the early 1900s. The facility became known as the "Albert C. White Memorial Hall" in 1927, but in October 1935, Casey Swedlove sold the Hall and its property to the community. At that time, the name was formally changed to The Burritt's Rapids Community Hall, and has been run as a non-profit facility ever since. For information on using the hall for any event such as weddings, meetings, conferences, etc. go to the Burritts Rapids Community Association website.

Boy in Blue poster

In 1984, the Hall was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act as being of architectural and historical value: "... the building is an outstanding example of an early nineteenth century vernacular temple-fronted commercial structure, of the Classical Revival Style. It is clad in narrow feather-edge clapboard and is highlighted by recessed paneled front doors, large commercial style front windows, with paneled surrounds, engage pilasters, with classical entablature, returned eaves and small 12 over 8 upper sashes..."

In 1986, an extension was added to the south side of the building. Moneys for the project were donated by several local citizens and businesses, all of which are memorialized on a plaque inside the Hall. Many of the building materials were donated by the production company which filmed "The Boy in Blue" in Burritts Rapids in 1984. The roof was installed by a volunteer group who proclaimed themselves to be "The Geriatric Builders".

The Rideau Canal

The Rideau River is one and the same as the Rideau Canal for most of the River's length. Both the river and the canal have been very important throughout the history of Burritts Rapids and continue to be important to the present and future of the village.

The Rideau Canal connects the city of Ottawa on the Ottawa River to the city of Kingston on Lake Ontario. It is 202 kilometres in length. The name Rideau, French for "curtain," is derived from the curtain-like appearance of the Rideau River's twin waterfalls where they join the Ottawa River. The canal system uses sections of two rivers, the Rideau and the Cataraqui, as well as several lakes. The Rideau Canal is operated by Parks Canada.

The canal was opened in 1832 as a precaution in case of war with the United States. It remains in use today primarily for pleasure boating, with most of its original structures intact. The locks on the system open for navigation in mid-May and close in mid-October. It is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America, and in 2007 it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Here are some links to various Rideau Canal websites and pages:

Rideau-Info.com. This is a non-commercial site run on a hobby basis by Ken Watson. Lots and lots of information including the following pages:

Friends of the Rideau

Canadian Canal Society's Rideau Canal Section

Canada's Historic Places Rideau Canal Section

Parks Canada's Rideau Canal Section

The Rideau Canal on the UNESCO World Heritage Web Site

Through the eyes of artist Thomas Burrowes, we can see into Ontario's past. Burrowes worked for 20 years - 1826 to 1846 - as a civilian employee on the Rideau Canal project, serving variously as overseer, surveyor and clerk. It was as an artist, however, that he made his mark on history. In 1907, 115 of his watercolours were discovered in an attic in Detroit, Michigan. These works, now part of the Archives of Ontario collection of documentary art, give us insight into one of the most important engineering projects of the 19th century - the creation of a navigable waterway to link the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario. They allow us to see the project as it progressed through the eyes of an alert and observant eyewitness.

Biodiversity of the Rideau River: History and Geography of the Rideau River by Nature.ca.

Engineering the Canal by the Bytown Museum.

The Rideau Trail Association is a non-profit organization and a founding member of Hike Ontario. Its purpose is to preserve and maintain a hiking trail from Kingston to Ottawa.

Google Earth view of Burritts Rapids

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