St Peters Canal

St Peters Canal
Photo 8 of 30: St Peters Canal
Taken 2008 June 10 in St Peter’s along the St Peters Canal north of the northern lock
GPS 45°39.32?'N 61°52.13?'W

This view is of St Peters Canal itself, Canada’s oldest tidal lock canal. The lockmaster’s house is on the right side of the canal. The southern gate to the lock is closed, while the northern one is open (you can see its sides pressed flat against the left side of the canal near where the trees descend to the canal). The distance between these gates defines the size of the largest ship the canal can accommodate. For a photo of an impressively sized commercial vessel passing through the lock, see this web page (courtesy of the Wayback Machine archive, since the original is no longer on-line).

According to the Parks Canada web page:

People from Great Britain moved into the [St. Peter’s] area soon after [the capture of Louisbourg in 1758], and a prominent Irish merchant, Lawrence Kavanagh [sic] Jr., established himself close to the ruins of Port Toulouse. In 1793, as revolutionary France declared war on Great Britain, the British built Fort Dorchester on the summit of Mount Granville, the highest spot in the region. When the present village of St. Peters [sic] was founded early in the 19th century the new residents used [Nicolas] Denys’s old “haulover” road. They laid down skids so that ships could once again be hauled across the isthmus to the inland waterway, a shorter and more protected route to the growing settlements around Sydney.
With a steadily increasing volume of shipping, plans were soon made to replace the old portage road with a navigation channel. The first feasibility study was commissioned in 1825, and work on the canal began in 1854. A passage about 800 m (2600 ft) long was cut through the narrowest point of land. After 15 years of digging, blasting and drilling, an opening averaging 30 m (100 ft) wide had been cut through a solid granite hill 20 m (66 ft) high. This passage was shored up with timbers and planking. Locks were then installed and the canal finally became a reality in 1869. Additions and renovations, widening the channel and lengthening the locks, continued until 1917. In 1985, Parks Canada completed a major project to restore both the Bras d'Or Lake and the Atlantic Ocean entrances to the canal. All kinds of pleasure craft now use the canal during the summer: canoes, schooners and power cruisers. Only occasionally does a commercial vessel pass through these locks that once were so vital to communication and the economy of Cape Breton Island.
There is tidal activity at both ends of the canal, and there can be a difference of up to 1.4 m (4.5 ft) between the water level of the lake and ocean. For this reason, both entrances have double-lock gates. The lock is 91.44 m (301 ft) long by 14.45 m (47 ft) wide and can handle vessels with a 4.88 m (16 ft) draught.

Note that dynamite was invented only in 1866, so most of this work was carried out without it. Nor were modern excavation vehicles available; the rubble had to be carted off by teams of oxen and horses. When one is actually along the canal looking up at the hill on the other side, there is a sense of awe at this achievement of mostly brute-force labour!