Lock 20 - Second Welland Canal, Mountain Locks Park


The best way to understand the Second Welland Canal is as a rebuilding of the first. By 1841 the First Welland Canal had proven itself vital to the country, but not economically feasible to run and after ten years of operation most of the infrastructure needed rebuilding. In 1841 the government decided to take over operations of the canal. This time the canal was built with stone and to dimensions a little bigger than the first

The second canal also became more than just a single channel. Locks were built on the Welland River and the Feeder Canal to create a larger inland waterway system. The effect of this helped characterized the canal as a local transportation system.

By offering available waterpower and easy transportation to markets the second canal also became an industrial corridor from Thorold and St. Catharines. Because of this the second canal continued operating long after the third canal was built. Boats may have used the canal as late as 1915 with factories continuing to use waterpower from the canal for years after that.


The route of the second canal remained the same as the first with only a few modifications made where the route could be straightened. In Wellandvale a lock was built and the route straightened where the old channel was somewhat crooked.

Also at the Escarpment (Mountain Locks Park) the second canal ran about 100 yards south of the first canal for the distance of about 1 km. Here builders either found a better route or else wished to build this section apart from what was already in operation.


The channel required for the second canal was bigger than the first, this time at 36 feet wide and 9 feet deep to allow larger ships to use the canal. In 1850 this was enlarged to 50 feet wide and 10 feet deep.

To lift and lower boats the second canal required 27 stone locks to be built. This time 25 locks were required to climb up the escarpment. 1 lock was used at the Deep Cut to reach the highest section of the canal and 1 lock existed at Port Colborne lowering boats 8 feet to the level of Lake Erie.

Each lock could lift boats 9'6" to 14'3". Locks fell into two size specifications. Locks allowing access through the canal were built smaller to the following specifications.

  • Length of locks: 150 feet.
  • Width of locks: 26 feet 6 inches
  • Minimum depth: 9 feet

Larger locks were used at the ends of the canal to allow larger ships to reach inland harbours. Lock 1 and 2 leading up to St. Catharines, Lock 27 in Port Colborne and the lock in Port Maitland on the Feeder Canal were all built to the following larger standards.

  • Length of locks: 200 feet.
  • Width of locks: 45 feet
  • Minimum depth: 9 feet

Locks were built with large stone blocks running the length of the lock. At each end the wall face flared outward and disappeared into the surrounding earth. This gave support to the ends of the lock walls and could help steer ships into the lock.

The gates at either end of the lock were hinged in place with metal straps bolted to the top of the lock walls. Indentations in the wall face allowed for the gates to be opened and secured against the lock walls without interfering with the movement of ships through the locks.

Notches 6" wide and 8" deep were also cut into the lock wall. This feature allowed timbers to be placed across the locks to hold back water when gates needed to be replaced.


The second canal infrastructure is the most preserved of the three Welland Canals.

  • In St. Catharines, Locks 1-3,5-21 are all clearly visible with water running through most of them.
  • The town of Thorold cleaned up the section of canal running through town including locks 22-24 in the early 1960's. The top of lock 25 remains exposed as a curiosity in Thorold's Beaverdams park.
  • South of the town of Thorold the canal route continues although its often lost among flooded marshes and overgrown forests.
  • From the Deep Cut south the second canal channel was incorporated into later canals. What remains is Lock 27 in Port Colborne.
  • Three additional locks also remain that were part of the second canal's extended waterway system. This includes a lock in Port Robinson that gave access to the Welland River. The Junction Lock in Welland and the lock in Port Maitland still remain on the Feeder Canal.

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