Rideau River Provincial Park is a spacious campground, stretched out along a portion of the Rideau waterway in the Ottawa area. Here’s what we thought of our stay!
It’s the second last stop on this trip; I can’t believe we only have one more left, before heading home! The month went by so quickly.
Anyway, located along the historic Rideau waterway - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - this seemed like a nice little park to bring us into the Ottawa area.
It also brought us close enough to go visit my great aunt, who lives only ten minutes away.
In general, it seemed like a great place to stay - fairly quiet, nice layout, the camp site was amazing.
... but it started out with language barrier rudeness, and the bunch of loud gunshots starting at 6:30 am BOTH mornings weren’t the most endearing trait. (It continued sporadically for over an hour and a half, too!)
Looking past those issues, it’s a solid campground.
Lots to say, so let’s get to it!
Campground Name: Rideau River Provincial Park
Address: 2680 Donnelly Drive Kemptville, ON K0G 1J0
Price Ontario Provincial Parks uses a pricing matrix across all their parks. See 2023 Camping Fees for more details.
Reservations: Ontario Parks Reservations
As always, booking our site was quick and easy on the Ontario Parks reservation portal.
Registration at the park entrance was also quick, fast, and friendly. This one involved going a small building, and there was a plexiglass barrier between the staff and campers registering.
The signage throughout the park was decent enough. Not as high contrast as some parks we’ve seen, but it’s a simple enough layout that the signage got the job done.
In terms of light pollution, aurora borealis, and night sky watching: The park is located just south of Ottawa, so there’s a ton of light pollution - especially to the north.
The park itself is on the north side of the river, so you’re looking south over the Rideau River.
There’s no apparent wifi service at Rideau River Provincial Park, but the cell phone coverage was pretty decent for the duration of our stay.
As a bonus: the local radio stations come in clearly! It was a nice break from relying entirely on the cardio mix of MP3s I happened to have on my phone.
The Park Map
During sign in, my husband had to ask for a map, and they gestured at a stack of them.
When he handed it to me in the truck, I noticed that it was almost completely French: The legend (This park actually has one!) was bilingual, but ALL of the information - and there was a lot of it - was entirely Francophone.
We’re close enough to the Quebec border that I assumed he just grabbed the wrong one, so he went back in for an English one.
They didn’t have any - they said they “were out for the season”.
Now, our stay started about 3 WEEKS before the end of their camping season - and we don’t know how long they have been without English maps.
Had they said “we ran out this morning”, fair enough - I get that it could take a few hours or a day or two to get some copies made.
That’s rude, it’s lazy, and it’s incredibly poor hospitality. Ontario Parks isn’t a little mom and pop shop, they absolutely could have had English language info available.
Given that half my family are Quebec franchophones, I can pretty confidently say that there’s no way they - a government facility - would go 3+ weeks without French language info available.
It was really off-putting.
As with the vast majority of Ontario Provincial Parks, the camp sites at Rideau River may or may not have electricity, but definitely don’t have water or sewer.
There is a dump station / fill station at the front of park - 1 platform for each. A couple things to note here:
1. The Layout
It’s very much designed to be accessed on the way OUT of the park.
Getting into the fill station on the way in involved driving the RV and trailer through one of the campground loops to get it turned around, so we could access it from the intended direction.
We actually saw someone trying to back his camper into the loop, a bit later. Thankful we got through there early, oof.
2. The Nozzle
The nozzle on the water fill hose did not have a threaded head.
When we tried to press it against our filter - as we have at other parks - we quickly realized that this one was designed not to allow pressure. It would shoot out the sides, rather than into the filter.
Basically, you’d be able to fill your tank directly, but you wouldn’t be able to use a filter.
I guess that’s why some of the other non-threaded heads we’ve seen at other parks had a bunch of tape around the nozzle - they were trying to bypass this nonsense.
Not super sanitary - this kind of thing is why we use a filter!
We opted to skip it, which was especially disappointing after the detour it took to get into the fill station in the first place.
Beyond that, there are potable water taps throughout the park.
The main garbage and recycling center is across from the entrance to the “poop loop”, but there are a few other also decent sized garbage / recycling centers throughout the park.
The 2 comfort stations and the changing room building / partial comfort station at the main beach have barrier free access.
The beach itself doesn’t have barrier free access - or even a paved trail to it - so you’ll be traversing grass to get to the sand.
While the beach itself is relatively close to the level of the grassed area, there’s kind of a step down to get there.
As a note: The ramp part of the sidewalk to get to the first comfort station - the one with laundry - isn’t really a smooth transition from the parking lot.
The walking trail is not wheelchair accessible, but should be do-able for other types of lighter mobility aids - walking boots, braces, a can, crutches, etc.
