Name: Dennis Van Staalduinen
Date: May 05, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM
Duration: 2.0 hr
Language: English
Start: Bytown Museum, beside the canal locks near the Chateau Laurier
End: Ottawa River Pathway at the Remic Rapids
Area: Centretown/Mechanicsville
Distance: 5.0 km

This tour will be by bicycle, and will be moving steadily to keep the tour to two hours.

Bike tour: Pulp Friction, Train Robbery, & Capital crimes. Who killed Ottawa's waterfront?


A bike tour along Ottawa's waterfront to explore what's there, learn about how it came to be that way, and discuss how we can reclaim it for people.



Photo:  The Bytown Museum and the canal locks descending to the Ottawa River.

It's easy for modern Ottawa residents to forget that we are a waterfront city. No really. We are! The city exists because of the three great rivers that meet here, and we grew because of the river-based lumber trade and the magnificent human-engineered waterway the Rideau Canal. But it has never been an easy relationship. Between the 19th century exploitation of the waterfront by railways and heavy industry, and the 20th century expropriation of all privately owned land along Ottawa's urban waterfront (for high speed commuter roadways), we've gradually become detached from our waterfront---and our heritage.

Ask yourself the question: can you name one great public space on the Ottawa waterfront? Apart from a couple of isolated restaurants and long narrow strips of "park" space along high-speed roadways, where is our great waterfront square? Our great boardwalk? Our Granville Island? Our Neuhavn like Copenhagen? Our Venetian canal-side Piazza San Marco?

Fortunately, we do have bike paths along the river (thank you, NCC!) so we'll use our bikes to trace the surprisingly drastic changes that 200 years have wrought. Spoiler alert: we'll see a lost beach, several forgotten major tourist attractions, lots of decaying attempts at "urban renewal," not a single play structure for kids, and pavement, pavement, pavement where people should be.

This tour asks the question: after two centuries of allowing industry and governments to divorce us from our rivers and canal, how can the citizens of Ottawa start reclaiming our waterfront spaces as true, lively, and sustainable urban *places*?

The twitter hashtag for this walk is #OttWaterfront


We'll bicycle along the river pathway from the base of the Canal locks westward to end on the West side of the War Museum before doubling back. Meet at Bytown Museum at the base of the Rideau Canal. We'll make stops at Chaudiere Falls and visit a few historic locations on Chaudiere and Victoria Island to look at areas where the waterfront has been drastically changed and engineered into the shape we see today.

We will be mostly on NCC multi-use bike paths, but at a few points where the best views are off the path, you will have the option to leave your bike under the supervision of a Jane’s Walk volunteer. Feel free to use a lock, but PLEASE wear a helmet and observe all safety laws.


In his third year as a Jane’s Walk leader, DenVan is a story teller. His day job is telling stories for companies and products as a branding and social media guy with Brandvelope Consulting. But he's fascinated by stories of all kinds. As an urban dad with three kids, a performer, community activist, and urban public space geek, he often speaks in the media and conferences on smart growth issues. He also helped found the Champlain Oaks Project, the Wellington West BIA, and is a Board Member with the Champlain Park Community Association. You can find him online at, @DenVan on Twitter, or @DenVanGram on Instagram.