Third Welland Canal Weir. (Port Dalhousie)



For just over 100 years (1829-1932) Port Dalhousie was the northern entrance of the Welland Canal. That designation ended with the closing of the Third Welland Canal in 1932. Since then Port Dalhousie has evolved into a local tourism destination with a marina, restored buildings and a revitalized waterfront.

There are still a lot of remnants from the old Welland Canals in Port Dalhousie and because of the town's emphasis on local tourism it's one of the easiest places to walk around and explore.


The First, Second and Third Welland Canals caused a lot of changes to Twelve mile creek, the natural waterway that empties into Lake Ontario at Port Dalhousie. To make sense of all the changes they made, we're going to identify and explain four distinct stages of Port Dalhousie's development caused by the canals. This should be helpful if you want to go see Port Dalhousie for yourself.


Before the Canal:
Maps and surveys taken before the First Welland Canal show Port Dalhousie as the place where 12-mile creek emptied into Lake Ontario. Several kilometers before reaching the lake 12-mile creek opened into a large low-lying marsh or lagoon with a defined stream running through the middle. A large sandbar separated the marsh from Lake Ontario except for an opening at the east end where the creek made contact with Lake Ontario. The edges around the marsh were also steep and made a very distinct valley of the creek and surrounding marsh. Settlement of Port Dalhousie, while still isolated, did exist with a few homes congregated on the west side of the valley.


The First Welland Canal:
When the First Welland Canal was built in 1825-29 an effort was made to utilize natural waterways as much as possible. To do this, a dam was built across the mouth of 12 mile creek to raise the level of water in the marsh with a weir at the east end to allow excess water past the dam.

While the First Welland Canal followed the 12-mile creek's channel, the last 200 meters of the canal was dug in the northwest direction to Lake Ontario with piers extending a short distance into the lake. The first lock of the First Welland Canal was built less than 50 feet from the lake in line with the dam. A bridge was built across the lock along with a road on the newly built dam that allowed people to cross 12 mile creek and continue to St. Catharines 5 km away. The tow path for the First Welland Canal amazing floated on the pond. Anchored on the east side of the original 12 mile creek route, the tow path continued south this way until it connect to land again approximately 2.5 km upstream.


The Second Welland Canal:
When the Second Welland Canal was built in 1842-45, engineers made several dramatic changes to the area. A new channel and piers were built, this time much bigger and in a more northerly direction. A new "Lock One" along with a new and higher dam was built across the valley, this time further inland, dividing the waterway into a lower habour below the dam and an Inner harbour above the dam.

The Second Welland Canal also saw more commercial development in Port Dalhousie. Stores were built along the canal forming a short line of buildings that remain there to this day. Ship building started on the inner harbour and Port Dalhousie got a small jail in 1845 to keep unruly sailors and canal workers in check.


The Third Welland Canal:
The Third Welland Canal added a few more significant changes to Port Dalhousie. While the earthen dam of the second canal was kept and the Second Welland Canal continued operating a new channel was dug for the Third Welland Canal along the east side of the valley. Here Lock 1 of the Third Welland Canal was built. Above the dam a route was also dredged across the pond to where the Third Welland Canal turned east and started it's route inland across the north end of present day St Catharines. In addition to these changes the original weir from the Second Welland Canal, located between the second and third canals, was also rebuilt at this time. The new weir, now much bigger and handling much more water, is the same weir still being used to maintain the water level in Port Dalhousie's inner harbour.

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