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Lachine Canal

 

by Dr. K. Ha

From Concordia's EV-complex, you can reach the Lachine Canal by walking along Guy St. towards south for about 15 minutes. The Canal stretches over 14 km from Lake Saint-Louis to the Old Port of Montreal. The large expanse of green space along the Canal and its serene surrounding belie its glorious past steeped in the history of the city.

 

View of the present St. Gabriel Lock of Lachine Canal

 

The Lachine Canal is a man-made navigable waterway originally designed to bypass the obstacle posed by the Lachine Rapids and facilitate navigation the length of the St. Lawrence River. Its five pairs of locks helped to overcome a drop of about 14 metres. As the forerunner of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Lachine Canal was a major link in the Canadian system of navigable waterways. It was declared of national historic significance in 1929, and in 1987 the Historic Sites and Monuments Review Board of Canada (HSMBC) reiterated the national historic significance of the canal as a navigable waterway that was part of Canada’s national canal system. [1]

Already in the planning stages during the French Regime, it would only open to shipping in 1825. Bypassing the treacherous Lachine Rapids, tens of thousands of ships took this route before the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The port of entry for the canal network linking the Atlantic Ocean to the heart of the continent, the Lachine Canal was the forerunner of the transportation revolution in Canada in the early 19th century. It also played a decisive role in the industrial development of Montréal, notably as a supplier of hydraulic power. Finally, this corridor became one of the main manufacturing production centres in Canada, from the beginning of industrialization in the middle of the 19th century until the Second World War. Ref.: Lachine CanalNational Historic Site of Canada [2].

Rendered obsolete by the Saint Lawrence Seaway, the canal was finally closed in late 1969. In 2002, after $40-million restoration work, it was reopened as a pleasure boating area while its banks offer paths for bicycling and rollerblading. Its rejuvenation helps the gentrification of the residential areas along its banks.

The Lachine Canal is a fine example of civil engineering projects that affect profoundly the country's economy, its environment and its people's standard of living.


 
 

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