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In February 1971, Douglas Knapp, the Rideau Trail Association’s first Treasurer, proposed a hiking trail in the rugged Canadian Shield north of Kingston during a meeting of the Kingston Field Naturalists – a concept that was expanded to form a walking trail that would connect Kingston and Ottawa.

A like-minded group in Ottawa was contacted and the offspring of these two groups was named after the waterway that had linked the two cities since 1832. Thus the Rideau Trail was born.

The Rideau Trail Association was formally created at two inaugural public meetings, one in Kingston and one in Ottawa. Originally, the trail was to be constructed by volunteers over a period of five years but in March of 1971, a group of university students heard of the plans and successfully proposed to complete building the trail during one summer with the support of an Opportunities for Youth grant through the federal government. Routes and Negotiation committees were quickly set up in Ottawa, Smiths Falls and Kingston and by mid-May, the 27-member student group began construction of the trail as the Routes and Negotiation committees worked to keep ahead of them. By June, enough trail had already been built to permit an inaugural hike in the Gould Lake Conservation Area, 30 km north of Kingston. By the end of August, a continuous trail was established from Kingston to Ottawa.

In November 1971, an official Trail opening was held at the Foley Mountain Conservation Area north of Westport, attracting an audience of about 200 supporters. The ceremony was performed by the Rt. Hon. John Davies, Federal Minister of the Environment and the Hon. James Auld, Ontario Minister of Public Works. At that time, the Rideau Trail had about 250 members. Since then, it has grown to about 900 members. Join the Rideau Trail Association today!

Last updated June 2015

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