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article imagePhoto Essay: Picnic along the Welland Canal Special

By Elizabeth Parker     Sep 10, 2013 in Travel
A favorite family picnic place is at any of the 8 locks on the Welland Canal to watch how the engineering marvel moves large commercial lakers and small pleasure craft up 326 meters across the Niagara Escarpment between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
Currently the Welland Canal spans 27 miles and 326 vertical feet between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, with 17 bridges and 8 locks moving ships from Port Dalhousie to Port Weller in St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada. A technological wonder in its time the canal system was built to span the vertical rise of the Niagara escarpment giving the ships a way around Niagara Falls with their commercial wares. Watching the boats lock through is still a marvel today.
A large laker waits to lock through Lock 3 of the Welland Canal.
A large laker waits to lock through Lock 3 of the Welland Canal.
Commercial traffic moves from industrial ports like Detroit and points west to Lake Ontario and into Toronto's large market. From Toronto wares can then move on to the St Lawrence Seaway ports of Montreal and Quebec where goods can be loaded on Ocean going vessels for transport overseas.
A large laker enters Lock 3 of the Welland Canal with a view of the Garden City Skyway in St. Cather...
A large laker enters Lock 3 of the Welland Canal with a view of the Garden City Skyway in St. Catherines behind the boat.
At Lock 3 in St. Catherines there is a viewing platform, a museum to learn the history of the lock system and a snack bar. Outside the museum there is picnic tables, anchors, bollards and historic pieces from the canal along with plaques explaining the history of the canal, how things work and are used. It's a great spot to wow the kids with the view of the boats going through the canal. See them being lifted to the higher water level and then watch them continue their journey all while having fun learning about history and engineering.
The front of the large laker moves to the closed door in Lock 3 of the Welland Canal so it fits in t...
The front of the large laker moves to the closed door in Lock 3 of the Welland Canal so it fits in the lock fully and the open door at the back can be closed.
All of the bridges except the Garden City Skyway are lift bridges. The Skyway bridge limits the height of the largest ship in the canal to 116 feet according to the Welland Canal Wiki. This still allows for very large ships to pass through. The commercial ships can be so large only one will fit in the lock.
A large laker sits at Lock 3 of the Welland Canal after entering waiting the big lock door behind it...
A large laker sits at Lock 3 of the Welland Canal after entering waiting the big lock door behind it closing to fill the lock with water and raise the boat.
Watching these huge ships lifted from below until you can see them above the lock's side wall is amazing. Even the youngest children are wowed as it appears above the lock walls before them.
The water fills raising the large laker above the lock walls at Lock 3 on the Welland Canal.
The water fills raising the large laker above the lock walls at Lock 3 on the Welland Canal.
There's no cost to go watch a boat lock through and I never tire of seeing the engineering marvel in operation. A great spot for a picnic, a bike ride along the Welland Canal Parkway Trail or a nice hike along part of the 42 kilometer trail. You can even drive from lock to lock, beating the boat you just watched to see it go through the next lock.
A large laker heads out of the Welland Canal  Lock 3  in St. Catherines  heading toward Lake St. Cla...
A large laker heads out of the Welland Canal, Lock 3 in St. Catherines, heading toward Lake St. Clair as another large Comercial laker waits to enter from the other direction to be lowered toward Lake Ontario.
Don't forget about this wonder when you're looking for something entertaining to do with the family or yourself on a weekend. Be sure to go in shipping season, so you can view boats locking through.
The laker going toward Lake Ontario enters Lock 3 in St. Catherines after another has just left head...
The laker going toward Lake Ontario enters Lock 3 in St. Catherines after another has just left heading the other direction, toward Lake St. Clair.
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