Georgian Bay Ship Canal, Ontario, Canada



April 16, 2009:

I just happened on to your web-site while looking for information on the “Georgian Bay 
Ship Canal” another interesting story on the Ottawa River.

The above is part of an e-mail from Mr. Les Cruickshank who is also interested in the history
of the Ottawa River as a transportation corridor in the 1800's. His original e-mail is posted on our
web page dealing with lighthouses on the Ottawa River, under date of April 14, 2009. 

Here is part of a further e-mail from Mr. Cruickshank:

I have some info on this including a report on the survey done in the early 1900's including 
photos of where locks etc would go.  It is a little shop worn and the photos are panoramic 
(long folded out photos) which would probably not work in this plan.  I also had some info 
on the contract which was let to build a set of locks around the Chats Rapids (which I'm sad 
to say is lost now). There actually was work done there in about 1854-55.  A rock cut was made.
We used to fish Pickerel there.  My Dad told me the construction camp burned down during the 
winter shut down, which did in the contractor and it was never started again. One thing I 
would like to see started is a trail along the right-of-way of the old railway that hauled 
passengers and freight around the rapids.  A campsite could be built at the head where Union 
Village was. (There is quite a bit of activity in the lower end with Tim Hortons Camp for 
Kids etc.)
 
Something we need and the area needs and would awaken interest in our history.

I would like to point out the fact this route -the Ottawa vs. the St. Lawrence was some 300 
miles shorter, Montreal to The Georgian Bay.   This was the Highway 401 of the day. And not only 
the days of the lights but back to the Aboriginals and up to the time the railways took over 
this business.  Many people were employed in the operations of transporting people and goods 
around and timber and pulp through the rapids.  There was a village  “Union Village” located 
at the head (at Black Bay?) and “Pontiac Village” at the foot of the rapids (at Pontiac Bay). 
There was even a horse drawn railway connecting the two, a bustling community which has now 
gone back to it’s natural state. 

... Les

The area in which Les is interested can be seen on the maps on our Fitzroy Topography page.

Roy MacGregor in his book (below) describes various efforts to survey the route for a canal as
it would run through Algonquin Park. There would have been a depot at Opeongo Lake. 
New J. R. Booth eventually created a village there when he built his railway from Parry Sound to Ottawa.

Source: A Life in the Bush -- Lessons from my Father by Roy MacGregor, 1999, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-670-88082-5, page 85 Georgian Bay Ship Canal

E-mail Les Cruickshank and Al Lewis

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