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Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site of Canada

Cultural Heritage


The First Lock, 1833

The dream of building an inland navigation route from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay took 87 years to become a reality. It began in the heart of the Kawarthas at Bobcaygeon. Settlers, anxious for a waterway which would provide access to lucrative southern markets, pressured for the building of a small wooden lock there in 1833. Construction of the future Trent-Severn Waterway continued sporadically until 1878, when Sir John A. MacDonald's newly elected government promised to complete the canal. Between 1883-87, locks were built at Burleigh Falls, Lovesick, Buckhorn, and Fenelon Falls. The Kawartha Lakes finally became navigable from Lakefield through to Balsam Lake. Construction elsewhere on the waterway continued into the 20 th century, though navigation was not possible until 1920.