Sep 25, 2008
|A once vital link between Halifax Harbour and the Bay of Fundy - Thursday, September 25
Tomorrow we have an appointment to have the RV serviced at a Ford dealer in Halifax, so today we just laid low and never started the engine. It’s good to have some down time.
The campground we’re in is called ‘Shubie’. It’s located in Dartmouth, and it’s surrounded by one of Nova Scotia’s historic parks. The park is a large one, and it’s devoted to the protection and preservation of an historic endeavor known as the Shubenacadie Canal.
Madolyn discovered that the park has a Visitor Center within walking distance of where we’re camped, so mid afternoon we took off on a mile and a half hike to see the park and learn about the canal. There are few activities more enjoyable than a walk in the woods on a fall afternoon, and this one included a fascinating look at an historic project. As an added bonus we got to walk a section of the Trans Canadian Trail, which passes through the park on it’s way from St. John’s, Newfoundland to the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Sea.
The Shubenacadie Canal is a waterway that spans the province from Halifax Harbour in the south to Cobequid Bay and the Bay of Fundy on the north. Through a system of nine locks and two inclined planes, the canal connected seven lakes and made it possible for boat traffic to sail from Halifax Harbor to the Minas Basin and the Bay of Fundy without having to go around dangerous Cape Sable.
The project was begun in 1826 but it was not completed until 1861. Construction was expensive, and several times the promoters ran out of money. Even when the canal was completed it was never a financial success, and it closed in 1870 after only 9 years of operation. The railroad could move goods faster and cheaper, and the canal was unable to compete.
During it’s short life ships using the canal were mostly small steam powered boats. Leaving Halifax Harbour they were dragged up an inclined plane to the first lake and then navigated the canal and three locks to reach the summit at Lake Charles. Lake Charles is 29 meters, or about 95 feet higher than the harbor. From there the boats would navigate through six more locks and one more inclined plane on their descent to the level of Cobequid Bay and the Bay of Fundy.
The most difficult part of the canal to build was what they called the ‘deep cut’ and this section of the canal goes right through the park where we are camped. We took the half mile walk to the Visitor Center and spent an hour looking at their exhibits, then when the center closed we went outside to look at the reconstruction of Lock 3 which is just below the Visitor Center.
From there we hiked back along the far side of the canal, which dives into a thickly wooded area where the deep cut was made. Workers had to use dynamite, and haul rock up steep slopes to create the necessary grade for the waterway through a most difficult area. They terraced the sides to keep the rock from falling back into the canal, and they did a good job because it hasn’t fallen into the canal in nearly a century and a half.
The trail we followed parallels the Trans Canada Trail for a ways, and the woods it traverses are a serene break from the city traffic we could hear in the distance. Halifax and Dartmouth are busy urban areas, but this waterway and greenway surrounding it are like an oasis in the populated area.
Tomorrow it will be back to the city, but for today we enjoyed the peace and beauty of the canal and it’s environs.