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Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada

The History of the Rideau Canal


Specifications of the Lockstation:

Jones Falls Basin
Jones Falls Basin
©Parks Canada / Steve Weir / Rideau Canal

The Jones Falls lockstation is located between Whitefish and Sand Lakes within the Cataraqui Watershed. Like most of the lockstations between Kingston Mills and the Narrows, Jones Falls was built on the Frontenac Axis, an area where Precambrian rocks of the Canadian Shield extends south toward the Adirondack Mountains.

The construction of the Jones Falls lockstation in this rugged terrain is one of the most impressive feats of the canal builders. The contractors for the job, Thomas McKay and John Redpath, were faced with overcoming a series of rapids one mile long with a fall of 60 feet. Work at Jones Falls began in 1827 and was completed in 1832. . Colonel By's Clerk of Works, John MacTaggart, suggested a number of schemes to overcome the fall at Jones Falls but Colonel By developed a plan bolder than anyone had imagined. He proposed the construction of an arch dam 60 feet high and 350 feet in length. Four locks were constructed at the site, each with a lift of 15 feet. The upper lock and the flight of three lower locks are separated by a turning basin.

Canal Structures:

Defensible Lockmaster's House: This defensible structure was built on a hill above the upper lock, providing a clear view of both the upper and lower reaches. Built in 1838, its purpose was to protect the lockstation from attack and sabotage, as well as to provide accommodation for the lockmaster.
The house was used by the lockmaster well into the 20th century with little alteration to its original appearance. A small kitchen wing and porches were added but have since been removed.

Blacksmith's Shop: Located on the west bank of the station, just below the upper lock, this stone shop was built in 1843 to house a forge devoted to repairing the iron canal works. Jones Falls was a relatively remote location, and without a blacksmith shop on site, repairs to gates and other canal structures would have taken weeks.

Guardhouse: The guardhouse, located to the east side of the third lock, was constructed in the late 1830's in response to the Rebellion of 1837. It was a squared log building, one storey high and approximately 20 feet square. The guardhouse doubled as lodging for lock labourers. It fell into disrepair and was demolished in the 1940s.

Lock Office and Storage Building: These two buildings are of frame construction and represent the commercial phase of the canal.

Generating Station: Unlike other lockstations that were built at the site of a pre-canal mill, Jones Falls did not stimulate the renewal of milling activities in the latter half of the 19th century. Industry did not relocate at the site until the 1940's. At this time a power generating station was built. This station, owned by the Gananoque Light and Power Company, is one of four such plants along the Canal. The other three are located at Kingston Mills, Upper Brewers and Lower Brewers. All but Lower Brewers are still, in operation.

Engineering Structures: The locks and dam were built of sandstone blocks from the Elgin quarry. In 1905-6 the clay and gravel dam in the basin was replaced by a concrete one. A sluice was installed in the dam to regulate the level of water in the basin. When the arch dam was built in 1829-30 it was the highest arch dam in North America at the time. It is one of the most impressive engineering works on the canal.