Rideau Canal Skateway
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Weather

Ice Conditions

Visitor Information

The following services are available in the open sections of the Rideau Canal Skateway. Hours of operation may change without notice.

Contact Us

The NCC is committed to providing quality service. There are a number of ways to contact us and we will respond to your request as quickly as possible.

If you wish to receive information, make a request, send a comment or file a complaint, please contact NCC Client Services

Client Services

Telephone: 613-239-5000 or 1-800-465-1867 (toll-free)
Employee directory: 613-239-5678
TTY: 613-239-5090 or 1-866-661-3530 (toll-free)
Email: info@ncc-ccn.ca

Employee Directory

Hours of Operation:
Monday to Friday (except holidays), 8:30 am to 5 pm (Eastern time).

Mailing address:
National Capital Commission
202–40 Elgin Street
Ottawa ON K1P 1C7

Emergency Service (24-hour)

Telephone: 613-239-5353

Rideau Canal Skateway Conditions Telephone: 613-239-5234 (recorded message)

Skate and Sleigh Rentals, Skate Sharpening and Boot Check

Available on the Rideau Canal Skateway at the following locations:

  • Rideau
    Visit the Capital Skates website for more information about rates, or call 613-241-0134.
    Monday through Sunday, 10 am to 10 pm
    No equipment rented after 8 pm.
  • Fifth
    Visit the Capital Skates website for more information about rates, or call 613-231-5861.
    Closed Monday through Thursday.
    Friday, 6 pm to 10 pm S
    aturday and Sunday, 10 am to 10 pm
    No equipment rented after 8 pm.
  • Dows
    Visit the Dows Lake Pavilion website for more information about rates, or call 613-232-1001.
    Monday through Friday, 9:30 am to 10 pm
    Saturday and Sunday, 10 am to 10 pm
    No equipment rented after 9 pm.

Skate and sleigh rentals, skate sharpening, and boot check locations are marked on the Rideau Canal Skateway map.

Rest Areas

There are five rest areas along the Skateway. They offer various services and amenities, including change rooms, washrooms, fire pits, food and beverage vendors, and picnic tables.

Rest area locations are marked on the Rideau Canal Skateway map.

Change Rooms

There are four heated and universally accessible change rooms along the Skateway.

  • Rideau
  • Concord
  • Fifth
  • Bronson

They are open at the following times:

  • Sunday to Thursday, 8 am to 10 pm
  • Friday and Saturday, 8 am to 11 pm

A fifth change room is located on land in Patterson Creek Park. It is not universally accessible from the Skateway.

Change room locations are marked on the Rideau Canal Skateway map.

Food and Beverages

Vendors are located on the ice and are open at the following times:

  • Monday through Thursday, noon to 8 pm
  • Friday, noon to 9 pm
  • Saturday, 10 am to 9 pm
  • Sunday, 10 am to 8 pm.

Below are their locations and a list of what they offer.

  • Rideau: Coffee and hot beverages, Aunt Sarah’s Chocolates*, fast food, BeaverTails® pastries, lollipops*, maple taffy
  • Concord: Coffee and hot beverages, sausages, BeaverTails® pastries, maple taffy, Flapjack’s Pancakes
  • Fifth: Coffee and hot beverages, fast food, BeaverTails® pastries, maple taffy*, lollipops*
  • Bronson: Tacos, coffee and hot beverages*, pretzels*, BeaverTails® pastries
  • Dows: Other types of foods are available in the Dows Lake Pavilion.

* Available during Winterlude only (January 30 to February 16, 2015)

Food concession locations are marked on the Rideau Canal Skateway map.

Washrooms

All washrooms are universally accessible and are located on the ice at the following rest areas:

  • Rideau
  • Concord
  • Fifth
  • Bronson
  • Dows

Washrooms are open at the following times:

  • Sunday through Thursday, 8 am to 10 pm
  • Friday and Saturday, 8 am to 11 pm

Washrooms located on land can be found at

  • Patterson Creek (not universally accessible from the ice)
  • Dows Lake Pavilion

Washroom locations are marked on the Rideau Canal Skateway map.

