St-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal Historic Site
Located on the southwestern tip of the Island of Montreal, the St-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal links Lake Saint-Louis and the Lake des Deux-Montagnes, at the mouth of the Ottawa River. To travel it is to take a trip through many years of Canada’s history
The Sainte-Anne- de-Bellevue Canal is part of a huge network of canals that boats can use to bypass natural obstacles like rapids and shoals on three major waterways: the St. Lawrence River, the Richelieu River and the Ottawa River.
A first lock was built here in 1816, in the western section of the Vaudreuil Canal, between the mainland and the Perrot Island. This lock belonged to private companies that had a monopoly over the Ottawa River and even the Rideau Canal.
The construction of the canal began in 1840 and ended on November 14, 1843. Used since for commercial purposes, this canal immediately became an integral part of the Montreal-Ottawa-Kingston inland shipping route. Soon after it opened, many people travelled through it to settle in Upper Canada. The canal was a major “jumping off” or transfer point not only for immigrants transiting to the interior of Canada but for wood being shipped downriver.
Since the building of the second lock, the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal and the canals of the Ottawa River were mainly used to transport wood to Montreal. This commerce flourished until 1919. The introduction of railways and the decline in the forestry industry gradually changed the role of the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal. Today, it is a destination for pleasure boaters from Saint-Louis Lake and Des Deux-Montagnes Lake.
Today, the canal is used essentially for pleasure boating and tourists admire the tree and shrub flora on this site which consists almost exclusively of planted ornamental species. Throngs of pleasure boaters travel up and down this corridor. The Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue territory is part of the Upper St. Lawrence forest area, in the climatic zone of the sugar maple-hickory stand. This means we can expect the natural tree cover in the region to be dominated by the sugar maple, as well as the beech, the red maple, the yellow birch, the basswood, bitternut and shagbark hickory, burr oak, white and red ash, American elm and hornbeam. However, the trees and shrubs on this site are mainly cultivated non-native species. With the exception of a few maples and elms, all the trees were planted between 1962 and 1968, during development of the canal banks.
You can see boats manoeuvre through the 1883 lock and discover the remains of the first canal opened in 1843, or stroll along the new outdoor interpretation circuit. You can also sail Lake Saint-Louis or visit the St. Lawrence Valley Natural History Ecomuseum and Macdonald College’s Morgan Arboretum.
Because of the many visitors, however, this area is not ideal for observing mammals or reptiles. On the contrary, many urban birds live here. Most often seen are the red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonata), barn swallow (Hirundo rustica), ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilocus colubris), European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and American robin (Turdus migratorius). In Spring and in Fall, many migratory birds can be spotted around the site.
Besides the St-Anne-de-Bellevue rapids facing the canal contain major fish spawning sites, and the government of Quebec has set up a fish sanctuary there. Of the 23 fish species that visit the rapids, 12 are of particular interest. The most commonly found are the pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbossus), brown bullhead (Ictalurus nebulosus), smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieui), northern pike (Esox lucius), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), European perch (Perca fluviatilis) and maskinonge (Esox masquinongy).
A dozen kilometres away, enjoy the many activities available at the Cap-Saoint-Jacques nature park.
Address of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal National Historic Site:
170 Sainte-Anne Street
Tel: 514-457-5546 or toll Free: 1-888-773-8888
To learn more about the canal: pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/qc/annedebellevue/index.aspx