Monday, June 25, 2018

The Isthmus of Canada

Here's a route refresher! Tomorrow, on to Smith's Falls!
Picking up our story from Thurs June 21: We stayed at Newboro Lock, where we visited an actual English canal boat. But Newboro Lock was also momentous for us because it’s the Isthmus of the Rideau. 

This lock is the height of land; it separates the watershed of the Rideau River, to the north, from the Gananoque River to the south.  

It's Downhill from Here

On the dock in Newboro.
Since we started up the canal, we’ve been steadily climbing toward this summit.  From here on out, downhill all the way. 

That’s a bit different from our home canal, the Erie, which goes up, then down, then up across the width of New York State..  

Before the Rideau Canal connected these two watersheds, if you wanted to go from  Mud Lake, in the south, to Rideau Lake, to the north, you had to make an 8,000 foot portage. 

Fine for a birch bark canoe!  For us, floating up a few feet in the lock was SO much better than having to carry our 14-ton canal boat for more than a mile!

Call in the Sappers!

One of the few places where the Rideau actually feels like a
canal: the "cut" right after Newboro.
We had a peaceful night at Newboro, undisturbed by the while of mosquitoes. It wasn't like this originally. So many men died of malaria while working to build this lock that work temporarily came to a stop.  

The chief engineer, the heroic Colonel By had the land cleared of vegetation, since malaria was thought to be caused by the “bad air” found in swamps.  

And instead of hiring more contractors, he called in the Navy Seals of canal construction, a unit called in the Royal Sappers and Miners—soldiers who were particularly skilled in digging ditches and handling explosives. 
And you thought ditch digging was a lowly profession.

From Newboro we cruised on to the sweet town of Westport, where we spent Saturday and Sunday.  More on that soon!

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