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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 combined lift fo 25 feet.

The Construction of the Lockstation:

Aerial View of Long Island Aerial View of Long Island
©Parks Canada / Bill Pratt / Rideau Canal

Close to 25 miles of waterway lie between Burritts Rapids to Long Island. Prior to canal construction, a set of rapids over two miles long with a drop of 25 feet made the west channel impassable. A smaller set of rapids in the east channel could be run by canoe and it was this channel that was chosen to be the navigation way. Richmond, a community west of the river, was the only settlement in the area at this time. The sole land route in the area was a road that passed through Richmond, leading from the Chaudière Falls on the Ottawa River to Prescott on the St. Lawrence River.

Most of the early inhabitants of the village of Long Island were involved in the construction of the Canal and remained in the area once the canal opened. The years following the construction of the canal saw schools, churches and a hotel at Long Island. By the mid-19th century Long Island was in decline and by 1890 the village was deserted and in ruins. Development in nearby Manotick, founded in 1860, attracted many of the settlers from Long Island. Even the churches were moved from Long Island to Manotick.

Canal Structures:

Two contractors,Thomas Phillips and Andrew White, took on the job of building the station. They were also responsible for the Black Rapids work. Construction began in 1827. Sandstone was initially quarried from a local quarry at Long Island but shortly after construction began, limestone was brought in from either Hogs Back or Black Rapids or both. As a result, the lock chamber was built of both limestone and sandstone. It is not clear whether this was done because of the difficulty in extracting the hard sandstone or the depletion of the rock at the Long Island quarry.

The stone arch dam at Long Island still stands as it was constructed by White. A stone lockmaster's house constructed by Phillips and White no longer exists. It has been replaced with a frame structure.

The first bridge at Long Island, a wooden king post truss swing bridge, was built in 1874. It was rebuilt a number of times until 1935, when the wooden bridge was replaced with a steel truss swing bridge.

A blacksmith's forge was built during Canal construction some time before 1831. It was located directly behind the lockmaster's house. It was probably built of stone like the forge at Jones Falls. The forge disappeared some time between 1844 and 1852. Like the forge, the carpenter's shop was built during the construction of the canal. The carpenter's shop was located to the east of the blacksmith's shop.