I’ve previously mentioned that the location of Montreal by the water made the difference in the development of the city. Well, the construction of the Canal Lachine played a crucial role in its growth. The turbulent waters made it difficult for boats to navigate via the St.Lawrence River, therefore, excavating a bypass was considered the solution but it took some time to convince all that it was a viable project. In 1821 the construction began and four (4) years later, seven (7) locks and a 14 kilometer (8.7 miles) water passage from Old Montreal to Lake Saint-Louis was ready.
The combination of maritime and rail transportation attracted industries to set up in the area and along the banks. Of course, industries meant work for laborers who also settled in the areas. The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th was a blooming time in the region. Grains, wood, iron, steel and textile industries were very prevalent as well as flourishing markets.
The canal was expanded twice in 1840 and in 1885 to allow wider and longer vessels and also to provide more energy to the industries, but in 1959 the St.Lawrence Seaway changed the flow of circulation. The first and second World Wars had already impacted the area and, with the Seaway, it was more challenging for the economy. New means of transport and new energy sources reduced the popularity of the canal. The Saint-Henri and other neighborhoods were let go for years.
The Canal Lachine was only reopened for leisure boating in 2002 and further improvements were made in the whole vicinity. Not only was the canal reopened but a very nice walking/ bike path links Old Montreal along the canal to reach the mouth of the canal where you can find the Fur Trade Museum. This is an excellent excursion. Pedestrian passages, bridges, and the five (5) locks allow you to cross the canal at different levels. You do not need to do the full path but I have to admit that the area next to the Atwater Market is lively.
You can combine the walk and biking with the public transportation return option. At Atwater Market, you are next to the Lionel-Groulx Metro Station.
Many buildings have been converted into condo complexes and the new residential condo construction has been praised and are now highly priced in the area.
Parks, green areas and the market have been treasured for gatherings, picnics, a place to play, to run, to walk or bike. It is a beautiful place to be. Along the path, informative boards have been installed to learn about the different buildings. Old or new, the project seems to have integrated part of the past into their style.
We have broken down our visit into 3 visits so far and have not covered it all. We did one visit around the Atwater Market and Chateau St-Ambroise, one at West side with the Fur Trade Museum, the LeBer-Lemoyne Lachine Museum, the Fleming Mill and Park Rene- Levesque and the latest next to the old port. I need to go again since the last exploration brought us to another unexpected zone where we followed the surfers. Surfers in Montreal, who would have thought!