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Abandoned Welland Canal locks can be found in Port Dalhousie

November 2020

The St. Catharines community of Port Dalhousie is a historic waterfront community, on the shore of Lake Ontario, near the American border. It’s the home of the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, and it’s Lakeside Park, which features one of only nine antique hand carved carousels still operating in Canada, was the inspiration behind the song “Lakeside Park” by Canadian progressive rock band Rush.

It was also the northern terminus for the first three routes of the Welland Canal. For the current Fourth Welland Canal, the northern terminus was moved 3 miles to the east of Port Dalhousie, and while ships transiting through the canal no longer sail past the community, lock #1 from both the Second and Third Welland Canals can still be found; one repurposed; the other abandoned.


Second Welland Canal

The Welland Canal Company, builders of the original canal in 1824, was bought out by the government of Upper Canada due to their continuing financial problems and the need to increase the depth of the canal. The number of locks was also reduced to 27 and the canal opened in 1848.

The Welland Railway opened in 1859, running parallel to the canal. This railway was used to transport cargo from ships to large to fit in to the small canal locks. The small locks would eventually lead to the need to enlarge the canal again, leading to the construction of the Third Welland Canal.

Lock #1 has been turned into a small performance amphitheatre, with the bench seats and the stage sitting in between the old stone walls.


Third Welland Canal

The Third Welland Canal opened in 1887, featuring a shorter alignment between Port Dalhousie and St. Catharines, but as it would turn out, the canal was still to small to accommodate many of the lake freighters needing passage between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. As a result, construction on a fourth Welland Canal began in 1913; construction that was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I.

The fourth canal would no officially open until August 1932, due to worker shortages caused by WWI and the years afterwards, after which this route was abandoned.

A small portion of the south end of the lock was filled in, along with the canal route, creating Howes Park, but the rest of the lock heading out into the inner harbour is still visible and full of water.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welland_Canal, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Dalhousie,_Ontario, http://wellandcanals.ca, http://oldwellandcanals.wikidot.com/port-dalhousie, https://www.wellandcanal.com/hist.htm.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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