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Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site

The Historic Lock


Dewatered Lock 1894
View of lock after pumping out - October 26, 1894.
© Parks Canada/ Fall 1894

The 274 m long and 18 m wide historic lock chamber could hold one "upper laker" and two smaller vessels. The present day lock was reconstructed in 1997 to accommodate recreational vessels and is of a more modest size; 77 m long and 15.4 m wide. It is now open from mid-May to mid-October for recreational vessels.

The Historic Lock Gates

Historic Gates
Solid Timber gates of Douglas Fir.
© Parks Canada

The original lock had five sets of gates. Each leaf, for the largest set of these gates, was made of 34 one-foot square-timbers of British Columbia Douglas Fir. These gates weighed 100 tons and were set in place by the canal's gatelifter.

Historic Machinery

The motorhouses adjacent to the lower lock have been recently reconstructed. Those at the upper lock remain as they were built in the 1960s. All four motorhouses contain most of the original 1895 machinery. Inside the Powerhouse, you will find the water-powered turbine and belt-driven pumps used to "unwater" the lock.

Four motorhouses were located at each corner of the original lock and contained the machinery for operating the lock gates and valves.
© Parks Canada
Powerhouse Machinery Today the Powerhouse still contains one active turbine connected by drive belts and bevelled gearing to drive the two submerged pumps to un-water the lock.
© Parks Canada / George Vandervlugt, Summer 2001

Historic Buildings

Superintendent's Residence
The Superintendent's Residence was built in 1897 to provide on-site accommodations for the Superintendent and his family.
© Parks Canada / George Vandervlugt, summer 2000

The heritage buildings on North St. Marys Island are an important aspect of the canal's distinct character and history. The Administration Building, Superintendent's Residence, Canalmen's Shelter, Powerhouse, and Stores/Blacksmith Shop were constructed of red sandstone and trimmed with limestone. The red sandstone was excavated from the canal during construction and the limestone was shipped in from southern Ontario and Manitoulin Island. These buildings are beautiful examples of Canadian architectural heritage of the late 1800s.

Powerhouse 2000
When the canal opened it was the first lock operation in the world to operate using its own power station.
© Parks Canada / George Vandervlugt, summer 2000
Administration Building
The Administration Building was completed in 1895-1896 and housed the administrative functions of the canal.
© Parks Canada / George Vandervlugt, summer 2000