The Strange Story and Qualifying of “Rideau Island” (ON-297)

For a number of years, Bob VA3QV/VA3RCS and myself (Jose VA3PCJ/VE3DTI) have spent numerous summer afternoons playing radio from different parks in Ottawa. We used ta call it “HF in the Park”: each of us would bring along a portable low-power (QRP) radio and a small antenna and sit under the trees and log whoever in the World could hear our signal and communicate with us. One of our preferred “fishing” spots was the rear parking lot of Brewer Park beside the Baseball diamond, just across the Carleton University Campus.

Recently, I became interested in island “activation” (aka playing radio from an island) and in “qualifying” new islands for the Canadian Island Activators program ( While looking for new islands in chart Nr. 1512 of the Canadian Hydrographic Service, suddently, a “Nameless” island appeared flanked by the Ottawa River to the North West, the Rideau River to the North East and East, and the Rideau Canal to the West. Here it is:

Rideau Island

The existence of this island was so evident that it seemed impossible for it not to have been noticed, or even not having been named before. Furthermore, this island, which includes the three main university campuses in the City (University of Ottawa, Carleton University and St. Paul University), also includes Brewer Park. This meant that Bob and myself, albeit unknowingly, had numerous times “activated” this island in the past. Even better: in order to “qualify” an island and assign a number to it, the Canadian Islands Activators Program requires a minimum of 25 contacts made from the island in at least two different DXCC entities, and Bob and myself had each made more than that number of contacts while operating from Brewer Park. A search through the log quickly confirmed this suspicion. Here are my contacts from Brewer Park, and Bob would have had as many if not many more:

QSOs from Brewer ParkQSOs from Brewer Park
Now, to include islands in their registry, the Canadian Island Activators ( have criteria that they share with the US Islands Awards Program (

“1. The island is totally surrounded by water and is a minimum of 50 feet long in any direction (including height) and a minimum of 50 feet from the main shoreline at DXpedition time.  These distances are approximate and shall be at the discretion of the operator.  Bridges and narrow causeways linking the island to the main land or other islands are acceptable.  Please ensure that the island is not a peninsula. CIA encourages Island Hopping, activating multiple islands in a day or weekend.
2. Operation from boats, ships, etc. is allowed as long as some part of the radio station (transceiver, antenna, feed-line or power supply) is physically located on the island.
3. The name of the body of water, lake, river or sea, must be listed on a map. The island must be present on a map, including aerial images like Google maps. The island name should appear on a map of some type, preferably in the Canadian Topographical Map series, or as a minimum be known locally.  First time qualifiers must coordinate the “official” CIA name with the Webmaster.”

Everything seemed to fit, except that the island did not seem to have a name. An e-mail was sent by Bob to the Archivist of the City of Ottawa, who also happened to be our fellow radio amateur Paul VE3CPH. However, Paul’s initial efforts failed to provide a documented name for the island. However, it was reasoned that if anyone had given a name to the island before, it would have likely been “Ottawa Island” or “Rideau Island”. A search in Google for the latter led to the following article by Kristen Gagnon entitled “Rideau Island: An Island for Ottawa?”:

The article included a picture similar to the one above, demarcating the island in Google Maps:

On this evidence, the Canadian Island Activators decided that “Rideau Island” had been appropriately “activated” and “qualified” in the past and included it in its registry with Number ON-297 (Grid FN25dk, although for Bob and myself it would be FN25dj, the square that includes Brewer Park).

RIdeau Island ON297
So, next time Bob and I, in a warm and sunny afternoon, sit under the maples of Brewer Park to play radio, we will be knowingly “activating” Rideau Island and giving to others the island new CIA number: ON-297.


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