Parking

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, $)
  • University of Ottawa Campus, parking lot K ($)
  • Parking lot at the intersection of Cooper and Cartier streets ($)
  • Lansdowne Park ($)
  • Carleton University Campus, P5, P6 A-B, P7 ($)
  • Bronson Avenue parking lot ($) (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.

First Aid

A first aid trailer is located on the ice by Fifth rest area.

Skate patrollers trained in first aid and CPR patrol the Skateway daily at these times:

  • Monday through Thursday, noon to 10 pm
  • Friday, noon to 11 pm
  • Saturday, 10 am to 11 pm
  • Sunday, 10 am to 10 pm

For immediate assistance, call 613-565-1899. In case of serious injury, call 9-1-1.

The first aid trailer location is marked on the Rideau Canal Skateway map.

Lost and Found

The lost and found is located in the change rooms at Fifth rest area.

Any valuable objects found will be given to the Ottawa Police Department (613-236-1222).

The change room at Fifth rest area is marked on the Rideau Canal Skateway map.

Safety on the Skateway
  • Dogs and other pets (with the exception of service dogs) are not permitted on the Skateway.
  • Hockey sticks and pucks are not permitted on the Skateway.
  • Alcoholic drinks are not permitted on the Skateway.
  • Bicycles are not permitted on the Skateway.
Mobile App

Official Rideau Canal Skateway App

Track your speed and distance while skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway. Snap some souvenir photos of your time skating on the world’s largest skating rink, and share them using the “MittCam” function. You can also check current ice conditions, see a detailed interactive map of the entire 7.8 km length of the Skateway, get information about available services and activities, and more.

Available on the App Store
Get it in the Google Play store

Features

  • Speed and distance tracker (iOS)
  • MittCam (shake phone to take pictures)
  • Ice conditions
  • Interactive map
  • Services, activities and more

NOTE: Continued use of the GPS that runs in the background can substantially decrease battery life.

Information

In January and February, NCC volunteers are there to answer visitors’ questions about activities and services available on the Skateway. You can spot them wearing NCC volunteer vests.

Information about Skateway conditions is updated daily at 7 am and 1 pm. To check conditions, visit the website or call 613-239-5234.

For additional information about services offered on the Skateway, see the Rideau Canal Skateway map.

News

Safety Tips

Safety is the key to an enjoyable skate on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal. But remember that safety starts with you. These tips can help you have a safe and exciting outdoor adventure. As in any sport, accidents can happen. The Skateway is patrolled by experienced first aid attendants who can provide help, if need be.

Safety on the Ice
  • Learn the flag system: A green flag means that the Skateway is open; a red flag means that it is closed.
  • Watch for cracks in the ice.
  • Consider your safety and that of others. The following are not permitted on the ice:
    • dogs and other pets (with the exception of service dogs)
    • bikes
    • hockey sticks and pucks.
    • Alcoholic beverages
  • Warm up if you feel chilled. There are five heated change rooms located at various points along the Skateway, and one on land at Patterson Creek.
Equipment
  • Avoid wearing figure skates. The picks tend to catch on bumps and cracks in the ice surface.
  • Dress warmly.
  • Wear a certified, properly fitting ski or hockey helmet to prevent head injuries.
  • Wrist guards, as well as elbow and knee protection, will help reduce your chance of injury.
  • You can rent helmets and wrist guards from Capital Skates locations on the Rideau Canal Skateway (at Rideau and Fifth rest areas). A deposit ($) is required.
First Aid

A first aid trailer is located on the ice at Fifth rest area.

Skate patrollers who can administer first aid and CPR are on the Skateway daily at the following times:

  • Monday through Thursday, noon to 10 pm
  • Friday, noon to 11 pm
  • Saturday, 10 am to 11 pm
  • Sunday, 10 am to 10 pm

For immediate assistance, call 613-565-1899. In case of serious injury, call 9-1-1.

