The opening of the Lachine Canal in 1825 signaled Montreal’s ascendance as a major center of industry and commerce. The canal was made obsolete by the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1970, but today has found new life as a park, with an excellent urban trail running along side its length.
Although it’s mostly known as a biking path, Jürgen and I decided to walk alongside the Lachine Canal, since we’d be stopping for pictures every few minutes, anyway. From the Old Port to the Lachine Lock, the trail’s length is 12.2 kilometers, and it took us about three hours to complete. Luckily, it’s easy and absolutely flat, so isn’t overly fatiguing despite its considerable length. But if you’re not taking tons of pictures, bikes are the best option.
The Lachine Canal takes you on a journey into Montreal’s industrial past, when the city’s economy was powered by industries like steel, iron and wood. Most of the factories which once lined the canal have since been turned into luxury condominiums, although some are simply ruins, and a few are still in operation.
The trail bounces between the north and south banks of the river, leading you over a few bridges, including the pale-green mechanical bulk of the Guaron Bridge, which was able to raise to a perpendicular level within a few minutes. You can also see the Lachine Coke Crane, which is the only remnant of the Montreal Coke and Manufacturing Co, established in 1927 (that’s “coke” as in “fuel made from coal“, not “bubbly caffeinated beverage.”)
Most of the touristy highlights are in the first half of the canal’s path, between the Old Port and the Coke Crane. The final five kilometers aren’t all that spectacular, as the highway runs next to the canal and ruins the mood with its noise. But even here, the trail is attractive, as it goes through woods and alongside the water.
At the end of the path, you’ll find the small Lachine Museum, which we decided to skip — after twelve kilometers of walking, we couldn’t bear the idea of even another fifteen minutes on our feet. Instead, we collapsed in the park near the Lachine Lock, the final stage before ships would re-enter the Saint Lawrence, and allowed the sun and the nearby sound of rushing water to lull us to sleep.
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