High technology in the 1890s
The canal incorporated many advanced features and "firsts" of waterway engineering technology including improvements to the watering and dewatering system. This new system decreased the turbulence, during filling and emptying, by allowing the water to flow through the lock floor. Electrically operated gates and valves controlled the flow of water into and out of the new lock.
The electricity to power this new lock was produced in the Powerhouse adjacent to the lower end of the lock. Canada's Sault Canal was the first in the world to use the electrically operated machinery.
The Emergency Swing Dam, built on the north side of the upper entrance, is another of the site's unique features. Intended to reduce the flow of water in the event of gate failure, it proved its worth in 1909 when the Perry G. Walker rammed the lower lock gates while vessels were locking through the upper entrance. Although the upper gates were dragged from their anchorage, the Emergency Swing Dam enabled repairs to be carried out quickly and the canal was back in service less than two weeks later. Today this structure is the last of its type in the world.