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Guide Index Editors Notes Features & Locks Overview History

The Trent Severn Waterway

Trent Severn Waterway

Locks & Special Features

Welcome to a visit to the Trent-Severn Waterway which is one of Canada's inland waterways. The Trent Severn intersects Southern Ontario, leaving Toronto and southern Ontario's commercial-urban sprawl to the south, while northward lies resource and vacationland typified by the Algonquin Park wilderness.

For the recreational boater your passage through the entire Trent Severn Waterway will take a week to travel the 386 km from Trenton and Lake Ontario at the south to Georgian Bay at the northern terminus.

Cruising with Edgar has provided an entirely new look at passage time and recreation. Until now, I only considered locks a part of transit to open water, he sees them as challenges and sightseeing along the road interesting for themselves. The Trent Severn provides many of these stops, with a season pass a economical a tie up at the end of a days run. During our voyage you will visit each lock in the system with current photographs and maps.

This online cruising guide has a background.
You might check out the Editors comments before setting off.

The actual web pages are arranged as if one was making a south to north passage, however you can use the top chart bar at any time to move to the next chart group in the system which are numbered sequentially from 2020 upwards. If you get lost, for overall navigation within the site simply returns to the index page and choose the area you wish from the charts there. If it is specific information you seek you will find a detailed reference index [here] . We have also included boat handling and locking articles with this guide which you can find from any index or here.

Some Waterway Highlights

The Trent-Severn and surrounding area has 1.5 million visitors yearly. Beyond the waterway itself, past the interesting shops, resorts, and towns lie natural, cultural and historic destinations for visitors.

  • Serpent Mounds Provincial Park: has prehistoric burial mounds
  • Petroglyphs Provincial Park: Largest native rock carving finds
  • Ste. Marie Among the Hurons: home of Steven Leacock
  • The Champlain Monument
  • Georgian Bay Islands National Park

The Locks

Burleigh Falls Lock empty for service during the winter

You will pass through 36 traditional locks set in a variety of geographical areas ranging, from the center of town to farmers fields. This Waterway also offers some fine examples of canal building ingenuity in the form of two hydraulic lift locks, Two step locks, and of course the Big Chute Railway. You will have numerous opportunities to depart the shortest route taking short overnight or day long trips on the Trent River, Kawartha Lakes, Lake Simcoe or Severn River. As part of the parks system basic facilities are available at locks along with overnight moorings.

Seen to the right is the Burleigh Falls lock drained for the winter. If provides an interesting look at the structure clearly showing the foot of lock which controls the draft available.

Flight locks

Ranney Falls Lock 11 -12

As we proceeding south to north we will address these example in the order they appear. The first of which are Flight locks which break large changes in water level into two steps which are joined together. You fist departure from other canals comes at mile 29.7 where you reach the flight Locks 11 & 12 of Ranney Falls.

Healey Falls Lock 16

From there your next encounter is only 6.3 miles further at Healey falls. In both case I found adequate turbulance to require a firm hand and wind that tended to gust into the lock as well making handling tricky. I never found any problem with lock 17 on the Erie Canal which has 78' drop, and begrudge the double shuffle when it is busy and some less than skilled in boat handling.

Hydraulic lift locks

Peterbourgh Lift Lock

The next engineering feat you will encounter on the waterway are the lift locks the first being Lock 21 in Peterbourgh at mile 90.1. The Peterbough lock is by far the most developed and scenic as well as home to the Trent Severn Visitors center. In fact these locks are simple and elegant. The construction of the locks is a story unto itself we will drift too far here.

Kirkwood Lift Lock # 36

The next example of the hydraulic lift locks will not be encountered until mile 169.4 and the Kirkfield hydraulic lift lock 36. The difference between these two locks is night and day. Kirkfield is close to the middle of nowhere, even if a pretty countrified nowhere, it marks the highest point on the Trent Severn Waterway. By the time you reach here from whichever end you begin you will have settled into the routine and should enjoy the stay.. There are restaurants close by and plenty of tie up spaces.

The unique lift locks operate by using hydraulic pressure. Within a closed system any displacement of volume in one container will transfer the equal amount to the other container. In the case of the Trent Severn Lift Locks those containers are the huge 140 foot long, steel tubs containing 330,000 gallons of water weighing 1,500 tonnes .

hydrostatic pressure example Hydrostatic displacement Kirkfield lock tub

Beneath the lock tubs are located monster hydraulic rams which raise and lower the locks. Each ram is 65 feet long by 7.5 foot diameter extending some 75 feet below the lock to their footings on top of ten ton granite block, resting on bedrock. Both tubes are connected by high pressure pipe and other control pumps and fittings. In practice, the procedure used to raise boats is to fill the upper tub with an extra foot of water, and then vent this water volume into the lower locks chamber, the difference in weight then raises the lower lock.

There are provisions for mechanically pumping water to adjust discrepancies and the staff test run the system before ever letting a boat in so first lift in the morning is before the opening hour.

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