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Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada

The History of the Rideau Canal


Specifications of the Lockstation:

Two locks with a total lift of 15 feet.

The Construction of the Lockstation:

Lower Nicholsons Locks
Lower Nicholsons Lockstation
© Parks Canada / Bill Pratt / Rideau Canal

The lockstation was named after Robert Nicholson, a Loyalist immigrant. Construction of the lock began in 1827 by a private contracting firm named H.C. Stevens and Co. Originally the plan was for a single lock with a lift of 10 feet, but a higher lift was required and two locks were built instead.

The Structures of the Lockstation:

Lockmaster's House: The defensible lockmaster's house was built in 1838. A stone building, it was originally only one storey but eventually a second storey was added to provide additional space for the lockmaster and his family.

Engineering Structures: The site consists of a 400-yard artificial channel with a lock chamber at each end. A stone arch dam was built above the locks to flood out a lengthy stretch of rapids and to make the river navigable between Nicholsons Lockstation and the nearby Clowes Lockstation.

The timber swing bridge crossing Upper Nicholsons lock is one of four such heritage bridges remaining along the canal.

In the 1850s a petition was signed by the local residents requesting a drawbridge at the site. If a bridge was built over the lock, the petitioners promised to build one over the river. The government refused but in 1863 the municipalities of Wolford and Merrickville offered to build the bridge at their own expense. The government readily gave them permission. The Andrews brothers built a swing bridge over the upper lock the following year. They also built a fixed bridge across the river to complete the crossing. Since then the bridge has been replaced numerous times, the most recent being in 1971. The fixed bridge has likewise been renewed on a number of occasions.