Lock 17 - Third Welland Canal, Welland Canal Parklands


The Third Welland Canal was built as an improvement over the second. This time concern centered on the need to allow much bigger ships to cross between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The Third Welland Canal was a success by creating a shorter, straighter route to follow.

The canal was started in 1872 and was in operation in 1881. Further modifications were made until 1887, a date also accepted as the completion date.

Although the canal doubled many of the proportions of the Second Welland Canal it was quickly outgrown by the number of increasingly bigger ships that sailed the Great Lakes. Because of this plans for its replacement started soon after its completion.


The route of the third canal was distinct from the first and second. This time a straight, overland channel was preferred over following natural waterways.

The 3rd canal used Port Dalhousie as it's northern entrance and then turned southeast traveling just north of the growing city of St. Catharines. At the escarpment the canal turned southwest to climb the hill at an angle, it straightened out just east of Thorold and continued south.

South of Thorold the 3rd canal again ran southwest, approached the 2nd Welland Canal and then turned south continuing adjacent to the 2nd Welland canal for a couple of miles. At the Deep Cut the 3rd Welland Canal finally merged with the Second Welland Canal and continued south through the Deep Cut, through Welland and eventually to Port Colborne and Lake Erie.


The channel required for the third canal was 100 feet wide and 14 feet deep.

The third canal used 26 locks in total. Like the second canal 25 locks were used to climb the escarpment and 1 lock was built at Port Colborne. A lock was no longer required at the Deep Cut because the canal south of that point was lowered 8 feet to the level of Lake Erie. The lock in Port Colborne functioned more as a gate then an actual lock.

Locks on the Third Welland Canal lock could lift a ship between 12 to 16 feet and were all built to following standard size:

  • Length of locks: 270 feet.
  • Width of locks: 45 feet
  • Minimum depth: 14 feet

Like the second canal, locks of the third canal were built with stone but to a much larger scale. Indentations were again built into the walls to allow the gates to be held open without hindering the traffic of ships.

Water siphons built directly into the walls of the lock were used to fill and empty the locks. They were built adjacent to the gate and were controlled from the top of the locks. Another innovation on the third canal was the use of wood planking on the bottom of the locks used to prevent damage to ships.

Winches and bollards were also used on the third canal to secure ships while they were raised and lowered in the canal.


Because of the sheer size of the third canal it was only through deliberate effort that some sections were cleaned up. Despite this a large section was cleaned up in St. Catharines. In the south most of the channel was also incorporated into the present canal. Apart from this there are still significant sections available to see.

  • In St. Catharines two sections need recognition. Starting in Port Dalhousie Locks 1, 2 and 4 are all visible with evidence of the channel and weir raceway continuing for about 1 km. Lock 11 - 16 are mostly undisturbed on the southeast side of St. Catharines.
  • In Thorold most of channel can be followed up to the Deep Cut where it was incorporated into the present canal. In some places its flooded by the present canal and not easily reconizable, however. Locks 17-19 and 21-23 are all visible. Lock 25 and a special summit lock can be seen just south of the town of Thorold.
  • There is little in Welland that remains distinctive from the 3rd canal. The exception is a 1 km section of channel between Port Robinson and Welland that was never incorporated into the fourth canal.
  • In Port Colborne Lock 26 is preserved along with a section of channel that acts as a raceway for Lock 8 on the present canal.

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