Finally, the campground does have 2 barrier free campsites available.
Dogs aren’t allowed at the main beach - we knew that because we saw a sign on the beach saying as much. That was basically all the info we saw on dog rules here.
Sure would be nice if we could read the map and visitor info, huh?
Anyway, I did Google based on a little section that showed a dog - apparently Ferguson Forest Dog Park is about 10 minutes away from the campground.
Looks like a great place to go with your doggos, and hey - the website is in English 🙂
Other than that, I’m guessing the assumption would be that dogs are allowed (we saw several), but probably have to be kept on a leash in all areas?
The camp sites all appeared to easily be big enough to handle an extra vehicle or two along with your camping rig.
There are also parking lots throughout the campground, of varying sizes: the trail head, the comfort stations, the beaches, boat launch, etc.
The parking at the front office wasn’t GREAT for RVs, but it was empty enough that we at least had space to pull over and run in.
I imagine it would be an absolute mess on busy check-in days.
Campground Amenities & Info
Overall, Rideau River Provincial Park appeared to be pretty clean and well maintained during our stay.
In particular, we noted that everything seemed really well mowed, probably pretty recently.
Unlike at MacLeod Provincial Park, we didn’t see trash anywhere except where it was supposed to be, which was nice.
There are two comfort stations in the campground, each with showers and flush toilets; One of the two comfort stations - the first one, as you’re driving in - also has laundry facilities, towards the back of it, on the side.
There are also flush toilets at the main beach, and vault toilets throughout the park.
Day Use Area
The main beach has a large day use area, with a picnic shelter - which needs to be reserved - and other picnic tables available for public use in the open air.
One nice thing was that there were a lot of public-use grills throughout the picnic areas.
There was a decent sized playground and a volleyball net at the Main Beach day use area, along with a limited comfort station - toilets and change rooms.
At the East Beach, there’s another small day use area - a few picnic tables, another small flush toilet building, and one weird little solitary piece of playground equipment.
A small campground store is located at the park office. They carry the usual Ontario Parks souvenirs, along with fire wood, ice, snacks, and more.
You can also buy worms and arrange for canoe rentals there.
The almost 200 RV and tent campsites are laid out as a series of loops off the main road, and about ¼ of the sites have electrical service.
The sites are generally HUGE, with a VERY high canopy of trees. From what we could see, each one has a fire pit and picnic table.
About half of the loops of sites open out onto the banks of the Rideau River, and the remaining loops are north of the main road.
Our Campsite - #169 - was on one of the southern loops, just a couple of sites away from water access.
The top - bottom? - curve of each of these southern loops has a big open area, with views of the river and varying degrees of water access.
Our loop had a small playground - the only one with a playground - and rustic access to the river. We saw some nearby campers launching kayaks right from the shore there.
There wasn’t a ton of privacy, visually, but the size of the lots meant that our neighbours were not right up in our business.
Overall, very pleasant - aside from the early morning gunshots!
The east side of the campground has 4 group camp sites, each with water taps and vault toilets.
The website refers to 2 additional group camp sites existing, but we didn’t see them, nor are they referenced on the park map - so we’re not sure what’s up with that.
Anyway, the #301 group camp site has open access onto the beach, but ALSO opens out onto the trail. Easy access to the trail if you want it, but also easy access to your camp site, for those taking the trail.
It’s not super clear whether the road through that camp site is “public” or not, so I would imagine it gets a fair number of people just walking through it.
It does have the best view / access of the group campsites, but not great on the privacy front.
Cabins & Such
Rideau River PP has a few options for roofed accommodations in the park.
At the west end of the campground are the “Rustic Cabins”.
These have wood interiors and sleep up to 5, and provide just the basics - you need bedding, towels, dishes, cutlery, pots and pans, etc.
They’re referred to as “new prospector tents” on the map, and “soft sided shelters” on the website.
We thought they were basically the same as the other cabins, on a quick glance - apparently the walls are just canvas, though.
These ones sleep 6 each in bunk beds, and don’t allow cooking in them.
Entertainment and Activity
Given the “River” right there in the name of the park, it shouldn’t be surprising at all that most of the recreational activities here take place either on the water, or along the river bank.
The campground seems to be a great base camp for those who want to partake in the local boating opportunities up the river and in the surrounding area.
The river is part of the Historic Rideau Canal system, and there are locks both upstream and down stream.
Long Reach Lockstation and Burritts Rapids Lockstation are 20 km in either direction, with various marinas peppering your route to either.
(Ok, now my brain is doing that involuntary song bastardization thing. That oldies song about Cripple Creek? Yeaaaa....)
