This town is an artifact from 19th-century Ontario, when war with the U.S. was possible, water transport was booming and dentists served rural areas by train.
Smiths Falls is a small town along Ontario’s Rideau Canal. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the still-functional 19th-century waterway connects Ottawa to Kingston on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Smiths Falls is centered on the canal and features antique boat locks, heritage waterfront houses and canal-related museums.
Start by exploring the canal. Five boat locks are spread out along the waterway in the Smiths Falls area; each offers different attractions. Combined Lock, the highest lock in Smiths Falls, is near the town center. Note the antique brick design. The canal was originally opened in the 1830s to help transport supplies in case of war between the U.S. and England.
Learn about the Rideau Canal’s history at the Rideau Canal Visitor Information Centre, just north of the Combined Lock. Find out more about its original military purpose and see its actual role in the history of Ontario when the expected Anglo-American war never broke out.
Further history is on display at the southeastern Old Slys Lock, which features the Heritage House Museum. The home of the former mill owner has been preserved in late 19th-century style. Walk through the Victorian home and admire period artifacts.
In addition to the canal, the railroad was central to Smiths Falls’ growth. Detached Lock on the west side of town features an old railway bridge as well as the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario. Walk through the old train cars and even book a night’s stay in an old caboose. Make sure to see the antique Dental Car, a sleeper car that transported a dentist around the Canadian countryside to inspect the teeth of area children.
Explore the Smiths Falls countryside by land or water. Take a paddleboat on the canal into the surrounding forest or rent a bike and ride the 58-mile (93-kilometer) loop.
Smiths Falls is an hour’s drive from Ottawa. However, the most appropriate way to reach the old canal town is via ferry.