The Lachine canal is a 14.5 km canal stretching from the Old Port of Montreal to lake Saint Louis. European explorers built the canal to find a way to allow ships to pass from New France to the Western Sea bypassing the rapids of the Saint Lawrence. The canal opened in 1825, after 4 years of construction, and in 1940 it was deepened to allow the passage of larger ships.
Prior to the canal construction, there was a lake – Lake Saint-Pierre.
The canal gets its name from China (“La Chine” in French). After the de-industrialization of its shores, in 2002, the Lachine Canal was reopened as a pleasure boating area.
Today its shores offer a marina for small boats, and a series of parks along its shores with cycling lanes, statues and recreational areas.
Many fishermen come here all year around – in winter its frozen waters are a popular ice-fishing site. Of course, there is nothing more Canadian than ice-fishing, so we went to have a look, and even if we do not sympathize with the practice. To see the size of the fishes caught in a city canal was truly impressive.
From the locks at the Lachine Canal National Historic Site island, you can stroll on a long-shaped island home to the Fur Trade National Historic Site. The view is beautiful, but we had to watch our steps as the paths are not always maintained and we ended up literally walking on ice. In Summer, this entire area sees thousands of people out in the open, strolling, jogging, and riding bikes.
Continuing the walk over the bridge, we entered Parc De Saules. This is a small park with a waterside terrace, swings and long chaises for relaxing. Despite the amount of snow and ice, we saw people riding their fat bikes in the park.
Past the Old Brasserie, two lighthouses mark the beginning of St Louis park. From here, you can admire Lake St Louis from the quay. At a distance, you will be able to see Dorval island, a residential-only island which is also the smallest municipality of Montreal. You can get there by ferry boat, but you won’t find anything else than private homes immersed in the trees.
The walk is around 6 km long, but we cheated and went back walking on the icy canal – a winter perk that might give you a thrill. Just remember: before you cross the icy canal, ask a local. They will know if it’s safe or not and they will tell you how thick the ice is.