Cornwall Canal

canal00011842-1958

The digging of the Cornwall Canal completed the last link in the water transportation route between Upper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Quebec). Constructed to circumvent the Long Sault Rapids, Royal Engineer Captain George Philpotts described the Canal as “by far the most important section on the whole line of the Canal.”

Opened in late 1842, the Canal’s eastern entrance was moved closer to the river in 1882 creating locks 15 and 17.

Work on the Cornwall Canal, 1893.

Work on the Cornwall Canal, 1893.

The original entrance locks were converted into dry docks in 1897. Ross Bingley, of Bingley Steel Works, recalled “the basin between the two made an excellent dry dock, about 300 feet long and 200 feet wide… It wasn’t unusual to have two or three canallers – boats up to 250 feet in length – tied up… for repairs or winter maintenance.”

canal0003Covering nearly two acres, the docks were capable of handling ships with a draft up to 12 feet. The 850 foot vessels that came with the St. Lawrence Seaway made them obsolete. In 1967, Cornwall Harbour opened and the docks were slated for closure. Today the land is an empty field.

Enlargement of the Canal finished in 1891 when three additional locks were completed west of Cornwall and the Canal was deepened to 14 feet throughout.

The construction of the Seaway and the drowning of the Long Sault Rapids made the Canal obsolete and it closed on June 30th, 1958. In 1971, work started on filling-in the Canal. Twenty-eight years later, the City and Parks Canada committed to spending $50,000 to study the possibility of reopening the system to recreational craft.

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