Trent – Severn Waterway National Historic Site of Canada

Bobcaygeon, Ontario
Aerial photo of the Trent-Severn Waterway, 1993. © Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parcs Canada, 1993.
General view of the place
© Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parcs Canada, 1993.
View of a lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway, 2000. © Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parcs Canada, 2000.Aerial photo of the Trent-Severn Waterway, 1993. © Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parcs Canada, 1993.View of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque, 2008. © Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parcs Canada, 2008.Image of the original HSMBC plaque erected in 1938 © Parks Canada / Parcs Canada, 1938
Address : Main Street, Bobcaygeon, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1929-05-17
  • 1830 to 1920 (Construction)
  • 1900 to 1907 (Significant)
  • 1882 to 1920 (Significant)
  • 1904 to 1904 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Corry and Laverdure Construction - builder, Lift Lock  (Builder)
  • Dominion Bridge of Montreal - builder, Lift Lock  (Builder)
  • R.B. Rogers and Baird  (Engineer)
Other Name(s):
  • Trent – Severn Waterway  (Designation Name)
  • Trent Valley Canal  (Other Name)
  • Trent Canal  (Plaque name)
Research Report Number: 1988-A06
DFRP Number: 09731 00


Existing plaque: east of swing bridge Lock 32, Bobcaygeon Main Street, Bobcaygeon, Ontario

In 1833 the Legislature of Upper Canada authorized improvements to the waterways of the Newcastle District, the first of which was a wooden lock here at Bobcaygeon. Three years later the first funds were appropriated for the opening of a waterway via the Trent River and the Kawartha Lakes to link Lake Ontario with Lake Simcoe (and later with Georgian Bay). This system was intended to open up the interior of the province, and to promote agriculture, lumbering and commerce.

Original Plaque:  Main Street, Bobcaygeon, Ontario

Commemorating the construction, in 1833, of the first Bobcaygeon Lock by the Inland Water Commission. Appointed by Sir John Colborne: the beginning of the improvement of the natural waterway connecting Lake Ontario with Georgian Bay.

Description of Historic Place

The Trent - Severn Waterway National Historic Site of Canada is a natural and man-made waterway that meanders nearly 400 km across central Ontario linking Georgian Bay to the Bay of Quinte. Of particular note, are the hydraulic Lift Lock in Peterborough, Ontario, and the original engineering structures in the Lake Simcoe-Balsam Lake section of the waterway.

Heritage Value

Trent-Severn Waterway was named a national historic site because it is part of Canada’s national canal system.

The heritage value of the Trent-Severn Waterway lies in its legibility and completeness as a transportation route integrated and developed by the Government of Canada early in the 20th century (1882-1920). This is embodied in the many engineering structures, buildings, locks, dams and bridges linked to the waterway, and in those cultural landscapes related to the themes of water power, recreation, natural features and varied uses associated with it.

Specific resources along the canal are of sufficient importance to be designated separately, notably the Peterborough Lift Lock National Historic Site of Canada, acknowledged because it was, and remains, an engineering achievement of international renown because it was the highest hydraulic lift lock ever built and was once reputed to be the largest concrete structure in the world. The Lift Lock was designed by engineers R.B. Rogers & Baird and built in 1904 by Corry and Laverdure Construction (site preparation and concrete work), and Dominion Bridge of Montreal (metal work).

The Lake Simcoe-Balsam Lake section of the Waterway is valued for the high number of surviving unmodified structures dating from the construction period 1900-1907 and because most lockstations in this section retain their integrity from the early 20th-century period.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, 1929, Minutes: Commemorative Integrity Statement.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements of this site include: the route of the waterway, the unity and completeness of the waterway, its engineering structures and buildings that support it, and the special cultural landscapes it has generated; the continued integrity and legibility of the working assemblage of resources supporting the presence and operations of the waterway over time; the massing, design, form, function, materials and details of individual resources, especially the original features of Locks 1-18, and the original design, form and construction materials of Locks 19 (stone), 22 and 23 (concrete), the 44 dams with a high degree of historical integrity, the distinctive design of Dam 13 at Healy Falls, the main dam at Swift Rapids, the 9 bridges exhibiting distinctive types of early 20th-century bridge technology, and in particular the twin span bridge at Young’s Point, the 6 original lockstations with a high degree of historical integrity, all machinery and engineering mechanisms related to the historic operations of these resources (especially the lock mechanisms at Locks 19, 22 and 23, the submerged valve mechanism of the main dam at Swift Rapids, and the range of lock mechanisms exhibited from Locks 1-18); the disposition and relationship of these resources to their surroundings; continued legibility of the special small scale cultural landscapes of the waterway related to water power (physical and functional links between the Waterway and surrounding communities through the distribution and use of power), recreation (particularly in the Kawartha sector where the cultural landscapes at Young’s Point and Lovesick retain their historic ties to summer resorts, cottages, steamboat excursions, hunting and fishing) natural features (such as geographic seclusion, pastoral surroundings such as those at Percy Reach, Meyers and Haigues Reach, supportive vegetation, wildlife like the osprey population at Murray Marsh); evidence of aboriginal presence such as the burial mounds at Percy Reach and remains at Healy Falls; the remnants of a range of industrial activity related to the presence of the canal over time such as limestone quarrying, lumbering, and agriculture; the Peterborough Lift Lock in its massing, design, surviving original materials (particularly its concrete and steel chambers) , the integrity of its functional spaces, architectural details (such as its cornices, coping, original operator’s cabin, lock chambers, and original railings) and its use as an operating hydraulic lock; continuity of the open park-like landscape on the west side of the channel below the Peterborough Lift Lock dating from 1910 with its design elements (walkways, terraces, slopes) and its open vistas; the Lake Simcoe-Balsam Lake section with its wide range of resources including lockstations, locks, lock-gate and valve operating mechanisms, dams, canal cuts, embankments, spoils, entrance piers, guard-gates, culverts, bridges, bridge abutment remnants, as well as machinery and cultural landscapes associated with these resources, the continued presence of all historic buildings and structures in this section of the canal in their current massing, design, materials, forms, and locations, the distinguishing design and technological details of each individual resource, and its use for through navigation using manual modes of operation; evidence of canal construction activities (including remains), legibility of the cultural landscapes and patterns between and among these resources, particularly at Locks 22 and 23.