The maritime heritage in Montreal on the St. Lawrence River

Montreal skyline

Montreal on the St. Lawrence River

Actually, Montreal is not connected to the sea. After all, the Atlantic Ocean lies 1600 kilometers away from the metropolis in Quebec. Nevertheless, one gets a different impression quickly when strolling along the waterfront of Montreal. The quays teem with boats, yachts, excursion boats and even cruise liners. Sure, the city is located on an island, which is already a reason for the numerous boats. Yachts and excursion boats can also head for nearby destinations on the St. Lawrence River. But cruise ships and big container ships? This brings the sea clearly closer. And that has a good reason. Today they can easily get over the St. Lawrence River here.

Maritime Montreal - is that right?

And this is getting wider and wider only 270 kilometers away from here. From Quebec City, the estuary of the St. Lawrence River opens so far that the further you go east, the only thing you can imagine is the opposite bank of the river. So, on a journey along the St. Lawrence River, you soon feel like you're at the ocean, so it's no wonder that ocean-going ships reach the port of Montreal. This can be reached all year round the shipping channel of the St. Lawrence River. Yes, the Port of Montreal website even says winter is the busiest time in the city's harbor. Since 1964, the Canadian Coast Guard has cleared the fairway in the St. Lawrence River to Montreal with icebreakers. Until the ships reach the port of Montreal, they must overcome no locks. Only behind the waterfalls of Lachine navigation on the St. Lawrence River becomes more difficult. Connect the lock systems of the St. Lawrence Seaway Montreal with the upstream regions of Canada and the USA.


Lachine Canal Surfer
Lachine Canal Surfer, copyright Ran Zwigenberg, Flickr CC BY 2.0


The rapids of Lachine

The Lachine rapids were of great importance for the development of the city. Even the Iroquois had built a large village on the waterfalls, Hochelaga, which is often mentioned in the first reports about this region. And the French also quickly recognized the important strategic importance of these rapids in the St. Lawrence River. At this point, the river suddenly becomes a few meters lower, causing the inflowing masses of water to whirl and create standing waves that are just as insurmountable to the canoes of the fur traders as they are to modern ships today. Only when 1825 was opened the Lachine Canal, canoes and ships were able to avoid the deceptive rapids on the waterway. Later, the St. Lawrence Seaway undertook this task, and today oceangoing vessels can sail across the locks of this artificial waterway to the center of the Americas.

The rapids of Lachine have lost their menace today and are often used by surfers for a ride on the waves. Beneath the nested housing units of Habitat 67 on the Cité du Havre peninsula, you can watch them surfing on the south-facing side of the peninsula. Almost they seem to be standing in the water, so constant is the wave that arises through the underwater slope.

Once upon a time, fur traders drove west past the Lachine Falls

Only behind the Lachine waterfalls once fur traders broke with their large transport canoes to the west. Directly on the old Lachine Channel was a trading depot where furs and skins from western Canada were collected and shipped on to the hypermarkets in Europe, where the fine undercoat of the beaver was further processed into elegant felt hats.


Silo Number 5
Silo Number 5, copyright Abdallahh, Flickr CC BY 2.0


Montreal - harbor for crusaders and container ships

And in the modern commercial and cruise port of Montreal, there are indications of the importance of Lachine waterfalls. Freighters used to transport grain and other products from the Midwest to this point, initially stored in huge silos by the harbor. Today, these huge grain warehouses tower up like old-time memorials. If you do not know your story, you can easily dismiss it as an ugly scandal. But today, Silo 5 is Grade II listed because it commemorates an important episode in the history of the Port of Montreal: goods from central Canada were loaded onto container ships and shipped to their destinations around the world.

Even today, grain, sugar, petroleum products, machinery and consumer goods are delivered by train. Montreal is the most important rail hub in Canada so far. And the Port of Montreal is Canada's second largest port - after Vancouver - and one of the largest inland ports in the world. On average, 26 million tons of goods are shipped here every year.

A visit to the Port of Montreal and the Lachine Falls is well planned on a tour of Canada's East. The history of the fur trade deals The Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site of Canada.

Our tip for Montreal: Discover the culinary side of Montreal on a stroll through the residential area.


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Source: On-site research supported by Tourisme Montreal and Bonjour Quebec

Text: © Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Video: © Copyright Petar Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline

The maritime heritage in Montreal on the St. Lawrence River
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