/ The Niagara Guide
Niagara — By Megan Pasche on June 8, 2010 at 7:18 pm
Filed under: boats, featuredarticle, history, Tours

The Welland Canal: Ships that Ply the Lakes

At the Welland Canal Centre (map) in St. Catharines, Ontario, you have the chance to see an engineering marvel at work. The City of St. Catharines was built around the Welland Canal, and as the shipping route gained popularity worldwide, people began to flock to St. Catharines. Lock 3 gives visitors the opportunity to watch as ships from all over the world literally climb a mountain. By way of a fascinating lock system, ships make their way through the Welland Canal, up the Niagara Escarpment, and out into one of the Great Lakes.

Watching as 200 feet long ships make their way though the locks as the water rushes in and slowly lifts them up is really quite a sight to behold. Lock 3 has a long viewing platform that makes it quite easy to see the ships as they pass through the lock. Although quite slow moving, it is a fascinating process.  The Welland Canal Centre is also home to the St. Catharines Museum and the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame. The centre also has a small snack shop where you can grab an ice cream to eat while watching the ships.

To make sure your visit coincides with the time a ship is due to be passing through, check out the website for the times and names of the ships on any given day.

There are 8 locks throughout the Welland Canal, and they lead from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. To make a day trip of it, you can start in St. Catharines to catch a glimpse of Locks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Thorold to see Lock 7 (map), and Port Colborne to see Lock 8 (map).

At Lock 7 in Thorold, you will find the “Kissing Rock”. Here you can learn the legend of Charlie Snelgrove and the now famous rock. Supposedly, anyone who meets and kisses at the Kissing Rock will have everlasting luck and happiness.

Port Colborne, home of Lock 8, plays host to the yearly Canal Days Festival which takes place over the August long weekend. If you are visiting at another time, you can always check out the Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum (map), and learn some in depth information about the Regions marine history. Lock 8, located in Gateway Park, also has an elevated platform for visitors to view passing ships. Lock 8 is actually one of the longest canal locks in the world, measuring 421 metres.

The very first Welland Canal (it’s now in its 4th incarnation), was built in 1825 was dug by hand. The only thing the workers had assisting them were horse drawn carriages. Creeks and rivers were connected with the lift locks being made from wood. In the very first Welland Canal, ships were pulled in and out of locks by teams of horses. Eventually, as the boats became bigger and the cargos larger, the canal had to be expanded. The canal you see today opened in 1932.

As you drive from city to city along the canal, you will notice that the land surrounding the canal is filled with historic sites, picnic areas, walking and biking paths, museums, displays, beaches, restaurants and accommodations. It’s a great way to see a lot of the Region, and learn about an industry that had a huge impact on the way the area was developed.

All photos taken by Megan Pasche

Related places:
  1. A
    St Catharines Museum & Welland Canal Centre AtLock 3
    1932 Welland Canals Parkway, St. Catharines, ON L2R7K6, Canada
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    24 Chapel St S
    Inn at Lock 7 (The), 24 Chapel St S, Thorold, ON L2V 2C6, Canada
    View Details and Book
  3. C
    76 Main St W
    76 Main St W, Port Colborne, ON L3K 3V1, Canada
    View Details and Book
  4. D
    Port Colborne Historical & Marine Museum
    280 KING ST, Port Colborne, Ontario L3K 3J9, Canada
    View Details and Book
Tags: boats, featuredarticle, history, Tours

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