The name “The Narrows” identifies the narrow point between what are today the Upper Rideau and Big Rideau Lakes. Before the Rideau Canal was built in the 1830s, the entire stretch of water was called, simply, Rideau Lake. At that time, the Narrows were referred to as the “Upper Narrows”, to distinguish them from the “Lower Narrows”, at what is now Rideau Ferry.
Oliver’s Ferry, now known as Rideau Ferry, is situated on a narrow channel between Lower and Big Rideau lakes on the Rideau Canal system. It is the narrowest crossing point between the locks at Poonamalie and Rideau Narrows. Today the village spans the crossing, and the south part is situated in Rideau Lakes township.
Otter Lake, on the south shore of the Rideau waterway, drains into Otter Creek which meanders over ten miles to the Rideau River. The lake is situated on a limestone plain which formed the bed of the western part of the Champlain Sea from approximately 13,000 to 10,000 years ago.
By 1806, the land that is now North Crosby and Newboro Ward had been surveyed and divided up into 10 concessions by 27 lots. It was called North Crosby Township. What became Salem was on the western edge, near the boundary with what is now Frontenac County. It saw its first settlers in the late 1820s.