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Feeder Canal, Wainfleet Township

Background

The Feeder Canal was originally built in 1829 to bring water from the Grand River to the First Welland Canal. Over the years, however, the canal came to serve a much greater role as a shipping canal, even while the First and Second Welland Canals were taken out of operation.

The best way to understand the feeder canal is to make sense of the long series of events that changed how the canal was used.

  • 1829 - A dam is built on the Grand River at Dunnville. Raising the water level, the feeder canal is dug to bring water from behind the dam to the First Welland Canal in Port Robinson some 40 km away.
  • 1833 - Part of the Feeder Canal is incorporated into the First Welland Canal which is extended to Lake Erie. The Feeder Canal now ends just south of Welland.
  • 1842-1845 - The Second Welland Canal is built. The Feeder Canal is enlarged to allow shipping along its route. The upgrade gives the Second Welland Canal two routes to Lake Erie.
  • 1845-1850 - The Feeder Canal is used as the main channel while the Port Colborne route is deepened. A "Junction Lock" is built where the feeder canal empties into the Welland Canal. The feeder is also extended to Port Maitland where another lock is built to lower boats to the level of Lake Erie.
  • 1850 - The channel to Port Colborne is reopened. Because of the extra time required to use the feeder canal route main traffic returns to the Port Colborne route.
  • 1870-80's - The Third Welland Canal is built. As part of this effort the main channel is lowered to the level of Lake Erie. When completed in 1887 the feeder canal is no longer required as the source of water. Shipping on the feeder is also reduced to local barge traffic.
  • 1920's - By the 1920's Commercial traffic on the Feeder Canal has come to an end. The Feeder Canal is closed down and the Junction Lock at Welland no longer operated during this time

Preservation

The Feeder Canal has remained mostly intact with only the extreme ends being filled in. Along its route water still fills the channel.

  • In Dunnville the Feeder Canal has been cleaned up within town limits. A dam still exists on the Grand River along with several weirs that were originally used for controlling water levels. The channel continues outside of Dunnville.
  • The channel remains undisturbed in Port Maitland, where a lock sits undisturbed.
  • The channel runs from Port Maitland to within 1 km of the old Junction Lock in Welland the rest of the channel is filled in.
  • In Welland, the Junction Lock sits partially buried and identified as a historical landmark.

References

Timeline information was compiled from several sources, all of which appeared reliable but never comprehensive with regards to the Feeder Canal.

Ellsworth, Joan. (1979) A Feasibility Study on the Welland Feeder Canal. Wainfleet: Rehabilitate the Old Feeder Canal Association.
William Warnick (1991) The Feeder Canal has served many Purposes. Dunville: The Grand Dispatch.


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