Trent–Severn Waterway

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Not to be confused with the British company Severn Trent Water.
For English waterways concerning Trent and Severn, see Canals of the United Kingdom.
Trent–Severn Waterway
Trent-Severn Gateway.jpg
Gateway to the Trent-Severn Waterway
Location Ontario, Canada
Governing body Parks Canada
Website Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site (Parks Canada)
Trent-Severn Waterway map
Georgian Bay
 Highway 400
Port Severn swing bridge
45Port Severn 387.1
44Big Chute Marine Railway 374.1
43Swift Rapids 361.2
Hamlet swing bridge
42Couchiching 337.8
CNR swing bridge
 Highway 11
Lake Couchiching
 Highway 12
Lake Simcoe
Lakeshore Rd swing bridge
 Highway 12
41Gamebridge 290.9
40Thorah 289.8
39Portage 289.1
38Talbot 286.5
37Bolsover 284.9
Boundary Rd swing bridge
Bolsover swing bridge
36Kirkfield Lift Lock 387.1
Lake Huron ¦ Lake Ontario
35Rosedale 252.9
Balsam Lake
Cameron Lake
34Fenelon Falls 247.2
Lake Scugog
33Lindsay 251.6
Sturgeon Lake
32Bobcaygeon 222.4
Bobcaygeon swing bridge
Pigeon Lake
Buckhorn Lake
31Buckhorn 194.2
30Lovesick 184.7
28Burleigh Falls 181.8
Lock #28 foot bridge
 Highway 28
27Young's Point 168.1
26Lakefield 158.9
25Sawer Creek 156.6
24Douro 155.1
23Otonabee 152.6
22Nassau Mills 151.7
Trent University foot bridge
CNR swing bridge
21Peterborough Lift Lock 145.0
CPR swing bridge
Maria St bridge
20Ashburnham 144.1
CNR swing bridge
19Scotts Mills 142.8
  Highway 7 / Highway 115
Rice Lake
Hastings swing bridge
18Hastings 82.3
16/17Healey Falls 58.8
Healey Falls swing bridge
15Healey Falls 58.2
14Crowe Bay 54.2
13Campbellford 51.8
Ranney Falls swing bridge
11/12Ranney Falls 47.8
10Hagues Reach 45.0
9Meyers 42.5
8Percy Reach 40.7
CNR swing bridge
Glen Ross swing bridge
7Glen Ross 22.2
6Frankford 11.7
5Trent 10.3
4Batawa 8.3
3Glen Miller 6.2
2Sidney 3.9
 Highway 401
1Trenton 2.9
CNR swing bridge
Bay of Quinte

The Trent–Severn Waterway is a canal route traversing Southern Ontario cottage country, and a linear National Historic Site of Canada administered by Parks Canada.[1][2] It was formerly used for industrial and transportation purposes, and is maintained for recreational boating and tourism. The Waterway connects two of the Great LakesOntario and Huron—with an eastern terminus at Trenton and a western terminus at Port Severn. Its major natural waterways include the Trent River, Otonabee River, the Kawartha lakes, Lake Simcoe, Lake Couchiching and the Severn River. It is open for navigation from May until October, while its shore lands and bridges are open year-round.


The total length of the waterway is 386 kilometres (240 mi), beginning at Trenton, Ontario, with roughly 32 kilometres (20 mi) of man-made channels. There are 45 locks, including 36 conventional locks, two sets of flight locks, hydraulic lift locks at Peterborough and Kirkfield, and a marine railway at Big Chute which transports boats between the upper and lower sections of the Severn. The system also includes 39 swing bridges and 160 dams and control structures that manage the water levels for flood control and navigation on lakes and rivers that drain approximately 18,600 square kilometres (7,182 sq mi) of central Ontario's cottage country region, across four counties and three single-tier cities, an area that is home to more than a million Canadians.

It reaches its highest point of 256.3 metres (840 ft 11 in) at Balsam Lake, the highest point to which a vessel can be navigated from sea level in the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence River drainage basin. The navigable summit of the Monongahela River (part of the Mississippi River drainage basin) at Fairmont, West Virginia is, at 263 metres (862 ft 10 in), the highest point in North America, and the summit of the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal at its highest point of 406 metres (1,332 ft 0 in)[3] is higher still.

