Monday, August 16, 2010

Montreal: Summer on the Lachine Canal

For many people, summer in the Montreal means walking, biking, or boating along the Lachine Canal. The Canal stretches 14.5 km from the Old Port of Montreal to Lake Saint-Louis on the St Lawrence River. There are a total of 5 locks to navigate for boaters and paved biking/walking/jogging trails with small pocket parks and access to local attractions such as the Marche Atwater.

Construction of the canal was begun in 1821 and finished in 1825 creating the port of entry for a series of canals that opened up the interior of the North America to the Atlantic Ocean. Interestingly, the famed Erie Canal was also opened in 1825 with the same purpose. In addition to providing important commercial shipping passage, the canal also provided power (hydraulic) to a growing manufacturing community along the Lachine.

With the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 (built to handle the newer, larger freighters headed for the Great Lakes: hence the term “Lakers”) the Lachine Canal fell into disrepair and was largely unused for any navigational purpose for almost 4 decades. In 1997 a revitalization program started. Bike/Walking paths have been constructed along its entire length. In 2002, the canal reopened for pleasure craft. Today additional improvements at the locks (boat docks, cafes, landscaping, and historic markers) are added each year.

Summertime sees heavy use by boaters wishing to make the slow and scenic voyage through the 5 locks and 14.5 km of canal (an average of 3 hours without stops). These photos were taken on August 15th at Locks 1 and 2 at the entrance to the Canal in the Old Port of Montreal. The photos show many happy boaters, brand new almost-ready-to-open floating docks, the newly restored historic ocean-going tug The Daniel McAllister and summer blue sky.

The area around Locks 1 and 2 are easily accessible (year round) from Old Montreal by foot or bike and boasts several cafes, benches for resting, and closeup views of lock operations. We often bike a few miles further up the canal to Marche Atwater for produce and pastries. But sometimes we just sit and watch the boats go by. It is a place well worth the visit.

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