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Lock 7 and Twin Flight Locks
"Have you ever seen a ship climb a mountain?" In Thorold, Ontario you can watch this phenomenon actually happen! Visit the Lock 7 Viewing Complex to watch the ships sail over the Niagara Escarpment through the Welland Canal.
The Welland Canal is a ship canal that runs 42 km (27 miles) from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. As part of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the canal allows ships to avoid Niagara Falls by traversing the Niagara Escarpment. The Welland Canal has a total of eight locks. Locks four through seven are located in Canada's Most Patriotic City, Thorold.
Lock 7 is the highest point of the Canal system at 174.3 metres (572 feet) above sea level. That is the equivalent height to the top of Niagara Falls. Come watch a vessel squeeze into the lock, with only inches on each side; onlookers hold their breath with thoughts that she is going to get stuck. As she passes by the viewing area everyone looks up and up at the giant in front of them, only a metre away. You feel like you can reach over and touch it. The grandeur, right in front of your nose; it's like looking up at the almighty Titanic. These ships truly are a wonder of the waters!
When looking at Lock 7, there is a noticeable difference in comparison to the other locks in the Welland Canal. It is the Lock of the Future. On the eastern side of the lock walls, you can see big yellow humps protruding upwards. These humps are newly installed suction cups in the canal corridor. As technology advances, so does the Welland Canal. Now, when a vessel enters Lock 7, the suction cups grasp the vessel, so once in the lock it doesn't move around or bump the lock walls. The suction cups move up and down with the vessel, while raising or lowering within the lock. Now, this plan of the suction cups is only an experiment for the time. If it is a success, then the suction cups will be implemented in the other locks in upcoming years.
Once a vessel passes through Lock 7, it sails out north into the Twin Flight Locks. This is the most complex part of the Welland Canal System, where the magic happens! Locks 4, 5 and 6 make up the Twin Flight Locks. This is where the ships climb the mountain because this set of locks function like giant steps in a large flight of stairs. At this point, the locks will raise or lower a ship three times the distance as a regular lock, since this is where the Niagara Escarpment falls. It also allows for two-way traffic, so a vessel can be going upbound, at the same time that one is going downbound. The water levels always have to be correct, so the vessels can traverse the escarpment smoothly. It truly is an engineering masterpiece!
This is your opportunity to watch the ships climb the mountain, so join the team at Lock 7, listen to the roar of 23 million gallons of water pour into the lock and just simply be amazed.