The Ice

Science of Ice

For 44 years, the National Capital Commission (NCC) has been maintaining the Rideau Canal Skateway, which holds the official record for the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink.

The Rideau Canal was first opened for skating in 1971, after a team of NCC employees armed with brooms and shovels cleared a small section of ice near the National Arts Centre. Over time, the length of the Rideau Canal Skateway grew, as did the NCC’s knowledge about the science of ice. Today, partnerships with experts keep the NCC at the leading edge of ice maintenance. This expertise makes for better ice conditions and greater safety for skaters.

Did You Know?

The average skating season is 50 days long, but a record of 90 days was set during the 1971–1972 season.

Consulting the Ice Experts

To create the world’s largest skating rink, the NCC has developed numerous partnerships with leading ice experts.

Ice is a complex material, and scientists have spent decades studying it. The NCC relies on the knowledge of experts to improve skating conditions and ensure the safety of Skateway visitors.

The ice inspection team monitors the vertical movement of the ice. If the ice sinks, it means there is too much weight on its surface. Once the weight is dispersed, the ice will float back to its normal position.

Did You Know?

Although he has never learned to skate, Dr. Nirmal Sinha, a scientist with the National Research Council Canada, is a world leader in the science of ice. The NCC has relied on his advice to establish ice safety guidelines.

From Liquid to Solid

Understanding the process of ice formation helps the NCC to create and maintain the ideal surface for skating.

When the cold weather first arrives, the NCC allows nature to do its work. As the water in the canal begins to cool, it contracts and the level drops. Once the water reaches a uniform temperature of 4°C from surface to bottom, it begins to crystallize and expand. Because ice crystals are less dense than water, they rise to the surface, where they eventually form a frozen cap. When this cap is thick enough, we can skate on it.

All Kinds of Ice

Depending on the weather, different kinds of ice form on the Rideau Canal Skateway. There are two main types of ice: white ice and clear ice.

White ice or “snow ice” forms when fallen snow becomes soaked with water and freezes. White ice is opaque and milky, and contains many air bubbles.

There is also a type of white ice that can be made through a mechanical process. White ice is made by flooding the snow that covers the surface of existing ice. With this process, the thickness of ice needed for skating can be created more quickly. This process is used primarily at the beginning of the season.

Clear ice is colourless, though it may look blue, green or even black from above. This type of ice forms naturally when temperatures are cold enough and crystals form below the frozen surface.

Measuring the Ice

The NCC takes regular samples of the ice, not only to measure the thickness, but also to analyze the quality.

Before the NCC hoists the green flags to announce that the Rideau Canal Skateway is open, ice samples must show that there is a sufficient thickness of good quality ice for safe public skating.

Did You Know?

Cracks in the ice are normal. They occur because temperature changes cause the ice to expand and contract.

A Weighty Issue

The NCC not only monitors the thickness and composition of the ice, but also makes sure that there is not too much weight on the ice surface, especially in any one spot.

The weight of crowds, snow and snow removal equipment must be dispersed for the ice to remain safe. Ice has an amazing capacity to depress gradually when weight is applied, and then to gently rebound as the weight is removed. Did you know that there’s water beneath the surface that you’re skating on? The ice surface floats, sinking slowly into the water as weight is applied.

Did You Know?

Water expands as it freezes, making ice less dense than water. That’s why ice floats. Look closely at the ice cubes in your next cold drink, and you’ll see that only about 10 percent of their volume floats above the liquid.

The Enemy of Ice

Snow is the enemy of ice.

When snow is allowed to accumulate, it forms an insulating blanket over the ice and slows the formation of crystals below the surface. The weight of the snow also depresses the ice surface. That is why, after a snowfall, the maintenance crew is quick to get to work on the Skateway with snow blowers and snowplows to clear away the snow.

Making the Skateway

Just removing the snow is not enough to turn the Rideau Canal into the world’s largest skating rink.

