Canada 150: How the St. Lawrence Seaway changed the channel (2023)

Canada 150: How the St. Lawrence Seaway changed the channel (1)

Canada 150: How the St. Lawrence Seaway changed the channel (2)
Canadian 150th

It took decades of talks before Canada and the United States began work on the St. Lawrence Seaway, but the result was incredible.

Canada 150: How the St. Lawrence Seaway changed the channel (3)

ForJim Coylenews

Saturday May 13, 2017Chronographlaugh for 6 minutes

In the first half of the 20th century, the dream of harnessing the St. Lawrence River to the two ends of transporting large ships and generating electricity from hydroelectric power must have seemed as timeless and enduring as the mighty waterway itself.

On both sides of the Canada-US border, politicians have been talking about building a navigable artery to the "heart of the continent," where much of the population has lived for 50 years or more.

Presidents and prime ministers have come and gone. Stacked technical reports and feasibility studies. Until finally an agreement was reached. And over five years after 1954, construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project was completed.

As this year marks the 150th anniversary of the Confederation, one achievement Canada can be proud of is a project (now practically taken for granted) that has been variously dubbed the "eighth wonder of the world" over the years Show". on Earth" and "A Study of Politics and Diplomacy".

Read more about Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations

If it was famously the longest-unsolved issue in US-Canada relations, it also remains the world's longest inland waterway, the largest border project undertaken by two countries together, and a project with heroically large infrastructure.

As Carleton Mabee wrote in his 1961 bookthe story of the sea, Conquering shoals, streams, shoals, and rapids meant expropriating land, “building bridges, removing houses, railroads, and factories; it meant building canals, dikes, dams and locks; it meant remodeling old cities and creating entirely new ones. 🇧🇷 🇧🇷

Canada 150: How the St. Lawrence Seaway changed the channel (4)

The First Nations have always used the St. Lawrence River as a transport route. It was Jacques Cartier who gave it its modern name in the mid-16th century, calling it "the greatest river of all time."

However large the river was, European settlers attempted to use it for their purposes soon after their arrival. In 1680, the superior of a Montreal seminary began an attempt to dig a five-foot-deep canal to bypass the Lachine Rapids.

mid-nineteenth century{+}In the 19th century, the addition of canals created a ten-foot-deep, navigable canal from the Atlantic to Lake Erie. In 1905 there was a 16 foot deep channel from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Lake Superior some 3,700 miles inland.

Despite this, St. Lawrence was epic spiritually and materially in the Canadian imagination. One historian said that throughout the country's history, the river "served as the main artery, the axis from which development began and around which the national economy organized".

At the turn of the 20th century, visions of building a deep waterway together arose on both sides of the Canada-US border.

(Video) Lost Villages

And for the next half-century, they were repelled by bouts of, as Canadian historian Daniel Macfarlane put it, "indecisiveness, confusion, and hesitation."

One or the other side was seized by storms of enthusiasm. But due to the Depression or the war, prohibitive costs, or jurisdictional disputes, the rutting seasons were never observed.

The pace of progress pleased no one more than the paragon of caution, Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. When US President Warren Harding presented a proposal to break up the St. Lawrence River in 1922, he told Parliament:

"This is not a good time to consider the report that has been submitted and the matter should be put on hold."

Time passed. The river flowed. After World War II there were threats from Canada that showed a new found confidence to go it alone.

Finally, in 1954, agreement was reached on a project with a nearly $500 million reference price for approximately 300 kilometers of marine works from Montreal to Lake Erie and a total budget of more than $1 billion when completed, including development of power.

The work started on time. More than 500 Canadian and American engineers directed the construction of more than 20,000 workers on locks, canal digging, bridge building and new highways and railroads.

Construction was completed as planned in 1959, and the official opening on June 26 of that year was presided over by the Queen and the President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower.

