Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shubie Canal celebrates 150 yrs!

Even my generation of Fundy folk are well aware that, historically, travel in our region was more likely to occur via waterway than land. Many of us will also recall the importance of the Shubenacadie Canal.

Today is the 150th anniversary of the first complete commercial voyage on the completed canal. To celebrate, two local fellows paddled their canoe over the past couple of days through the original 100 km from the Customs Wharf in Halifax to the wharf in Maitland on the Bay of Fundy. Although the first full large boat trip on the canal was by the 60-foot long barge, the MV Avery these two paddlers chose to make this celebratory trip by canoe in honour of the Mi'kmaq who originally traveled this waterway by canoe.

Canals were common transportation routes in North America in the 1800s but this was the only canal ever developed in Atlantic Canada. Although used by First Nations for thousands of years prior, it developed and connected as a commercial shipping route by Sir John Wentworth. It was completed in 1856 but its effectiveness in bringing all manner of industrial goods into Halifax ultimately contributed to its demise as a commercial route. One of the biggest sources of revenue for the canal was the transport of iron for the new Nova Scotia railway. Only 14 years after the canal opened the railway replaced the canal's draw bridges with solid bridges that prevented commercial boats from passing beneath.

The Shubenacadie Canal, although long since lost to commercial transport, is still an extraordinary network of rivers and lakes that are greatly enjoyed by recreational canoeists and kayakers.

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