Work on the Skateway starts well before the skating season. In the fall, after the water level of the Rideau Canal is lowered, the five change rooms, 35 sets of stairs, five universal access ramps and other Skateway structures are installed.

In the winter, the snow is cleared away, and the ice surface is swept and flooded to smooth out the cracks. This process is repeated each night that the weather conditions permit. This creates a safe skating surface, ready for early morning skaters.

Safe and Sound

Once a layer of ice has formed, the drilling team uses an ice auger to draw out core samples of the ice to measure its thickness and check its quality. When daily testing shows that the ice is sufficiently hard and thick, the green flags go up, and the 35 entrances to the Skateway are opened. However, if the flags are red, stay off the ice!

A team of 50 skate patrollers dressed in neon yellow jackets patrol the Skateway, ensuring that all visitors have a safe skate.

World Famous

In 2005, the Rideau Canal Skateway made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. It is the largest naturally frozen ice rink in the world.

In 2007, the Rideau Canal was designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). You are skating on the world’s most famous rink!

The Rideau Canal Skateway receives an average of a million visits a year.

Did You Know?

The Rideau Canal Skateway is the equivalent of 90 Olympic-sized rinks (165,621 square metres), and is 7.8 kilometres long.

Frequently Asked Questions

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?
  1. In mid-October, Parks Canada drains the Rideau Canal by opening the sluice valves at the Ottawa Locks near Parliament.
  2. Vehicle access ramps, shelters and other facilities are installed on the canal.
  3. Beams are placed at the locks, and the water is raised to skating level.
  4. Maintenance crews install stairs, hook up plumbing and electricity, and set up the infrastructure needed for the Rideau Canal skating season.
  5. When the Skateway reaches a minimum thickness of good quality ice, maintenance crews remove snow and/or flood the ice to maximize ice growth.
  6. 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.

  • 2013–2014 Season: December 31 to March 11, 2014 (71 days)
  • 2012–2013 Season: January 8 to February 28, 2013 (42 days)
  • 2011–2012 Season: January 13 to February 21, 2012 (38 days)
  • 2010–2011 Season: January 8 to March 5, 2011 (56 days)
  • 2009–2010 Season: January 14 to February 26, 2010 (43 days)
  • 2008–2009 Season: January 1 to March 5, 2009 (63 days)
  • 2007–2008 Season: January 25 to March 5, 2008 (41 days)
  • 2006–2007 Season: January 26 to March 12, 2007 (46 days)
  • 2005–2006 Season: January 7 to March 10, 2006 (63 days)
What time does the Skateway 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 pm or 11 pm, depending on the day. Detailed information about service hours is available on the visitor information page 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
  • good
  • fair
  • poor

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 change rooms and facilities
  • to install equipment/structures for activities/events.

In addition, it is strictly prohibited for members of the public to drive a vehicle on the Skateway.

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, hockey sticks and pucks are not allowed on the Skateway.

What services are offered on the Skateway? When are they open?

See the Rideau Canal Skateway visitor information page.

Are universally accessible services available on the ice?

The following universally accessible services are available:

  • ramps to access the Skateway
  • heated change rooms
  • washrooms

There are no change rooms 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 Driveway side)
  • Bronson Avenue (at Colonel By Drive)
  • Dows Lake Pavilion

Universally accessible, heated change rooms and washrooms are located on the ice at the following rest areas:

  • Rideau
  • Concord
  • Fifth
  • Bronson
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, $)
  • University of Ottawa Campus, parking lot K ($)
  • Parking lot at the intersection of Cooper and Cartier streets ($)
  • Lansdowne Park ($)
  • Carleton University Campus, P5, P6 A-B, P7 ($)
  • Bronson Avenue parking lot ($) (60 metres from the Bronson Avenue access ramp)
  • 580 Booth Street (weekdays, 6 am to 11 pm; weekends, 8 am to 11 pm)
  • Dows Lake ($)

Most parking locations are marked on the Rideau Canal Skateway map.

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Rideau Rest Area
Fifth Rest Area
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