The Trent–Severn Waterway is managed by Parks Canada under the statutory authority of the Historic Canals Regulations (which outline and delegate the responsibilities for navigation, resource protection, dredge and fill operations, the operation of boater campgrounds, etc.). The 386 kilometres (240 mi) navigation corridor includes over 4,500 kilometres (2,796 mi) of shoreline and over 500 square kilometres (193 sq mi) of water. More than 125000 private and commercial properties abut the navigation corridor of the Trent–Severn Waterway. The Trent–Severn Waterway also has regulatory responsibility and authority under the Dominion Water Power Act for the 18 hydroelectric generating facilities located along its route.

A six-member independent panel was appointed to evaluate the waterway's future in May 2007. The panel members heard from more than one thousand people in more than thirty meetings in sixteen communities along the waterway. The panel submitted their report to the Federal Minister of the Environment in April 2008.[citation needed]


Lock One on the Trent-Severn Waterway

Samuel Champlain was the first European to travel the network of inland waters from Georgian Bay to the Bay of Quinte with the Hurons in 1615. A route that would later be canalized and named the Trent–Severn Waterway.

In the mid-19th century, the river systems of Central Ontario were used by lumber barons to easily transport newly felled trees to sawmills closer to market. Many of the logging companies opposed the building of locks, for these would interfere with their business interests. The logging companies did, however, help to create thriving communities such as Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls, all of which helped to delay the building of the lock system.

Construction began in the Kawartha Lakes region in 1833 with the Lock at Bobcaygeon marking its beginning.[4] It took over 87 years to complete the waterway with two "temporary" marine railways installed at Big Chute and Swift Rapids. Only by 1920 could a boat travel the whole route. Some[who?] argue that the canal has not been finished. Although the Swift Rapids Marine Railway was replaced by the intended conventional lock installed in 1965, the Big Chute Marine Railway is still in operation, with early plans for a lock to replace it being abandoned. Lock 45 at Port Severn was completed in a hurry under political pressure to complete the system and is undersized to this day in comparison to the length and width of the other conventional lock stations on the system. A branch of the canal constructed to Newmarket, Ontario was abandoned during construction and never completed. An alternate route to Georgian Bay via Kempenfelt Bay and the Nottawasaga River exiting at Wasaga Beach was also briefly contemplated as an alternate to the Severn River route that was finally adopted. It was also contemplated that the canal would join to Georgian Bay via Honey Harbour with a lock between Little Go Home Bay and Baxter Lake

The slow progress was noticed by the Canadian government. In 1878 Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald tried to speed up progress by making it government policy to ensure that the system would be completed. To realize some of the economic benefits of a complete canal system, the Government of Ontario built some of the locks before the Federal government resumed construction. Despite this, the canal entered a period of slow growth between 1875 and 1900. Travel was blocked beyond Balsam Lake until the opening of the Kirkfield Lift Lock in 1907.

The lock system aided the development of central Ontario, allowing a quick and efficient flow of goods to and from the major trading centres along Lake Ontario. The rugged, rough terrain of this area of the province made travel by land extremely difficult and time-consuming.

When the canal was finally completed, it failed to have a major impact on the economy of the regions it was built to serve. By the time it was completed its design had been made obsolete by larger boats: it had been designed for boats too small to be commercially viable. In the years that it was under construction, railways had further developed their networks and improved service, which influenced settlement patterns.

In 1910-11, the Township of Smith and the Chemong Yacht Club filed a claim for land damages caused by the Trent Canal.[5]

The waterway became obsolete for commercial purposes when the present day Welland Canal was completed in 1932. The Welland Canal could handle ships large enough to sail across the ocean, though cargo was generally transferred to or from larger ocean-going vessels at Montreal.

The Trent-Severn system is still in service. It is maintained and operated by the national park service, Parks Canada, and now is used for tourism and by recreational boaters. There is a cruise line that operates the ship Kawartha Voyageur,[6] as well as houseboat rental firms.[7] In June 2013, Barry Devolin, Member of Parliament for the riding of Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock reintroduced Bill C-530, the "Trent-Severn Water Authority Act",[8] in order to re-capitalise the century-old infrastructure of the waterway.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Trent–Severn Waterway. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  2. ^ "Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site of Canada". National Historic Sites. Parks Canada. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "11 Höhenunterschiede" [11 Elevation differences]. Main-Donau-Kanal (in German). Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  4. ^ Angus, James T. A Respectable Ditch: A History of the Trent-Severn Waterway 1833-1920. McGill-Queens University Press, Montreal and Kingston, 1988.
  5. ^ Trent–Severn Waterway Library & Archives Canada
  6. ^ "Home page". Ontario Waterway Cruises. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  7. ^ For example, Egan Houseboats, per "Home page". Egan Houseboats. Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  8. ^ Private Member's "BILL C-530"

External links[edit]