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Five Canadian canals worth visiting

These waterways offer more than just transportation from A to B

  • Feb 28, 2015
  • 681 words
  • 3 minutes
Lachine Canal, Quebec Expand Image

Can’t make it on a cruise of Canada’s most famous canals? No problem. These five manmade waterways offer visitors a taste of history and plenty of activities on their own.

St. Peter’s Canal, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
St. Peter’s Canal is a gateway to the Atlantic Ocean from the lower eastern corner of Cape Breton’s brackish Bras D’Or Lake. The 800-metre-long canal began construction in 1854 across the narrow isthmus between to the two bodies of water to allow shipping access to inland Cape Breton. And while the canal, now a national historic site, is seldom used for commercial vessels anymore, all kinds of recreational craft ply the waters in the summer to take in the beauty and history of the island, including Battery Provincial Park adjacent to the canal and the Fortress of Louisbourg national historic site in Sydney. The also boasts a museum, lockmaster’s house and the only double-walled canal entrance in North America. The waterway’s namesake village offers a variety of restaurants and shops.

Canal open select times from May to October.

Chambly Canal, Chambly, Quebec
Cruise back in time along this 19-kilometre historic waterway, which still requires manual power to lift some of its bridges and open its locks. The canal began construction in 1831 to bypass the rapids at Saint-Jean and Chambly on southern Quebec’s Richelieu River, an ancient fur trade and shipping route from Lake Champlain to the Upper Richelieu River. Up until the First World War, commercial shipping ruled the canal, but became obsolete with the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Now, the waterway is a national historic site used for recreational vessels, including canoes and kayaks, and takes visitors through the historic towns of Chambly and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
Canal open select times from May to October.

Welland Recreational Waterway, Welland, Ontario
While no longer a working canal, the Welland Recreational Waterway offers leisure boaters a pleasant 12-kilometre passage through the heart of Welland, Ont. along the famed route of the historic Welland Canal. In 1974 the Welland Canal, which connects Lake Ontario with Lake Erie, was rerouted to the east of the city to provide a more direct shipping route along the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system and has since been used exclusively for commercial vessels. The old stretch of the canal that ran through Welland has undergone a revitalization, and now offers residents and visitors 24 kilometres of trails and park land, a scuba park, multiple recreational buildings and structures, as well as a venue for hosting rowing and dragon boat championships.
Canal open year round. Rentals available May to September.

Sault-Ste-Marie Canal, Sault-Ste-Mare, Ontario
The just over two-kilometre Sault Ste. Marie Canal was the longest and most technologically advanced in the world upon its completion in 1895. Up until the 1960s, it served as a vital portion of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron, however it is now used for recreational vessels. Heritage buildings on North St. Mary’s Island include the administration building, superintendent’s residence, canalmen’s shelter, powerhouse and blacksmith shop and offer examples of late 19th-century Canadian architecture. As a national historic site, tours are available through Parks Canada and three kilometres of nature trails lead visitors below the international bridge.
Canal open from mid-May to mid-October.

Lachine Canal, Montreal, Quebec
The Lachine Canal takes boaters 14.5 kilometres through Montreal, from the Old Port to Lake Saint-Louis. Talks of a canal in Ville-Marie, now Montreal, began as early as 1671, however it wasn’t until 1825 that the canal was finally completed. With the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the canal began obsolete to commercial shipping and is now used for recreational boaters and paddlers as well as discovery tours for visitors. As a national historic site, there are plenty of interpretation and historical exhibitions available as are walking paths, picnic areas and parks.
Canal open from April 15 to November 15.


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