Rideau Provincial Park rents out canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards - arrange it at the park office, pick up at the boat launch.
Easy drive to it, ample parking, well maintained, wide launch, the docks are in good shape, and it’s a relatively gradual drop off from the lot through the actual launch itself.
We saw a few people who appeared to be out fishing during our stay, apparently this section of the Rideau River is good for bass, muskie, panfish, and walleye.
The registration office at the park is part of the Tackleshare Program, an Ontario program to help people get into fishing by providing free loans of fishing rods, etc.
There are two beaches at Rideau Provincial Park: A Main Beach, and the East Beach.
Both beach areas were well groomed during our stay, and - as is generally the case with provincial park beaches - there are no lifeguards on duty at any time.
The East Beach is off a little road / loop where the “New Prospector Tents” are located, along with a bit of a day use area, picnic tables, and a washroom building.
This small beach was very marshy, and the sand was almost ... muddy? I wonder if it’s a high clay content sand or something.
Again with this one, the sand area was very well groomed, but the swimming area was just not that appealing at all.
We did visit in late September though, so maybe the water condition is different in the summertime?
Hiking and Birding
There is a 1.5 km trail in the park - the Shoreline Trail. It’s a linear trail, so 3 km as a there-and-back.
This trail skirts the river for the length of the park, from the #301 group campsite on one end, to the end loop of the main campground area.
It’s an easy trail that varies between matted paths through trees, to open area - when passing by day use and camping areas - to having little boardwalk type bridges and such.
It was a bit weird how the trail would kind of dump you out into the large picnic areas, without a lot of direction as to where to go.
There wasn’t a marked / defined trail through those areas - you just walk across the grass, no path - and you had to scan the far side of the open area to figure out where the actual trail picked up again.
Also, the trail end at the group camp site is SUPER awkward. You can’t tell what area is supposed to be more “public”, and where you’d be walking into someone’s actual camp site.
Anyway, this cute little fitness trail is your best opportunity for birdwatching in the park, as well.
Most of the birds in the area are waterfowl, and they’ve been known to get Great Blue Herons and Osprey from time to time.
You can also see other wildlife along the trail, such as frogs, turtles, and a ton of chipmunks that will run out from the camp sites / treed areas to tell you off!
As with a lot of the smaller provincial parks, the Discovery Program at Rideau River Provincial Park is limited to July and August, and seems to mostly consist of the activity book / supporting materials.
There doesn’t seem to be any kind of organized space for programming in this area - no amphitheatre, visitor centre, etc.
Bikes are allowed on the campground roads, which are in decent shape and were low traffic during our stay.
They aren’t welcomed on the trails, and really... I don’t think the trail would be all that suitable for cycling.
There was a fair amount of Pokemon Go the be played in this park.
There were 2 poke stops to the west of our campsite, 3 gyms and 4 stops in easy walking distance (the main beach area and registration office), and another Poke Stop at the East Beach.
There were also as two Routes:
The first is a 1.5 km Route on the road from the campground office to the end loop in the main campsite area (Driveable).
There’s also a walking Route along the trail, slightly over 1km in length, starting near the boat launch. Heading towards the group camp site end.
This came in SUPER handy, as our stay coincided with an event that had several tasks related to Routes - this were the first we’ve seen on our trip.
Thankfully, we had decent cell phone reception to be able to utilize it!
While we were able to look past the map language slight (seriously, that’s incredibly inhospitable and unwelcoming, in my books!), the hour and a half of sporadic gunfire both mornings was a bit harder to overlook.
For all the warnings we see on camp site conditions in other parks - “windy”, “high traffic”, etc - you’d think they’d say something like “people hunt across the river from your site and may wake you up with loud gunfire before dawn”.
... Especially considering that those other warnings definitely have seemed to be out of an abundance of caution, and never seem to apply.
The “windy” site was definitely not windy enough to even notice, and the campsites that were supposed to be high traffic never seemed to have anyone walking or driving by.
Gunfire before sunrise? EXTREMELY uncool.
If you take away the language slight and the gunfire, it would be a great park.
As-is, I just can’t see returning to this one, so it’s a pass from us.
More Campground Reviews
Want to read some more of what we have to say about the campgrounds we've stayed at? Here are some more reviews!
Chutes Provincial Park
Conestogo Lake Conservation Area
Driftwood Provincial Park
Elora Gorge Conservation Area
Fifty Point Conservation Area
Killbear Provincial Park
Lake Superior Provincial Park
Long Point Provincial Park
MacLeod Provincial Park
Meaford Memorial Park
Neys Provincial Park
Port Burwell Provincial Park
Quetico Provincial Park
Selkirk Provincial Park
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Turkey Point Provincial Park
Valens Lake Conservation Area
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