Sainte-Anne-de- Bellevue Canal National Historic Site of Canada
Along the Water
Steamer leaving Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal.© Bibliothèque nationale du Québec / CP 3132
The construction of the canals in Quebec reached its peak in the 19th century.
For over 100 years, these canals would play an important role in the economic development of Canada.
Go through the lock of history and travel Quebec's Historic Canals to find out
how our country was built!
Gateway to the Ottawa River
The S.S. Empress in the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Lock.© National Archives of Canada
The Sainte-Anne- de-Bellevue Canal is part of a huge network of canals that boats can use to bypass natural obstacles like rapids and shoals on three major waterways: the St. Lawrence River, the Richelieu River and the Ottawa River.
At the western end of the Island of Montreal, between Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue
and Île Perrot, this canal is a gateway to the Ottawa River, a waterway
over 1200 km long that was once the main communications route to the north
and the west. It also offers a route to Kingston via the Rideau Canal.
A lock was already present here in 1816, in the western section of the Vaudreuil Canal, between the mainland and Île Perrot. This lock belonged to private companies that had a monopoly over the Ottawa River and even the Rideau Canal. Opposing this unfair practice, other merchants in the region petitioned the government of Lower Canada to demand the building of a public lock at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.
1843 canal lock and railway bridge.© Bibliothèque nationale du Québec / 1882
Despite the agreement of Lower Canada's government, financial, administrative
and political setbacks delayed the start of construction, which began in 1840
and ended on November 14, 1843. Built in the eastern part of the channel, the
hewn stone lock measured 58 metres long by 14 metres wide and 2 metres deep
at the sills. Soon after it opened, many people travelled through it to settle
in Upper Canada.
The approach to this lock posed major navigation problems. Heavy commercial
traffic made a second lock essential. Following the recommendations of the Canals
Commission in 1870, a second lock was built parallel to the east channel, with
work completed in 1882. Becker's Dam, which is a channel in the middle of Lac
Saint-Louis, was also built, permitting vessels to cross through shallow waters.
The old lock continued to be used intermittently until the early 20th century,
before being completely filled in in 1964.
Steamboat entering the Becker dam, circa 1910.© Collection Denise Cypihot et Judith Isherwood / 1910
Since the building of the second lock, the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal and the canals of the Ottawa River were mainly used to transport wood to Montreal. This commerce flourished until 1919.
As with the Carillon Canal, the introduction of railways and the decline in the forestry industry gradually changed the role of the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal. Today, it is a destination for pleasure boaters from Saint-Louis Lake and Des Deux-Montagnes Lake.