Originally, a route was needed for ships to get from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie & vice versa. The two lakes differ in elevation by 326 feet.
In November 30, 1824, the first sod was turned.This First Canal opened in 1833, It was 27-1/2 miles in length, had 40 locks, was 110 feet in length, 22 feet in width and 8 feet in depth.
The second canal opened in 1850. The number of locks was reduced from 40 to 27 by increasing the lift of each lock. The new locks were increased in size to 150 feet in length, 26-1/2 feet in width, and with a 9 foot draft over the sills.
The third canal was opened to traffic in 1881. The locks were 270 feet long and 45 feet wide and with 12 feet draft, which was later increased to 14 feet. The canal was 26-3/4 miles in length.
The fourth and present canal was begun in 1913 & completed in 1932.The Canal is now 26.8 miles long, has a width in of of 350 feet and a depth of 30 feet. Seven lift locks and one guard lock have replaced the 40 locks of the First Canal; each lift lock being 859 feet in length, 80 feet in width and having 30 feet of water over the sills. Each of the seven lift locks has a lift of about 46-1/2 feet.
Now - eliminated six bridges with construction of 3 tunnels - There are eight locks with a total lift of 327 feet - the canal is open from early in April to the end of December. The total time required for a vessel to navigate the canal is about 8 hours average. Pleasure boats also use the Welland Canal system.
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