Tour Locations | Ottawa: Pioneering Days

  • LOCATION 20 | Ottawa: Pioneering Days

    Col. By and the Canal

    Make your way over to the statue of Lt. Col. John By, and stop in front of it.

    [3 SECOND PAUSE]

    By was a British Royal Engineer, who was commissioned to supervise the building of a canal from Kingston to Ottawa and down to Montreal via the Ottawa river.

    [1.5 SECOND PAUSE]

    Now walk over to have a look at the canal on your right and view the eight locks below.

    [3 SECOND PAUSE]

    The canal took six years to build and was finished in 1832. It was built primarily by Irish and French labourer, of whom 1000 died during the construction, mostly from malaria. Local mosquitos can spread malaria from one infected person to another but do not survive the winter here. The eight locks you can see in front of you drop the water level 24 meters or 79 feet to the Ottawa river. Over the full length of 202 kilometers or 128 miles, there are 45 locks grouped at 23 locations. The canal water level rises 84 meters or 275 feet from the Ottawa river to a lake in the middle and drops down again 51 meters or 188 feet to Lake Ontario. It mostly follows natural waterways but some dams were needed to raise water levels. Only 19 kilometers or 12 miles are man-made channels. Its the oldest, continuously operated canal in North America.

    [1.5 SECOND PAUSE]

    Can you see the stone building on the far side of the locks?

    [1.5 SECOND PAUSE]

    This is the Bytown Museum, where you can learn more about the early days. It was originally the Canal Commissiart and is the oldest stone building in Ottawa. Its most definitely haunted. There is a guided haunted walking tour of Ottawa if you want to know more.

    As you might expect, there were unanticipated problems which raised the cost above budget. On completion, Col. By was summoned to England to explain the cost overrun. Everything was honest and above board, but he never returned and died disappointed a few years later without the promotion and honours he deserved.

    [1.5 SECOND PAUSE]

    Take some time to look at the exhibit panel if you like.

    [1.5 SECOND PAUSE]

    When you're ready, turn with your back to the canal and follow the path straight ahead that leads you toward the street on the other side of the park.

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