Gumbo was visiting the Welland Canal in St. Catharines, Ontario, where one can watch large cargo ships move past or visit the city's small but interesting museum. Congratulations to George G and Roderick Simpson, who recognized where Gumbo was.
I had an aunt who owned a peach orchard in St. Catharines, and my family often visited their family in the summer. One of my first memories as a young child is of standing beside the Welland Canal and watching massive ships pass by, literally within touching distance. I revisit the Canal whenever I'm in the area of Niagara Falls because I still find it fascinating. The Great Lakes have fresh water in abundance and the canal locks use this water and gravity to work simple but very effective magic.
The Welland Canal was built because of the obstacle Niagara Falls (and the rapids of the Niagara River) presented to navigation and transportation of goods. The Welland Canal provides a passage from Lake Erie in the south to Lake Ontario in the north, and as such it's as an important link in the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes Waterway (which connects the mid-western parts of Canada and the USA with the Atlantic Ocean).
A model of the canal from the St. Catharines museum (see below images) provides an aerial perspective of a ship entering a lock, and I think helps give a better understanding of the anatomy of a canal lock. Once the ship has entered, the gate through which it passed is closed and depending on which direction it's going, the lock is either flooded or drained, then the far lock is opened and the ship passes through.
I've included two series of photos and short videoclips that follow showing ships ascending the Niagara escarpment. These are shown in sequence below. The first is the Canadian ship "Algoma Harvester" and the second is the Canadian ship "Tadoussac". While these happened to be Canadian ships, vessels from all corners of the world can be spotted here.
As is apparent, it requires excellent navigation skills to move a ship undamaged through a lock as the fit is quite tight.
The Welland Canal extends 27.6 miles (44.4 km) from Port Colborne (on Lake Erie) to Port Weller (on Lake Ontario) and drops a total of 99.5 meters (327 feet). Ships pass through this elevation change in a series of eight locks. The locks are 24.4 meters (80 ft) wide and up to 349.9 m (1148 ft) in length. The canal can accommodate quite large and heavily laden ships as it has a minimum depth of 30 feet (9 m).
The maximum length of a ship allowed in this canal is 225.5 meters (740 feet). It usually takes about 8 hours for a ship to navigate the entire length of the canal. The canal is closed in the winter months when the water freezes for a variable period of time. About 3,000 ships carrying 40,000,000 tons of cargo a year pass through the Welland Canal.
(Video clip shows how quickly ship rises as the lock is flooded)
The current Welland Canal is actually the fourth one constructed, the first dating to 1824. The current Canal was constructed between 1913 - 1932, and there's talk of a newer fifth Canal -- capable of dealing with larger vessels -- being constructed in the future.
One of the most overlooked benefits of the Welland Canal is its recreational aspects. People can bring a chair and watch the ships pass by, hike on surrounding trails, bike, fish and boat. We visited on a very rainy and gloomy day but there were still lots of people about, coming and going.
The St. Catharines Museum is connected to the elevated observation deck of this lock and is worth seeing. It's small and doesn't take long too explore, providing some background on the history of the small city and its relationship to the Welland Canal...
I was surprised to learn that a factory making the REO Speedwagon was located in the city more than a century ago.
A very recommended stop for any traveling to the Niagara Peninsula, especially for families with children.