Shubenacadie Canal

Nova Scotia, Canada

By Joan Payzant

We have our own canal here in Nova Scotia, one of the most easterly provinces of Canada, on the Atlantic Ocean. On the map Nova Scotia looks like the lobster, for which it is famous. During World War II our provincial capital, Halifax, was referred to in news items as "an eastern Canadian Port". Convoys assembled here to take troops and supplies across to Britain.

Halifax was founded by Lord Cornwallis in 1749. In order to facilitate goods getting to the interior of Canada from Halifax, and to bring lumber, farm produce, and coal to the port of Halifax, a canal was started in 1826, but did not open until 1861 because of construction difficulties.

One of Thomas Telford's pupils, Francis Hall, was the engineer who designed the canal in 1826. In fact, Telford had some shares in the venture. Reasons for the lengthy construction delays were that the frigid winters damaged the locks, and money ran out for construction. Scottish and Irish stone masons had been brought over to construct the locks, and the poor souls had a very hard time when the company went bankrupt, and they were stranded here in the wilderness. However many of them eked out a living somehow, and their descendants still live in our area.

The canal is now a Canadian historic site, with two interpretive centers. It is called the Shubenacadie Canal, a Micmac Indian name meaning 'place where ground nuts grow'.

Gradually a great deal of the route is being restored. It goes straight through our city Dartmouth (which is across the harbour from Halifax), did ascend an inclined plane,( which has long since disappeared) three locks within the city, and passes through several lakes and the winding Shubenacadie River to the Bay of Fundy. It is used as a recreational amenity by canoeists, who portage their canoes or kayaks at the locks, which no longer work, although they have been restored up to a point. The length of the waterway must be about fifty miles.

A new small paperback book has just been published on the subject:

"Men. . .Money. . .and Muscle, Building the Shubenacadie Canal" by Harry Chapman. Published 1994 by the Dartmouth Historical Society, c/o 46 Summit Street, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, B2Y 3A3 Canada. ISBN 0-9696646-3-X Paperback, illus., 48 pp. Price $12.00 + $3.00 packing and postage. (Canadian $)

Last Modified: Saturday, 23-Mar-95 4:55 pm EST