Brief History

Welland Canal Facts First
Number Of Locks 40 27 26 8
Width Of Locks 6.7m 8.1m 13.7m 24.4m
Length Of Locks 33.5m 45.7m 82.3m 261.8m
Depth Of Canal 2.4m 2.7m 4.3m 8.2m

The First Welland Canal

[picture of welland canal] The first Welland Canal between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie was designed with Niagara's landscape in mind. It began at Port Dalhousie and ran along the Twelve Mile Creek to Port Robinson where it connected to the Welland River. The Welland River then joined up to the Niagara River exiting to Lake Erie. Construction of the canal began on November 24, 1824 and was completed by November 29, 1829. By 1833 the canal had undergone several modifications that included five more locks, an expansion of the feeder canal and the construction of a more direct route from Port Robinson to Port Colborne. The canal had now become 43.4 kilometers long and 2.4 meters deep and consisted of 40 wooden locks. The building of the canal was a labor intensive venture. Construction crews made up of European immigrants had very few tools to work with other than picks and shovels. The men on these crews were paid about a half a dollar for a day's work. The operation of the canal also required a great deal of physical labor as horses and oxen were used to tow the ships (schooners) from one lock to another on paths that still exist today as streets by the name of towpath. The total cost of the canal was 8 million dollars and the man responsible for initiating the project was a young entrepreneur by the name of William Hamilton Merritt. He would later become known as the founding father of the Welland Canal.

The Second Welland Canal

[picture of welland canal] The second Welland Canal also ran from Port Dalhousie to Port Robinson in a southern direction and on through the towns of Welland and Port Colborne to Lake Erie. The building of a larger second Welland Canal was necessary due to the increase use of the waterway by large ships. Construction on the canal began in 1842. The canal project was now under the jurisdiction of the government of Canada, who had purchased the canal from the Welland Canal Company one year prior to the expansion. The new canal reduced the number of lift locks to 27 and extended the length between locks from 33.5 meters to 45.7 meters. The locks themselves were made of limestone and increased in width from 6.7 meters to 8.1 meters. The canal's depth was also increased to 2.7 meters and later by 1853 to 3.1 meters.

The Third Welland Canal

[picture of welland canal] The third Welland Canal took a and more direct path from Port Dalhousie to Allanburg leaving behind the Twelve Mile Creek route. From Allanburg the canal continued to follow the previous path with the exception of bypassing many of the canal downtown community centers. Constructon on the canal was completed in 1887. The third canal no longer depended on the feeder canal for its source of water. Instead water was directly supplied from lake Erie via the canal itself. The canal was now 4.3 meters deep and its 26 stone locks had swelled to a dimension of 13.7 meters in width with a distance of 82.3 meters between lock gates.

The Fourth Welland Canal

[picture of welland canal] The fourth and current Welland Canal was mainly constructed between the years of 1913 and 1932. Its depth started out at 7.6 meters but later was deepened to 8.2 meters and currently is 9.1 meters deep. There are 8 locks in total, each 24.4 meters wide and 261.8 meters long. The canal now runs perpendicular to the Niagara Escarpment and is the most direct route of all three previous canals. The canal starts at the man made Port Weller piers on Lake Ontario and continues south as straight as possible to Port Colborne. Between the years of 1967 and 1973 a channel was constructed east of the city of Welland to help speed ship traffic through the canal and alleviate highway traffic through the rose city. This channel is known as the Welland By-Pass. Another fascinating feature of this canal is the twin flight locks in Thorold which allow more than one ship to travel in either direction at the same time.

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