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In 1870, the United States refused the steamer Chicora, carrying Colonel Garnet Wolseley permission to pass through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie. This led to the construction of a Canadian Sault Ste. Marie Canal. This event is now known as the Chicora Incident.
The construction of the canal and lock was completed in 1895. At the time it was the largest and first electrically operated lock in the world. The canal is about 1.6 kilometres long and originally the lock portion was 274 metres long and 18 metres wide.
On June 9, 1909, the locks were seriously damaged when the Perry G. Walker, owned by the Gilchrist Transportation Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, crashed into the south main gate, forcing it back and allowing the force of water to push the north main gate over. The rush of water threw the Perry G. Walker back and carried two other ships downstream, one of which struck the south main gate, breaking it diagonally in two. The rush of water through the destroyed locks was stopped by the Emergency Swing Dam, allowing repairs to commence. There was no loss of life or injury associated with this disaster, and repairs required only 12 days, with the bridge reopening on June 21, 1909.
Due to a wall failure in 1987, the historic lock was shut down indefinitely. A new lock, built within the old lock, was opened in 1998 and is 77 metres long, 15.4 metres wide, 13.5 metres deep, with a 3 metre draft. The canal is used for recreational and tour boats; major shipping traffic uses the U.S. locks.
Photo taken sometime in the early twentieth century by W.M. Dunlop. Present day taken August 2019//Joe Bumbacco.
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