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5 Interesting Facts About the Welland Canal

Cranes performing maintenance on the Welland Canal

1. This is the 4th Welland Canal.
The current Welland Canal got started in 1913 and finished in 1932. However the first Welland Canal dates back to 1829 and had 40 locks! Before the Welland Canal, the goods had to be transported via a portage road between Chippawa and Queenston to avid Niagara Falls. That is the main reasons why these 2 towns got developed in the first place. Over the years, and the technological improvements, the canal became wider, deeper and straighter. Made of 40 locks and following a very curvy trajectory when originally built, the 4th Canal is now pretty much a straight line between Port Weller on Lake Ontario and Port Colborne on Lake Erie and consists of only 8 locks. Located only 15 min from the Falls, our Segway Tours from Lock 3 are great things to do in Niagara Falls!

2. It is part of the St Lawrence Seaway
The St Lawrence Seaway is made of a system of channels, Locks and Canals in Canada and the USA which allow boats to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Superior. The St Lawrence Seaway borrows its name from the St Lawrence River which flows from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean. This corporation goes from Montreal to Lake Erie. 13 of the 15 locks are managed by the St Lawrence Seaway Corporation in Canada, while the remaining falls under the responsibility of the St Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation in the USA. The 2 entities form the Highway H2O.

3. William Hamilton Merritt was its main contributor
William Hamilton Merritt was a captain and leader during the 1812 war and stationed at Chippawa. During one of its patrols he got the idea to create a canal to by-pass the Niagara Falls. In 1816 he purchased a sawmill on the Twelve Mill Creek and added a grist mill and a store. During the summer of 1818, when the water was especially low, he decided to pursue the idea of building a canal and organized a general meeting in St Catharines. Contrary to his original request, of providing a constant flow of water to his mills, this canal was going to allow ships to travel through the Niagara Escarpment. The Welland Canal company got created in 1824 with nine shareholders and it opened in 1829.

4. It is not open all year long
The Welland Canal is usually open from end of March to end of December. During the winter months, the canal is drained and all the necessary maintenance is conducted on the Locks. The opening season starts with an official ceremony and presentation at the Lock 3 Museum in St Catharines. On average, 3000 vessels use the Welland Canal annually carrying 40 000 000 tons of cargo, mostly bulk. Leisure boats, yachts and cruises are also allowed to use the Welland Canal.

5. It has been the scene of several accidents and sabotage
Several sabotages occurred on the Welland Canal, the idea was to create a flood of water and to create devastating damages. The most famous attack occurred in April 21, 1900 when John Walsh, John Nolan and “Dynamite” Luke Dillon, members of an Irish Republican Organization wanted to explode one of the doors of Lock 24 in Thorold. Fortunately, due to an error in placing the bomb, a door did get damaged but the flood didn`t happen.
One of the most recent accident happened on August 11, 2001 when the vertical lift bridge in Allanburg got lowered too early on the Windoc. The bridge suffered minor damages; however the impact created a large fire on board and the ship was a complete loss. This accident has been caught on video and can be found on the internet.

So if you are looking for things to do in Niagara Falls, come and discover the Welland Canal with your own eyes by choosing one of our 3 Segway Tours!