Celebrating the history of the Welland Canal
© Becky Linhardt 2016
The Welland Canal that connects Lake Ontario to Lake Erie allows ships and boats of all sizes – “salties” to sailboats – to bypass Niagara Falls by lifting or lowering them over the Niagara Escarpment with a series of locks. Port Colborne at the southern end of the canal on Lake Erie celebrates Canal Days each summer with long weekend of activities.
Events are scheduled at the Port Colborne Museum, the Lighthouse, and other locations throughout the town. Most people end up on West Street along the Welland Canal where it is closed to traffic. There musicians, vendors and food trucks of all types enliven the street scene bringing extra attention to the charming shops and restaurants along canal.
Along The Promanade, the harbor side pedestrian walkway, things are a bit quieter. Special Harbor Tours are available as visiting boats, usually the Hamilton Harbor Queen and a Tall Ship (Empire Sandy in 2016), are in port to offer daytime and dinner cruises.
As darkness falls one last “saltie” with its lights blazing carefully makes its way toward the Clarence Street lift bridge to pass under the raised roadway, headed toward Lock #8 to begin it journey through the locks to Lake Ontario.
Visitors and local families usually claim spots along The Promenade and a grassy bank at the end of West Street to watch the Boat Parade of Lights. The route is inspected by a small Coast Guard boat and then lead by the harbor’s Fireboat with light and water gushing.
Sailboats and yacht’s line up and slowly pass the reviewing crowd, coming in from Lake Erie headed toward downtown Port Colborne.
The smaller boats turn and make a return pass as they head back out, greeting the passengers on the tall ship that has returned from its dinner cruise to watch the fireworks from the harbor.
The evening ends with beautiful firework shot high over the Welland Canal to the delight of the crowds. The 30-40 minute display is MUCH more impressive than my attempted photos. Crowds were friendly and courteous as everyone headed home. Buses picked up those visitors who opted to use a shuttle bus from remote parking areas. Those parked in town found traffic a bit slow but everyone seemed happy.
Port Colborne Visitors Center
66 Charlotte Street, Port Colborne, Ontario, L3K 3C8
(905) 835-2900 or http://portcolborne.com/page/visitors