Rideau Canal National Historic Site

Specifications of the lockstation

Three locks (detached) with a total lift of 7.6 m (24.9 feet).

The Construction of the lockstation

The contractor for Merrickville was A.C. Stevens & Co.

Merrickville lockstation is located within one of the oldest settlements along the Rideau corridor. Roger Stevens first arrived in this region in 1790 and built a sawmill near where the canal dam is today. Stevens died sooner after, in 1793 William Merrick, who had arrived in this area about 1791, received land rights in the early 1800s and went on to develop the site. After 1810, a community began to grow around the milling activity. In 1821, Merrick built a stone house overlooking his mills.

When the canal construction crews arrived in 1827, the village of Merrick's Mills, as it was then known, was a thriving little community. Merrick had a sawmill, a grist mill and a carding mill in operation. Unlike most of the pre-canal sites, Merrick's Mills was not destroyed by canal construction. The locks were put in an excavated channel on the east bank of the river, allowing the mills to operate unimpeded. When the canal was completed, the improved transportation system caused a surge in commercial activity in the village. By 1851, Merrick's Mills was an impressive industrial centre.

Merrick's Mills continued to thrive into the mid-1860s. The end of the community's industrial growth is closely related to the decline of the commercial phase of the canal. The rise of the nearby town of Smiths Falls as a major railway hub displaced Merrick's Mills as an industrial leader in the region. Despite the decline, some industry continued in the community. In 1915 a power company was formed at Merrickville to provide electricity for the mills and a foundry, and the woolen mill continued to function until 1954.

Structures of the lockstation

Locks: Three locks, two basins and an artificial channel were constructed "in the dry" at Merrickville. The locks are located at the lower end of the 425 m (1,400 foot) artificial channel.

Dam:The present-day dam was built in 1914-15 in front of Merrick's mill dam, replacing a timber dam that once stood upstream. The dam, with the addition of bridges, formed the roadway crossing the canal and river.

Bridges: Today, three bridges make up the crossing at Merrickville:

  • a fixed concrete and steel bridge over the waste weir (constructed prior to 1957)
  • a fixed plate girder bridge over the canal weir at the head of the "snie" (erected in 1924)
  • a plate girder swing bridge over the upper lock (built in 1933, electrified in 1955, , rehabilitated in 1990).

The Blockhouse: The Merrickville Blockhouse, is the largest of four blockhouses constructed on the Rideau Canal and stands as a reminder of the canal's original purpose in providing a secure military supply route for Upper Canada. In the event of war, the blockhouse would serve as a mustering point for local militia, it could accommodate a garrison of 50 men and as a supply depot for provisions, ammunition and arms. At Merrickville, the "wilderness buffer" that surrounded most lockstations had been breached by road improvements between the village and the St. Lawrence River, leaving it vulnerable to American attack. The blockhouse saw military occupation in the period following the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 and again during the Oregon Crisis of 1846 (resulting from a border dispute with the United States). However, the main occupants of the blockhouse were the station's lockmaster and his family. The upper storey of the blockhouse served as the lockmaster's living quarters until the late 19th century. Today the blockhouse is a museum operated by the Merrickville and District Historical Society.

The Depot: The exact origins of the the Depot are unknown. It appears to have been built in the 1860s, as it shows up in this location on an 1868 map. It was used as a canal depot by Hiram Easton and later the Ottawa Forwarding Company. In 1914 it was taken over by the Rideau Power Company who used for storage and as an equipment garage until the 1950s. In the 1980s, Parks Canada used the building to interpret the commercial navigation era of the Rideau Canal. In 1995, Friends of the Rideau was provided the building to use a visitor and interpretive centre. The building was rehabilitated in 2020.

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