Schubenacadie Canal - A History Lesson
The completed Shubenacadie Canal features nine locks as well as two marine railways at Dartmouth and Portobello respectively. These features allowed the system to raise and lower boats from sea level to the surface of Lake Charles, a total difference in elevation of 29 metres (95 feet). Three lock keepers oversaw the operation of the waterway, each responsible for about one third of the total distance. Henry Findlay was responsible for the section from Halifax Harbour to Portobello, William Michael King from Fletchers Lake to Grand Lake, and James McKenzie from Enfield northward along the Shubenacadie River.
On June 3, 1858, the Nova Scotia Railway opened its Western Branch, connecting Halifax and the town of Windsor. With Windsor boasting a navigable connection to the Bay of Fundy via the Avon River, the railway thus accomplished the Shubenacadie Canal’s long-time goal, three years before the canal was able to do the same. The first locomotive left Richmond Station in Halifax at 7:30 am and arrived in Windsor two and a half hours later, a far cry from the eight-day odyssey that the Avery would make three years later.
The Shubenacadie Canal found it impossible to compete with the railway, particularly given the latter’s head start. The reasons for this went beyond the difference in speed. The canal froze for several months each year and could not easily service new destinations. It therefore depended on the notion that the canal itself would fuel the growth of communities along its route. The railway, meanwhile, could run year-round. It also rapidly added new lines and stations throughout the latter half of the 19th century, connecting communities that were already well-populated. For most of the province’s merchants and travellers, there was no contest between the two rival networks.
The same story played out all over the world, as many inland canals fell victim to the growth of rail travel. Even the massive Morris Canal in New Jersey, which had directly inspired many of the advanced systems on the Shubenacadie Canal, was effectively bought out by a local railway company in 1871.
Lock 6 Park, the park is in the community of Horne’s Settlement, which is also called Jioqjimusikek in Mi’kmaq (meaning “place of the white maple”).
The path begins with a 120-metre boardwalk, completed in 2019, offering unparalleled views of the natural wetland environment. From there, a two-kilometre walking trail takes you past Lock 6 itself, which was built in 1857, and onward through pristine forest. Informational panels throughout the park help put both its natural and human history in context.
Like any wetland in Nova Scotia, Lock 6 Park can sometimes be host to mosquitoes and other pests, particularly in summer and fall. We recommend bringing insect repellent to ensure a comfortable visit. Please also note that there are no washrooms at the park, and the only garbage bins are located at the parking lot.