National Geographic : 1950 Sep
Sea to Lakes on the St. Lawrence Chief cargoes are coal, wheat, gasoline, petroleum, and pulpwood. This steady stream is almost all Canadian. Although Canada guarantees by treaty free use of the whole St. Lawrence to U. S. ships, only 41 used the canals in 1949. To see the 182 miles of river between Mont real and Lake Ontario, I drove both shores and shot the rapids in Rapids Prince (p. 332). Around sparkling Lake St. Louis, where tawny Ottawa River water and the blue St. Lawrence flow unmixed, I drove to the mouth of Soulanges Canal. Here ends a series of rapids that drop the river some 83 feet in 18 miles. Around them Royal Engineers built Canada's first canal in 1783. T watched while divers replaced a broken lock gate and im patient freighters waited in a long line. Midway along the shore of big Lake St. Francis, French Quebec gives way to British Ontario. Many of its St. Lawrence towns were founded by Loyalists fleeing the Ameri can Revolution. The tricolor and Quebec's fleur-de-lis flag disappeared; riverside Route 2 became the King's Highway.* Some 25 miles later I looked across to an island farm flying the Stars and Stripes. Near industrial Cornwall, Ontario, the United States-Canadian border takes to the river and follows its channel to the Great Lakes. Here the north shore is Canada; the south, the United States. Islands a stone's throw apart may lie in different countries. Seaway Considered Since 1895 More agitated than these troubled waters is the oft-recurring St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project controversy. Broached periodi cally since 1895, this two-nation project calls for construction of the remaining links in a 27-foot navigation channel between Montreal and Lake Superior. A proposed giant power dam would generate 2,200,000 horsepower, at Barnhart Island in the International Section. "Operation St. Lawrence" entails the deep ening of Lakes harbors and connecting rivers; the building of a control dam, the power dam, and by-passing locks in the Ontario-New York section; and improving the Soulanges and Lachine Canals in the Canadian sector. Such a face lifting for the upper river could change Great Lakes ports into ocean ports and free big Lakes freighters to move down river to Montreal, or to Seven Islands for Ungava iron ore. Today generators tap the upper river for a million horsepower. But, completely har- nessed, the mighty St. Lawrence could pro duce a staggering 5,400,000-half again as much as the combined output of Grand Coulee and Hoover Dams. At a dozen places along the Canadian shore I watched the existing St. Lawrence waterway operate (page 330). Canal freighters squeezed into old locks with inches to spare. Lockkeepers turned hand cranks to open valves and gates. Such old-time methods pass some 4,000 ships a season. On Sheek Island I had a water-level view of thundering Long Sault Rapids. Above Cardinal, where the locks end, the river broadened to some two miles and flowed as straight as a "canal" on Mars. "Garden of the Great Spirit" Crossing and recrossing the international border, I drove through miles of New Eng landlike farm country and visited busy United States and Canadian river towns like Ogdens burg and Brockville. On both shores monu ments recalled old wars on a border long undefended. Paddling the island-strewn St. Lawrence near Lake Ontario, an early French explorer exclaimed, "Les milles iles!" And the Thou sand Islands they became, though nearer 1,700 cut the river into countless winding channels and hide its broad expanse. Indians called this land-and-water paradise Manitonna, "Garden of the Great Spirit." In its scenic maze warring British, French, and Indians played grim hide-and-seek. Before the century's turn Americans bought islands, built summer homes, and made this a far-famed vacationland (pages 364 and 365). By speedboat I saw the archipelago's haunt ing natural beauty. Mainland towns, swarm ing with vacationists, bore witness to its great attraction. Sight-seeing boats made their leisurely rounds; trim pleasure craft raced by. Amateur fishermen cast lines for speckled game fish. Music and laughter drifted from island lawn and swimming parties. Recalling stark, frontierlike shores near the Gulf of St. Lawrence, I reflected how divergent are the extremes of this amazing river. Only occasional freighters tied them together. Canada's West Point at Kingston With brisk, 83-year-old Lt. Col. Courtlandt Strange I toured historic Kingston, Ontario, strategically set where lake and river meet. * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Exploring Ottawa," by Bruce Hutchison, November, 1947; and "Ontario. Next Door," by Frederick Simpich, August, 1932.