A User Guide: The Lachine Canal from Cargo to Biking

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Copenhagenize’s list of the top 20 cities for cyclists placed Montreal 11th in a three-way tie with Munich and Nagoya. A quick search online and you will find that Montreal is consistently ranked among the top cities for cycling worldwide competing with cities with the likes of Copenhagen, Portland, Berlin, New York and many others. I mention Copenhagenize’s list because not only did they look at infrastructure but 13 different criteria including gender equality and biking culture in general. That aside Montreal is known for its extensive bike-paths stretching several hundred kilometres and criss-crossing the island. Arguably one of the best paths on the island for all cyclists of all skills is the picturesque Lachine Canal.

Stretching for some 14.5 km The Lachine Canal bike-path runs from the Old Port all the way to Lac Saint-Louis south of the island. With that long of a path the canal is not only beautifully picturesque but also functional. It is actually used by many commuters on their day-to-day run. Also worth noting are all the other bike-paths that connect to the canal and branch off to reach various parts of the city. That said historically the canal was not always the wonderful bike path that it is today but at one time was well actually once used as a canal.

The Lachine Canal was first completed in 1825 and in less than 20 years it became so important that it needed to be expanded by 1840. What is more, the canal helped build the city economically, the canal also gave rise to several boroughs like Griffintown, which was settled by the Irish who help build the canal. There were of course other spin-offs like South-West and St-Henri. The latter which has a few very nice bike paths with a few spots nice enough for a picnic and of course all can be reached from the canal.

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Moving on, after the second expansion the canal continued to see use all the way until about the 1950’s when the St. Lawrence Seaway was cut out of the south shore. Finally, the canal was closed to shipping on November 1970. Eight years later and the canal fell to Parks Canada to run and has been managed by them ever since. What is more, since 1997 Parks Canada, along with various levels of government, has spent millions revitalizing and restoring the canal.

Skip forward to today and what you are left with is a wonderful and pleasant bike path filled with historic sites and picturesque green spaces.Starting in the Old Port, heading towards the Lac Saint-Louis the first thing to explore would be the Old Port itself. Shortly after you take off, there is a bike path that leads towards the Ile Sainte Helene also known as Jean-Drapeau Park. I mention this because for those interested Ile Sainte Helene is gorgeous and you can do a lap the F1 circuit. There is almost always people biking, roller-blading, walking or what have you and it’s all free. Believe me it is a worth while detour.

The Old Port

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The F1 CIrcuit

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Moving along, the bike path goes by Griffintown where there is a green area for resting or just relaxing. If you stop it is a great spot to stop and see the old Five Roses factory, which is an iconic landmark of Montreal.

Just past that is the first set of canal locks. There you can cross over them if so desire because the bike path continues on the other side of the canal anyways. Also as a heads up the bike path switches sides several times along its run. Just up the way from there is the Atwater Market. Another iconic landmark of Montreal the Atwater Market is a worth while stop. Just across from the market on the side of the bike path there are a couple shows held during the summer in the evenings.

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Once you cross this point the traffic dies down as the commuter portion is really between Atwater to the Old Port. Or in other words once you go past the Atwater bridge now is the time to stretch your legs and fly.

As a side note, the max speed on all bike paths is 20kmh. That said I have never been ticketed and I normally cruise at about 25-30kmh, but as a warning there are bike police scattered along the path.

The next feature along the path is a bridge takes you to St-Henri. It too is worth checking out there are some nice parks and such. All so for this section there is a bike path on both sides of the canal and if you switch over to the St-Henri side you can stop by the McAuslan Brewery. The brewery is an awesome place to stop they food and they sell St-Ambroise beer and they have an entrance right onto the bike path as well as several bike racks, which is very practical. My suggestion is stop by on the return part of the bike ride there is nothing like a good beer on a warm summer afternoon.

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Continuing along once you pass under the Highway 15 this part of the bike path is particularly beautiful. There are several very nice places to stop and rest under great big Willow trees. Or you could just tear up the asphalt either one works really.

Further along up the way the bike path switches sides again and from there until you get to the end of the canal it is pretty much smooth riding. There is not much noteworthy except the canal and the bike path of course. Nevertheless, I urge you to go on because the end is just spectacular.

Right before the end, you can turn left onto Chemin de LaSalle where you can find the Lachine Museum which has a 17th century building and a couple of outdoor exhibits to see. If you decide to go right the bike path continues for countless more spectacular kilometres that hug the water front. It is a worthwhile detour if you have the time you won’t be disappointed.

However, if you continue along the bike path the canal opens up and you finish at Rene-Levesque Park which has a spectacular view of the Lac Sainte-Louis. By then you have reached your journey’s end, and the best part is you know have the ride back to look forward to! So pedal on and enjoy the ride.

EJ-Feature(The Word Doc)

Picture in order of which they appear:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lachine_Canal#mediaviewer/File:Lachine_Canal_tango7174.jpg
  2. http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/actualites-en-societe/373142/la-grande-creusee
  3. http://www.vieuxportdemontreal.com/services-et-informations/location-de-salles/nos-salles/environnement-du-vieux-port-et-du-centre-des-sciences-de-montreal.html
  4. http://f1destinations.com/getting-around-canadian-f1-grand-prix/
  5. http://montrealvisitorsguide.com/atwater-market-marche-atwater/
  6. http://mcauslan.com/en/terrace/about/
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