The Trent and Severn Rivers have been used as a commercial trade route for 10,000 years. Of course, written history does not document events that distant, but archaeological studies have determined that trade has been conducted across this land mass between Lake Huron's Georgian Bay and Lake Ontario that far distant in history. The rivers and series of lakes provided a water highway for travel, requiring the travelers to portage (carry) their vessels over land between the bodies of water. Portage is possible when travel is by canoe, but difficult when travel is by large boats.
The Trent-Severn Canal was not one project to connect the two Great Lakes. Water bodies were connected with canals and/or locks as the needs for water transportation were recognized in an area. Some locks are old and some much newer. The Trent-Severn has multiple types of locks, some much more intricate and complex than the door-type locks on the Erie and Rideau Canals. The canal linking Trent and Port Severn still is not complete -- two water bodies remain unconnected, requiring boats to be portaged. The path taken by Last Dance through the Trent-Severn Canal is illustrated below.
The older of the door locks have wooden doors similar to the Rideau, but with a different manual operating system for opening and closing. These locks are all short lift due to the low pressures the wooden doors can support.
The newer lift locks are not limited to the shorter lifts. Being built of concrete with steel doors, they can be built to provide much higher lifts. A couple are higher than the tallest on the Erie Canal, with the 47 foot lift at Swift Rapids the highest of the door-type locks.
Looking up from a boat deck to the large doors can be quite impressive and maybe even a bit intimidating.
Peterborough Lift Lock
What makes the Trent-Severn Canal unique is the other lock types employed. The most famous is the Peterborough Lift Lock. It opened in 1904 as the largest unreinforced concrete structure in the world. It uses two pans, filled with water, to lift or lower boats. The pans are supported on large pistons. When the pan is raised, it is stopped a foot below the upper water level. A gate drops allowing the water to fill the pan to the higher level. This one foot of water weighs 130,000 pounds. The pistons are hooked to chambers that are connected with a valve. Since the upper pans weighs more, when the valve is opened the higher pan begins to drop, raising the lower pan. The pan that was lower then stops a foot below the upper water level and the process is repeated. The lift of the Peterborough Lock is 65 feet.
In the sequence above, the higher pan on the right begins to descend when the valve is opened, raising the pan on the left. The 65 foot lift is accomplished in seconds, much quicker than having to fill a lock chamber of a door-type lock.
The piston supporting the pan.
The pan structure. It is much like putting a boat in a large bread pan, then lifting it 65 feet.
Last Dance in the pan preparing to be lifted.
And, Jill, not a fan of roller coasters and other carnival rides, a bit unsure of this ride.
Kirkfield Lift Lock
The Peterborough Lock is not the only lift lock on the Trent Severn. It is the biggest, most famous, and most visited since it is in a town that has a high tourist count. There is also a lift lock at Kirkfield, however traveling in a westerly direction, the lock lowers boats rather than raising them. The elevation at the Kirkfield lock is 840 feet above sea level, one of the highest places in the world that a boat can cruise. Coming into the water seems to end and fall off the land, much like the fear of early sailors who believed the world was flat.
Entering the pan, the river is 49 feet below, and interesting and unsettling sight.
After the pan is lowered and matched with the level of the lower river, things seem normal again.
Then, there is the Big Chute. A connecting lock was not constructed at this spot. The engineers decided that it would be better to portage the boats from one body of water to the other. So, like the Native Americans thousands of years ago, Last Dance was picked up and carried across land.
At 40,000 pounds, Last Dance is a bit more difficult to lift than a canoe. A traveling lift, riding on steel wheels and steel rails like a railroad, was built to pick up boats and transport them across land. Big Chute follows the Kirkfield lock, so the direction of elevation change required is to lower the boat.
The travel lift is driven into the upper body of water until it is deep enough to allow a boat to move into the structure.
Nylon straps that were lowered below the boat are then raised, lifting the boat a few inches. Then the travel lift begins its journey up the land and over a road.
It is not normal to look down from the boat deck to people standing along a road.
Then the decent to the lower body of water.
The depth finder was a bit confused with no water under the boat, but the GPS was reading the speed of travel.
As the decent continues, the boat has a bow down attitude -- going downhill.
The cables and pulleys of the system that moves the travel llift can be seen behind the boat.
The travel lift car enters the water . . .
. . . and continues until it is deep enough that Last Dance is floating again.
This connecting canal was blasted through the Canadian Shield, a granite formation that lies under half of Canada. Digging through solid granite is difficult, resulting in the engineers designing a narrow canal.
The narrowness of the canal requires notification of boats traveling in the other direction so that boats do not meet in this narrow section. Securite' is a warning to other boaters.
The granite walls of the canal are visible through the water with the removed granite stacked along the side of the canal.
The canal walls resemble a large saw awaiting to attack boats.
Much of the Trent Canal is of this narrow, rough rock walled, style of canal. Looking down the canal below, a wider section can be seen. And, if you look closely, you can see another boat in the wide section, traveling in the opposite direction. Another securite' call was made for warning and to suggest that the boat wait in the wide area for passing. The boat kept coming. Five blasts on the horn, warning of danger, were sounded. The boat kept coming.
The boat entered the narrow section. As the two boats passed they were touching the trees on the side of the canal. The woman on deck said as the boats passed, "Tight, eh?" A reply of "Stupid, ed?" was considered. No photos of the close pass since all the crew had their hands full.
Hole in the Wall Bridge
The architecture of the canal structures reflects the design and craftsmanship of an earlier century. The hand cut rocks forming the Hole in the Wall Bridge can be easily seen. The time-consuming, painstaking, skill required to build this design are not employed today. Easier, less expensive, less labor intensive methods of construction have become the norm. The beauty of the old construction was integrated with sound design. This bridge has provided road traffic a path across the water for over 100 years.
The Trent Severn Locks all provide mooring opportunities along the walls above and below the locks. The areas where boats can tie are all maintained as parks and it seems that the lock masters at each lock proudly compete to have the nicest parks. At Lakefield, a bike trail ran along the park and into town. A peaceful, quite, secure place to spend the night and a chance to explore a small, quaint town.
Lakefield lock is on a canal dug to bypass a long rapid. This made for another narrow passage.
This lock has a beautiful park setting and is unique because it is located on an island. It also has an interesting legend about the origin of its name.
The Trent Severn Canal is not all narrowness of small rivers and man-made canal, it includes a number of lakes. The largest is Lake Simcoe, a lake that can get extremely angry, tossing boats with short period, high waves. Many a boater has stories to tell about challenges crossing this lake. Fortunately for the Last Dance crew, Lake Simcoe was calm and peaceful.
Rice Lake is a long and large lake, which provided an overnight anchorage. Rice Lake also provided a nice sunset to close this post.