Frequently Asked Questions
- Where can I rent skates?
- How is the Rideau Canal Skateway made?
- When does the skating season start and finish?
- What time does the canal open? When does it close?
- Why are some parts of the Skateway closed?
- When are Skateway conditions posted on the website?
- How are Skateway ice conditions defined?
- Why are the ice conditions different from those posted on the web?
- What is the purpose of the holes in the ice?
- How is the Skateway maintained?
- Why are trucks on the ice when the Skateway is closed?
- Who may use the Skateway?
- What services are offered on the Skateway? When are they open?
- Are universally accessible services available on the ice?
- Where can I park?
Where can I rent skates?
Skates and other equipment can be rented on the Rideau Canal Skateway by the Mackenzie King Bridge, at Fifth Avenue and at Dows Lake. See the visitor information page for more information.
How is the Rideau Canal Skateway made?
- In mid-October, Parks Canada drains the Rideau Canal by opening the sluice valves at the Ottawa Locks near Parliament.
- Vehicle access ramps, shelters and other facilities are installed on the canal.
- Beams are placed at the locks, and the water is raised to skating level.
- Maintenance crews install stairs, hook up plumbing and electricity, and set up the infrastructure needed for the Rideau Canal skating season.
- When the Skateway reaches a minimum thickness of good quality ice, maintenance crews remove snow and/or flood the ice to maximize ice growth.
- The Rideau Canal Skateway is opened when there is a sufficient thickness of good quality ice for safe public skating.
When does the skating season start and finish?
The length of the season depends on the weather, but typically the Rideau Canal Skateway opens in January and closes in March.
- 2011-2012 Season: January 13 to February 21, 2012
- 2010-2011 Season: January 8 to March 5, 2011
- 2009–2010 Season: January 14 to February 26, 2010
- 2008–2009 Season: January 1 to March 5, 2009
- 2007–2008 Season: January 25 to March 5, 2008
- 2006–2007 Season: January 26 to March 12, 2007
- 2005–2006 Season: January 7 to March 10, 2006
What time does the canal open? When does it close?
The Skateway is open 24 hours a day, depending on the ice conditions (posted daily).
Services, including the skate patrol (first aid), are not available after 10 or 11 pm, depending on the day. Detailed information about service hours is available in the Services on Rideau Canal section and on the Rideau Canal Skateway map.
Why are some parts of the Skateway closed?
Closed sections of the canal are unsafe for public use. Often, these areas are marked by signs and/or barricades/fences or cones.
For information about factors affecting the ice, see the Ice section.
When are Skateway conditions posted on the website?
Ice conditions are posted on the website daily at 7 am and 1 pm.
How are Skateway ice conditions defined?
Ice conditions can be
- very good
These four categories are explained on the ice condition definitions page.
Why are the ice conditions different from those posted on the web?
The website is updated regularly at 7 am and 1 pm, but Skateway conditions can change quickly, depending on snowfall, rainfall, mild weather conditions and skater traffic.
What is the purpose of the holes in the ice?
The holes are used to get water to flood the ice surface to make it smooth for public skating. There are about 20 holes along the side of the Skateway.
How is the Skateway maintained?
Maintenance crews work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep the skating surface smooth and clear. Snow removal is ongoing, and a portion of the Skateway is flooded every night, weather permitting.
Before flooding the canal, a tractor sweeps the canal to remove snow and ice shavings. A large “water dispersion machine” (not to be confused with a Zamboni) is used to flood the ice surface. Areas that cannot be reached by the machine are flooded by maintenance crews using pumps and hoses.
Why are trucks on the ice when the Skateway is closed?
Trucks and equipment may be present on the ice even when the Skateway is closed. They are needed to prepare the ice for public use.
Trucks are used
- to maintain the Skateway
- to service and bring supplies to chalets and installations
- to install equipment/structures for activities/events.
Who may use the Skateway?
The general public may use the Skateway on foot, on sled and, of course, on skates when the Skateway is open.
Dogs, bicycles and hockey sticks are not allowed on the Skateway.
What services are offered on the Skateway? When are they open?
Are universally accessible services available on the ice?
The following universally accessible services are available:
- ramps to access the Skateway
- heated change facilities
There are no shelters at street level.
The locations of universally accessible services are marked on the Rideau Canal Skateway map.
Universally accessible ramps to the Skateway are located near the following:
- Mackenzie King Bridge
- Fifth Avenue (Queen Elizabeth Drive side)
- Bronson Avenue (Colonel By Drive)
- Dows Lake Pavilion
Universally accessible heated change facilities and washrooms are located on the ice near the following:
- Mackenzie King Bridge
- Concord Street North
- Fifth Avenue
- Bronson Avenue
- Dows Lake Pavilion
Where can I park?
Parking near the Rideau Canal Skateway includes the following locations:
- Rideau Centre ($)
- National Arts Centre ($) (50 metres from the NAC access ramp)
- Ottawa City Hall (from Elgin Street) ($)
- World Exchange Plaza (weekends, free; weekdays, $)
- Bronson Avenue parking lot ($) (60 metres from the Bronson Avenue access ramp)
- 580 Booth Street (weekdays, 6 to 11 pm; weekends, 8 am to 11 pm)
- Dows Lake ($)
Most parking locations are marked on the Rideau Canal Skateway map.