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East bank of the Welland Canal. (Thorold)

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If you read up on the history of the Welland Canals, you'll eventually hear about a place called "The Deep Cut". The name refers to a 60 foot hill that the Welland Canal needed to cross to reach the Welland River. Although a tunnel was first attempted, a deep channel was dug instead. The name "Deep Cut has been associated with the place ever since.

It looks insignificant today, but in the 1800's the Deep Cut was the biggest challenge faced by the canal. So much so that William Hamilton Merritt chose this place for the canal's official ground breaking ceremony on November 30, 1824. Digging started immediately and when problems digging the channel occured in 1828 they led to the creation of the Feeder Canal as well as locks in Allanburg and Port Robinson.

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History

Before seeing the deep cut, it helps to know a bit about the channel, Allanburg and Port Robinson.

The Channel:is pretty simple to explain. Canal builders needed to dig a deep channel through a ridge about two miles long from where Allanburg is today south toward Port Robinson. The depth of the channel of course was also a big concern. The deeper the channel - the more digging that needed to be done.

The original plan was to dig the channel to the same height as the Welland River (561 feet above sea level). When a landslide occured at the Deep cut it was decided to get water from a higher eevation. The height of water in Lake Erie was 571. After Damming the Grand River before it flowed into Lake erie. Water at an elevation of 577 feet was found.

The following map shows a great comparison of the Ridge the canal needed to pass through as well as the elevations of several sources of water.

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Allanburg:When the canal was first designed, Allanburg was never intended to exist. it was simply here that the welland canal channel started through the deep cut. When a decision was made to not make the deep cut less deep, two locks needed to be built in Allanburg. The locks of course, required people to work the locks and the drop in water level at Allanburg could provide power for mills and other induriest. Allanburg quickly developed as a small town along the canal.

It's mostly cleaned up now, but here's a quick guild to what once was in Allanburg. All maps have the same scale and land area.

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Port Robinson
When the second canal was built in 1842-45, Engineers made several dramatic changes to the area. A new channel was established that allowed the canal to enter Lake Ontario in a more northerly direction. The size of the piers were also made much bigger. A new "lock 1" and a new and higher dam was also built across the valley, this time further inland.

The Second Welland Canal also saw more commercial development. Stores were built beside the canal forming a short line of businesses that still remain today. Ships were built there. Port Dalhousie also got a small jail to keep unruly sailors in check.


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