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Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada

The History of the Rideau Canal

SMITHS FALLS

Specifications of the Lockstation:

Detached Lockstation: One lock with a lift of 8 feet
Combined Lockstation: One lock with a lift of 26 feet
Old Slys Lockstastion: Two locks with a combined lift of 16 feet, 6 inches

Smiths Falls Locks Smiths Falls Locks
©Parks Canada / Rideau Canal

This canal town is named for Thomas Smyth, a Loyalist who in 1786 was granted four hundred acres in what is present-day Smiths Falls. At the time of canal construction a small settlement had been established around a mill operated by Abel Russell Ward, who had bought Smyth's land. Colonel By ordered the removal of Ward's mill to make way for the canal. He settled with Ward for £1,500, one of the largest claims made by mill owners on the canal.

The disruption of industry caused by the building of the canal was only temporary, and Smiths Falls grew rapidly following construction. An article in Smith's Gazetteer in 1846 described the town as a "flourishing little village pleasantly situated on the Rideau River and on the Canal, fourteen miles from Perth. It contains about 700 inhabitants. There are fifty dwellings, two grist mills (one with four run of stones), two sawmills, one carding and fulling mill, seven stores, six groceries, one axe factory, six blacksmiths, two wheelwrights, one cabinet maker, one chair-maker, three carpenters, one gunsmith, eleven shoemakers, seven tailors, one tinsmith and two taverns."

A 36-foot drop in less than a quarter of a mile posed an obstacle to navigation at Smiths Falls. A natural depression to the south of the river was used to create a flight of three locks, known as Combined Lockstation today. The natural course of the river was dammed to create a basin upstream of the locks. At the upper end of the basin a fourth (detached) lock was constructed. Between 1972-74 a new single hydraulic lock was built at Combined lockstation just north of the old flight of three hand-operated locks. The single lock was required to allow boat traffic to clear a new low-level bridge.

A mile below Combined Lockstation is a flight of two locks called Old Slys Lockstation. This station is named for the original settler at this location, William Sly. A dam and waste weir control water levels upstream of the locks.

Defensible lockmasters' houses were built at all three stations in Smiths Falls. The house at Old Slys was built in 1838 and the houses at Combined and Detached around 1842. Only the house at Combined has a second storey, which was added late in the 19th century. The defensible lockmaster's house at Detached Lockstation was torn down in 1894.

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