Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Travelers must be alert to serendipity on the road. It happened to me when our lunch plans failed in Gananoque on the St. Lawrence River in the heart of the Thousand Islands. The restaurant we had chosen was closed for a private function and the only alternative was pub food, which we'd eaten too much in previous days on our vacation.

Upper lock and turning basin
from Kenney's Hotel

Nothing for it but drive about 50 kms north to Jones Falls, a place I'd never been to on the Rideau Lakes. Parks Canada operates this long canal/river linking lakes and locks that was designated a "Canadian Heritage River" in 2000 and a UN Heritage site in 2007. (More info here.)

The waterway runs from Ottawa to Kingston and visitors can take a choice of cruises of several days to enjoy the whole waterway. I've been wanting to do this for a while, but this time had to visit by road. I'm now determined to book two or three cruises back to back next year.

Jones Falls's locks, a staircase of four, were built in 1830 during the canal's construction and soon a hotel was built close by. The locks proved to be one of the greatest challenges for the builders who had to deal with a drop of 60 feet in the river. They have the second highest lock gates in the world and are still operated manually. Beside them, sits an old storehouse of local stone (now an interpretive centre open in the summer) and the lockmaster's house and a smithy further up river. It is picturesque and considered one of the most beautiful in the system.

Hotel Kenney followed soon after the locks were completed and it was here we headed for lunch.  It first opened in 1849, burned down, was rebuilt in 1877, and added to in 1888. Today it hasn't changed much since the later date, except for A/C throughout and modern bathrooms. The floors slope a bit and the boards creak as you walk through the public rooms into the restaurant. The smell is one of old wood.

Sitting at a window table watching the pleasure craft and kayaks sailing in and out of the lowest lock, I could easily imagine the older, gentler time. Ladies in long summer dresses, big hats, and carrying parasols would walk the lawns on the river's edge and enjoy afternoon tea at tables under the trees. US presidents have stayed here and Princess Juliana used to visit when she was living in Ottawa during WW2. The bar looks original, all wood, and offers a good choice of ale.

The three-course, prix fixe lunch in Hotel Kenney's restaurant overlooking the locks was all home-cooked and delicious. The menu is not haute cuisine, but reminiscent of earlier country-style dishes. It's hearty, tasty, and very reasonably priced. I had a bowl of turkey stew and my husband, fish and chips with all the trimmings that he devoured. Breakfast and dinner are also available for hotel guests and visitors.

We walked across Long Bridge to the locks to shake down our meal as the sky was darkening and warning us of a stormy late afternoon. So we drove back to Ottawa to continue our visits with family, well satisfied with the exploration and our future plan to cruise the whole system with Ontario Waterway Cruises.

Looking downriver from the locks

ALL IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2013. All rights reserved