13 December finds us discovering Rideau Falls, Ottawa's best kept secret! This is the mouth of the Rideau River, named in French as "curtain." I moved to Ottawa in 1971 and Fred and I have lived within an hour's drive of Ottawa ever since, without ever having seen the defining feature of this river as it joins the Ottawa River, as well as the strategic reason for the initial location of Canada's capital.
We've come to attend an evening meeting in nearby Rockliffe Park, but I wanted to paint the Ottawa River before sunset. Leaving the van at a small park, the closest we can get to the mouth of the Rideau River according to our city map, I grab my coat and camera and hurry on foot along a chain link fence which dead-ends behind a building which turns out to be the "Canada and the World Pavillion". A path leads me around the front entrance and then to a balcony-like sidewalk above the grey expanse of the Ottawa River, and there were the falls, much larger than I'd imagined, curtaining over a cliff of massive natural limestone slabs.
There are ducks on the flat shelf at the top - eight drakes and eight hens, all Mallards, except for one Black Duck, farthest from me. It keeps reaching down to grub for something over the brink of the falls Another Black Duck is far below, alternately resting on the mounds of ice at the foot of the falls and swimming in the water.
The Rideau Falls is 9 metres from its knife-edge lip to its icy footings. The parallel lines of the limestone bedding planes lower down its face are emphasized in brick-like bands by crusts of ice, perpendicular to the pale lines of falling water and lumpy columns of frozen water.
I call this splendid waterfall "Ottawa's best kept secret" because Rideau Falls cannot be seen from any city street. It is only spanned by a footbridge at the low dam which diverts water to a hydro generating station which appears to be under repair at this time. Joggers pass Fred as he crosses the footbridge above the falls, and a rosy band of sunset glows through the long arch of the Alexandra Bridge being crawled across by cars as rush hour begins.