History of the Kingston Mills lockstation

Rideau Canal National Historic Site

Specifications of the lockstation

Four locks (3 in flight, 1 detached), with a combined lift of 13.7 m (45.0 feet)

The Construction of the lockstation

The contractor for this station was Robert Drummond.

Kingston Mills is the most southerly station on the Rideau Canal. It is located on the Cataraqui River about 6.9 km (4.3 miles) upstream from the Lasalle Causeway in Kingston Harbour. Granite cliffs flank the southern approach to the lockstation and offer a reminder of the challenge of building a lockstation in the rough terrain of the Canadian Shield.

The water passing through Kingston Mills powered grist and sawmill operations that predated the canal, and milling operations continued after canal construction. Today, a small power generating station stands near the old mill site.

The construction of the locks, the dam and the levees radically transformed the landscape. The old riverbed disappeared, and large tracts of land along the river, from Kingston Mills to Lower Brewers, were inundated. The line of the navigation channel had been cleared of trees prior to flooding, that flooding now providing a navigation depth of water all the way to Lower Brewers.

Unlike some other sites, the construction of the locks at Kingston Mills did not destroy the existing mills. Industrial activities and canal activities have run parallel, from the early days until today. The current operation of the power plant at Kingston Mills illustrates this relationship.

The lockstation is connected to other transport routes. The railway replaced the canal, which is evident from the railway bridge which spans part of the lower flight of locks. The causeway spanning the upper detached lock dates from before the canal. This road once connected Kingston and Montreal. The presence of mills, inns, taverns and a quarry show that the local village was not entirely dependent on Kingston. In fact, the area provided Kingston with products such as lumber and flour.

Structures of the lockstation

Lockmaster’s House: The present day lockmaster’s house, known today as the Anglin Centre (after long serving lockmaster, Robert Anglin who served here from 1892 to 1919) was built in 1904. The lockmasters initially lived in a wooden frame building built by Robert Drummond for his use as the contractor for the site. When it deteriorated, a new lockmaster’s house was built on the location of the present one. Its shoddy construction eventually led to the construction of this building, a two-storey, L-shaped timber building with a gable roof.

Blockhouse: In 1832 the construction of a blockhouse was started, one of only four completed along the Rideau Canal. It was finished in about 1834. It was built to the same dimensions as those at Narrows and Newboro, a masonry base 7.3 m (24 feet) on a side and a an squared timber upper storey, 8.5 m (28 feet) on a side. It was designed to accommodate 20 men. Access was by a stairway to the second floor. Militia were stationed here in the winter of 1837-38 in response to the Upper Canada Rebellion. Soldiers were again stationed in the blockhouse in the 1860s, due to the American Civil War.

Dams: A stone arch dam incorporating a waste weir was built to raise the water of the Cataraqui River to form what are today Colonel By Lake and River Styx, the flooding extending north to the lockstation at Lower Brewers. In addition, extensive embankments were built on either side of the dam to impound the water of the new lake.

Power Station: In 1913, a new dam was built below the existing canal dam for use by a power generating station. That station is still working, operated today by Portage Power.

Bridges: The first bridge across the upper detached lock was a double leaf timber drawbridge, installed in 1832. It was later replaced by a steel swing bridge. The most recent work on the swing bridge was in 2017 when it was replaced with a new bridge with a full highway load rating.

A fixed wooden bridge across Cataraqui Falls was first built in about 1801. It has been replaced many times, the most recent being in 2017 when a single-lane concrete bridge with crash-rated barriers and guards on the approaches was installed.

The first railway bridge was a wooden truss bridge built over the lower locks in 1853 by the Grand Trunk Railroad. It was replaced at least once (c.1890) and the current steel bridge, now used by CNR, was built in 1929.

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