As soon as summer hits, I dream of water.
Thanks to revitalization efforts along Montreal’s shorelines, waterways, harbourfront and main Port, most of the water surrounding Montreal is now (gasp!) monitored, and in places, navigable.
In fact, as of next summer, a new map, the Blue Route (St. Lawrence Water Trail) will help canoe and kayak enthusiasts chart a network of safe launches, shelters and rest areas along the St-Lawrence in/around Montreal.
The safest, most central water trail in the city is the Lachine Canal, which opened to pleasure boaters in 2002. In the not-so-distant-past, people stayed clear of the Lachine Canal, the site of heavy industry and oil spills. Thanks to clean-up efforts though, today’s Canal forms the picturesque backdrop for new high-end condo developments and one of the city’s best bike paths.
Just minutes from the Old Port and steps from the Atwater Market, local restaurants and public transportation, the Canal is also the perfect place to launch into calm waters and traverse the city’s history.
Work on the Canal began in 1689 by the French Colonial government and other groups hoping to build a waterway that allowed ships to bypass the treacherous Lachine Rapids (in fact, the hope was that the canal would chart a route from New France to the Western Sea and on to China, hence its name – La Chine). In the end, the canal stretched 14.5 km from the Old Port to Lake Saint-Louis and proved key to the industrial development of Montréal. The corridor became one of the main manufacturing production centres in Canada up until the Second World War, and also nurtured Montreal’s cosmopolitan flare!
One way to experience the Canal is to hop aboard the Navark Dollier-de-Casson, which offers an hour and 45 minute guided boat tour of the Canal. The boat docks at the foot of the Atwater Market and offers fantastic views of downtown (11$-18$, kids under 5 ride free: 514-283-6054). If you want something a little more adventurous, grab farm-fresh picnic goods at the Atwater Market, then cross the closest Canal footbridge to find H2O Adventures (2985B St. Patrick between Atwater and Charlevoix). Here, along the bank of the Canal, you can rent a kayak or pedalo for an afternoon of pleasure paddling and discovery (514-842-1306).