Kingston's Locks and Mills

A UNESCO World Heritage masterpiece

Text version

You're looking at a masterpiece of Canadian engineering and military history: the Rideau Canal and its famous locks! This is the Kingston Lockstation, the southernmost of the 24 lockstations that make up the famous Rideau Canal.

The Kingston’s locks and mills (Kingston Mills) are, in fact, part of the famous Rideau Canal National Historic Site, built for military purposes between 1826 and 1832 to ensure supplies between the cities of Montreal, Quebec and Kingston during the conflicts between Canada and the United States. Today, the Rideau Canal is a much-visited UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The Cataraqui River, which you've skirted on your way here or will skirt on your way back to Kingston and Fort Henry, consists of a series of waterfalls that first enabled the development of a flour mill and then, in 1784, the construction of a sawmill. A British colony at the time, it was the British government, under Major John Ross' orders, who built these locks and mills to meet the needs of this growing colony. 

Imagine... all residents were obliged by law to bring their farm produce here, and there were no roads, so they had to make their way through the woods as best they could! And for some, the way was so long and difficult in winter that it wasn't uncommon for their horses to eat most of their load on the journey... Then there was a road between Kingston and the mills. The first road built in Upper Canada ! 

After the mills, construction of the locks on the Rideau Canal began in 1826 to enable boats to bypass the falls. Here, four locks (numbers 46, 47, 48 and 49) were built. Are you impressed by the height of the locks? Well, they're 3.6 metres high!

From then on, Kingston Mills was once again an important strategic military site, restored to the condition it may have looked like in the 1830s.

See the steel railway bridge? In 1853, the Grand Trunk Railroad built its first wooden bridge over the lower locks. Several bridges were subsequently built, the latest dating from 1988.

Kingston Mills is now managed by Parks Canada and was designated a National Historic Site in 1925 and a World Heritage Site in 2007. Take a stroll around the site! You'll discover old storage barns, stables, railway buildings, living quarters, the hydroelectric power station (built much later in 1914), the blockhouse with its thick stone walls to withstand cannon fire, the lockstation office and, of course, the original lockmaster's house, now the visitor centre. You can even operate the locks yourself by hand (with the help of a Parks Canada employee of course).

Otherwise, the area is perfect for picnicking, fishing, swimming, hiking and climbing in summer. You can even cruise the canal on one of the many boat tours on offer and if you have the time... travel between Kingston and Ottawa ! 


Extract of
Thousand Islands Region Sightseeing and Discovery Tour

Thousand Islands Region Sightseeing and Discovery Tour image circuit

Presented by : Société économique de l’Ontario

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