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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 lift of 14.5 feet (4.4 m).

Lockperson at Hogs Back Lockperson at Hogs Back
©Parks Canada

Hogs Back Lockstation stands at the point where the Rideau River and the canal separate in the City of Ottawa. Colonel By decided to dam the river at Hogs Back, raising the level of water high enough to drown out the seven miles of shallow rapids upstream between the dam and Black Rapids. An artificial channel was built connecting Hogs Back to the northern entrance of the canal.

Canal Structures:

Lockmaster's House: A blockhouse was planned for Hogs Back but was never built. Instead, a defensible lockmaster's house was built in the 1840s. It was a one-storey stone house located on the west bank above the top lock. Photographs of the house at the turn of the century show that it had retained much of its original appearance. It was a one-storey structure with its loopholes filled in with timber. By 1907 the house was reported to be in very poor condition and eventually it was torn down.

Engineering Structures: The work at Hogs Back, the construction of the dam in particular, turned out to be one of the most challenging endeavors Colonel By would face during the creation of the Rideau Canal. Swift water and intense spring floods made the work difficult.

In early 1827 Walter Fenlon was granted the contract for the project. The original plan called for a 45- foot dam with locks to the west of the dam. Fenlon built a railway to bring stone from a nearby quarry the dam site. Due to financial troubles, Fenlon withdrew from the project in 1828, following a disastrous season in which a portion of the dam collapsed. He was making preparations for the spring flood but a sudden rise in water in February caught him unprepared. The damage was repaired but in April flood waters again destroyed a large portion of the dam.

A dam was completed by contractor Philemon Wright with the help of two companies of Sappers and Miners, soldiers skilled in excavation and construction, but they too experienced failure along the way..
A leak was discovered in early April of 1829. As Colonel By noted in this description of his visit to inspect the repair work, the dam was eroding underfoot:

"I was standing on it with forty men employed in trying to stop the leak when I felt a motion like an earthquake and instantly ordered the men to run, the stones falling from under my feet as I moved off."

Problems with spring flooding influenced the construction of the locks as well. A guard lock stands above the single lift lock, protecting it from spring flood water and debris.