History of Narrows lockstation

Rideau Canal National Historic Site

Specifications of the lockstation

One lock with a lift of 0.8 m (2.6 feet)

The Construction of the Lockstation

The initial contractor for channel clearing was William Hartwell (contractor for Newboro). He quit in the fall of 1828. When it was decided to build a dam and lock here in 1830, that contract was awarded to Bell, Richardson & Co. (the contractors for Old Slys and Kilmarnock).

Colonel By's initial plan was to simply deepen the channel to a navigable depth. The problem in excavation of the rock at Newboro forced By to change his plans and in 1830 he decided a solution was to raise the level of water in the Upper Rideau by 1.2 m (4 feet) through the construction of a dam here at the Narrows. The work on that was completed by late 1831.

This is the first of 31 locks in the descent to the Ottawa River along the Rideau River system. Before the canal was built, this site, as its name implies, was a narrow channel only 30 m (100 feet) wide. The water was so shallow here that it was used as a ford from the Brockville Road to a footpath leading to Perth. Today one of the busiest lockstations on the canal, the Narrows has remained isolated in terms of settlement and visitation by road.

Structures of the lockstation:

Blockhouse: The blockhouses built along the Canal were to serve both as a military fortification and a residence for the lockmaster and labourers. The contract for the Narrows blockhouse was given to William Tett in 1831. He was also responsible for the Newboro blockhouse. Both were completed in fall of 1833. A number of renovations to the blockhouse have occurred through the years. Most of the alterations were attempts to make the structure more liveable. In 1890, a two storey frame addition was added to the blockhouse. Today the blockhouse serves as the lock office and provides washroom facilities to the public. The blockhouse remains today as a reminder of the canal's military past.

Engineering Structures: A single lock was built in the embankment constructed to raise the waters of the Upper Rideau Lake. Also incorporated in the dam was a wooden waste weir built at the site of the original channel. The first concrete waste weir is believed to have been built in 1925.

Bridge: Bridges were a late addition to the Narrows lockstation. When the lock was constructed no permanent bridge was built over the lock was built, although temporary bridges were built during the winter months of the 1840s. In 1858 a petition from local residents asked the government to build bridges at Narrows, Chaffeys, Davis and Jones Falls. At the time the only bridges to the south were at Newboro, Upper Brewers Mills and Kingston Mills. To the north the closest bridge was at Smiths Falls, 35 km (22 miles). A ferry service was being provided at Olivers Ferry (Rideau Ferry), approximately half way between the Narrows and Smiths Falls. The petitioners believed the lack of a bridge connecting the Kingston to Perth road at the Narrows was not only an inconvenience but a drawback to development of the area. In 1867 a swing bridge was built. A number of wooden replacement bridges followed (1885, 1897-98, 1911, 1937 and 1948-49). The timber king post truss swing bridge was replaced in 1964 by a steel swing bridge. That bridge was originally built in 1898 for use at Beveridges. It was removed from Beveridges in 1961 after a fixed bridge was built in that location.

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