This Week in History
The Missing Link
For the week of Monday September 10, 2007
On September 10, 1895, the Sault Ste. Marie Canal opened after six years of construction. The canal, which transported people and supplies around the St. Mary’s Rapids, was the final link in an all-Canadian waterway from Montréal to the head of the Great Lakes.
In the 1840s, there was renewed interest in a Sault Ste. Marie canal, but the opening of a large canal on the American side of the river in 1855 discouraged construction. All Canadian water traffic flowed through this American canal for four decades until Canada’s economic interests justified an improved water transportation system. The need for an all-Canadian water route to the west intensified when a Canadian ship was denied passage through the American canal during the First Riel Rebellion.
The Sault Ste. Marie Canal was a marvel of engineering technology in its day. Able to hold one upper laker and two smaller vessels, the lock was the largest in the world. The lock was also the first to generate its own electricity and to use it to power the lock gates, control valves, and lighting system. Allowing water to flow through the lock floor reduced turbulence during “watering” and “dewatering” and the innovative emergency swing dam controlled the flow of water during accidents so that repairs could be finished faster.
For more information, please visit Sault Ste. Marie National Historic Site of Canada on the Parks Canada Website.
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