Canada 150: How the St. Lawrence Seaway changed the channel (5)

For more information, see:

Canada 150: When the impossible dream came true at Expo 67

150th anniversary shows anger at Indigenous Canadians for not being invited to first party

As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, Newfoundland will not be missing this time

(Video) The town that was burned for science

About 20,000 people attended the ceremony in the Saint-Lambert community in the Montreal area on this hot summer day.

The Seaway was, Her Majesty said, "classified as one of the most outstanding technical achievements of modern times".

Eisenhower nodded to the sea's long evolution and the persevering souls who "have persevered over the years despite decades of disappointments and setbacks." Above all, the project is a symbol of the world of achievements that are possible when democratic nations work together for the common good.

In a letter a few days later to Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who also attended the official opening, Eisenhower said the project "may have tremendous potential for the future prosperity of both our countries."

But as with all mega projects, not all outcomes are positive.

On the American side, the culmination of the project was the massive Robert Moses-Robert H. Saunders Dam between Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, N.Y. The construction of this facility created Lake St. 🇧🇷

About 6,500 people, more than 500 houses, 65 kilometers of railway and 56 kilometers of highway were relocated. Six towns and three villages in Ontario are known as "Lost Towns".

Throughout the life of the sea there have been economic and employment booms and busts, with fluctuations in US grain trade and manufacturing.

There was also the unintended consequence of the arrival of invasive species all over shipping, wreaking havoc on the Great Lakes.

Nonetheless, for the Seaway's 50th anniversary in 2009, the American Public Works Association ranked it among the top 10 most important public projects of the 20th century.

In the 21st century, when marketing was the name of the game, the St. Lawrence Seaway had a totally modern perspective as an environmentally friendly alternative to rail and highway.

And of course he acquired a brand:

"H2O highway".


(Video) How the St. Lawrence river came to be used as a massive dumping ground

Few are as universally compelling as the notion of lost cities and civilizations. Atlantis. the golden one easter island Angkor. As a poet once said, the scariest words are "what could have been".

In eastern Ontario, the "Lost Cities" are named Mille Roches, Moulinette, Wales, Dickinson's Landing, Farran's Point, Aultsville, along with the towns of Maple Grove, Santa Cruz, and Woodlands.

These places were not lost to wars, plagues, or other apocalypses that regularly afflict mankind.

They were intentionally dropped when the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project took precedence over their landscape claim.

On July 1, 1958, the Lost Cities - some of them centuries old - disappeared into the waters of the new artificial Lake St. Lawrence. Its 6,500 residents were relocated to new towns called Ingleside and Long Sault.

For years, the murky waters hid the ancient paths, foundations, and other structures of the Lost Villages. Ironically, the zebra mussels that came inland on the seagoing vessels for which the sea was built helped clean the water.

And from the sky, fine art photographer Louis Helbig saw what was left.The site will not be deletedthey are ghostly images of cities.

“They lived and loved, worked and played, were born and buried; They were a little different in their time than people in any other Canadian community," Helbig wrote.

"Aside from the misfortune of being near the mighty Long Sault Rapids, a great barrier between the ocean and the Great Lakes."

On Dominion Day 1958, a cofferdam exploded. For three days and three nights the water rose. And what was not dismantled and moved beforehand was lost.

Relentless and unstoppable progress has been made.


(Video) 16mm NFBC Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Lowlands Documentary- "The Ever-Changing Lowlands" (1966)


1. Drone Tour: Welland Canal, Ontario
2. The St. Lawrence Iroquoian People: Iroquois - Canada & USA - History, Culture & Affiliations
(Jaguar Bird)
3. The Worst Natural Disaster in Canadian History (Ice Storm 1998)
(Discover Montréal)
4. Displacement from Ship causing damage
(Boats Boats Boats!)
5. Creation of the Great Lakes | How the Earth Was Made (S1, E7) | Full Episode | History
6. "The North Has Changed"- 1967
(Canada 150 Archive)


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