Poonamalie Dam Rehabilitation

Rideau Canal National Historic Site

The Poonamalie Dam, in the Rideau Lakes Township near Smiths Falls, has been continuously maintained and monitored since the 19th century. Parks Canada identified the dam for rehabilitation as part of its ongoing asset monitoring and recapitalization program on the Rideau Canal.

Phase 1 

In June 2016, Parks Canada completed repairs to the historic Poonamalie Earth Dam at Lock 32 on the Rideau Canal National Historic Site. Built in the early 19th century, these repairs preserve the historic integrity and heritage aesthetic of the dam, while ensuring continued reliable performance.

Repairs were initiated in December 2014 and construction took place during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 off seasons. Through this project, the height of the dam was increased and its structure stabilized along its 660m length. These repairs will significantly reduce water seepage through the earthen dam and the design and materials used will enable the dam to control and tolerate any remaining seepage so as to not risk to dam performance. Finally, guard rails were added to further enhance the safety of visitors to the site.

Phase 2

In fall 2018, a single lane gravel road and small parking lot was constructed for the use of Parks Canada staff in order to facilitate repairs and maintenance on the Poonamalie Dam.

Investments in preservation, rehabilitation, and restoration of our national historic sites will protect our heritage and strengthen their appeal as destinations to celebrate our nation's achievements. 

A Brief History of Poonamalie

The Poonamalie site’s original name was First Rapids, as it is the first lockstation encountered in the descent toward Ottawa on the Rideau system. Tradition has it that the name Poonamalie was derived from a town in India named Poovirundavalli where the British Army stationed a garrison in the early 19th century. An officer of the Royal Engineers felt the cedar-lined roads at First Rapids were reminiscent of those he had seen while serving in India.

The channel in this section of the Rideau Canal is nearly 2.5km and bypasses the original rapids in the Rideau River. In addition to the lock, earth dam, and weir, a defensible lock master’s house can also be found at this site. This building was originally built in 1842 and remains in use to this day.

For More Information 

For more information about the Rideau Canal Historic Site, contact us at rideau@pc.gc.ca or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @RideauCanalNHS

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