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Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada

The History of the Rideau Canal


Specifications of the Lockstation:

Three locks with a total lift of 25 feet.

Merrickville Locks Merrickville Locks
©Parks Canada / Steve Weir / Rideau Canal

Merrickville lockstation is located within one of the oldest settlements along the Rideau corridor. William Merrick founded the village of Merrickville in 1794. Attracted to the site by waterpower, he constructed a dam across the river and then built grist, saw and carding mills. It was not long before a community sprang up around the milling activity. In 1821, Merrick built a stone house overlooking his mills.

When the canal construction crews arrived in 1827, the village of Merrick's Mills, as it was then known, was a thriving little community of about 300. Unlike most of the pre-canal sites, Merrick's Mills was not destroyed by canal construction. After the canal was completed, the excess water once again turned the wheels of the mills and the improved transportation system caused a surge in commercial activity in the village. By 1851, Merrick's Mills was an impressive industrial centre.

Merrick's Mills continued to thrive into the mid-1860s. The end of the community's industrial growth is closely related to the decline of the commercial phase of the canal. The rise of the nearby town of Smiths Falls as a major railway hub displaced Merrick's Mills as an industrial leader in the region. Despite the decline, some industry continued in the community. In 1915 a power company was formed at Merrickville to provide electricity for the mills and a foundry, and the woolen mill continued to function until 1954.

Engineering Structures

Three locks, two basins and an artificial channel were constructed "in the dry" at Merrickville. The locks are located at the lower end of the 1100-yard artificial channel.

The present-day dam was built in 1914-15 in front of Merrick's mill dam, replacing a timber dam that once stood upstream. The dam, with the addition of bridges, formed the roadway crossing the canal.

Today, three bridges make up the crossing at Merrickville:

1) a fixed concrete and steel bridge over the waste weir (constructed prior to 1957)
2) a fixed plate girder bridge over the "Snye" (erected in 1924)
3) a plate girder swing bridge over the upper lock (built in 1933, electrified in1955).

The Blockhouse

The Merrickville Blockhouse, the first and largest of four blockhouses constructed on the Rideau Canal, stands as a reminder of the canal's original purpose in providing a secure military supply route for Upper Canada. In the event of war, the blockhouse would serve as a mustering point for local militia -- it could accommodate a garrison of 50 men -- and as a supply depot for provisions, ammunition and arms. At Merrickville, the "wilderness buffer" that surrounded most lockstations had been breached by road improvements between the village and the St. Lawrence River, leaving it vulnerable to American attack. The blockhouse saw military occupation in the period following the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 and again during the Oregon Crisis of 1846 (resulting from a border dispute with the United States). However, the main occupants of the blockhouse were the station's lockmaster and his family. The upper storey of the blockhouse served as the lockmaster's living quarters until the late 19th century. Today the blockhouse is a museum operated by the Merrickville and District Historical Society.