Welland Canal

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1824 [unknown]
Location: North of St. Catharines, to Port WellerOntario, Canadamap
Surnames/tags: Canada Ontario
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Welland Canal

The Welland Canal is a ship canal in Ontario, Canada, connecting Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. It forms a key section of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Traversing the Niagara Peninsula from Port Weller to Port Colborne, it enables ships to ascend and descend the Niagara Escarpment and bypass Niagara Falls.

The canal carries about 3,000 ships, which carry about 40,000,000 tons of cargo a year. It was a major factor in the growth of the city of Toronto. The original canal and its successors allowed goods from Great Lakes ports such as Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago, as well as heavily industrialized areas of the United States and Ontario, to be shipped to the port of Montreal or to Quebec City, where they were usually reloaded onto ocean-going vessels for international shipping.

The Welland Canal eclipsed other, narrower canals in the region, such as the Trent-Severn Waterway and, significantly, the Erie Canal (which linked the Atlantic and Lake Erie via New York City and Buffalo, New York) by providing a shorter, more direct connection to Lake Erie.

The southern Lake Erie terminus of the canal is 99.5 metres (326 feet) higher than the northern terminus on Lake Ontario. The canal includes eight 24.4-metre-wide (80 ft) ship locks. It takes ships an average of about eleven hours to traverse the entire length of the Welland Canal.

First Welland Canal The Welland Canal Company was incorporated by the Province of Upper Canada, in 1824, after a petition by nine "freeholders of the District of Niagara". This canal opened for a trial run on November 30, 1829 (exactly five years, to the day, after the ground-breaking in 1824).

Second Welland Canal In 1839 the government of Upper Canada approved the purchase of shares in the private canal company in response to the company's continuing financial problems in the face of the continental financial panic of 1837. Competition came in 1854 with the opening of the Erie and Ontario Railway, running parallel to the original portage road. In 1859, the Welland Railway opened, parallel to the canal and with the same endpoints.

Third Welland Canal In 1887, a new shorter alignment was completed between St. Catharines and Port Dalhousie.

Fourth (current) Welland Canal Construction on the current canal began in 1913, but work was put on hold from 1916 to 1919 due to a shortage of men and workers during World War I (1914–18) and was completed and officially opened on August 6, 1932. Dredging to the planned 25 foot depth was not completed until 1935.

Welland By-Pass In the 1950s, with the building of the present St. Lawrence Seaway, a standard depth of 8.2 m (27 ft) was adopted. The 13.4-kilometre (8.3 mi) long Welland By-Pass, built between 1967 and 1972, opened for the 1973 shipping season.

Fifth (proposed but uncompleted) Welland Canal These projects were to be tied into a proposed new canal, titled the Fifth Welland Canal, which was planned to by-pass most of the existing canal to the east and to cross the Niagara Escarpment in one large 'superlock'. While land for the project was expropriated and the design finalized, the project never got past the initial construction stages and has since been shelved.

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