By ANDREW BELL Resident Engineer

The natural navigation of the Ottawa River from the head of the Island of Montreal to Ottawa City--a distance of nearly a hundred miles--is interrupted between the villages of Carillon and Grenville which are thirteen miles apart by three rapids, known as the Carillon, Chûte à Blondeau, and Longue Sault Rapids, which are in that order from east to west. The Carillon Rapid is two miles long and has, or had, a fall of 10 feet the Chûte à Blondeau a quarter of a mile with a fall of 4 feet and the Longue Sault six miles and a fall of 46 feet. Between the Carillon and Chûte à Blondeau there is or was a slack water reach of three and a half miles, and between the latter and the foot of the Longue Sault a similar reach of one and a quarter miles.

Small canals limited in capacity to the smaller locks on them which were only 109 feet long 19 feet wide, and 5 to 6 feet of water on the sills, were built by the Imperial Government as a military work around each of the rapids. They were begun in 1819 and completed about 1832. They were transferred to the Canadian Government in 1856. They are built on the north shore of the river, and each canal is about the length of the rapid it surmounts.



The Grenville Canal (around the Longue Sault) with seven locks, and the Chûte à Blondeau with one lock, are fed directly from Ottawa. But with the Carillon that method was not followed as the nature of the banks there would have in doing so, entailed an immense amount of rock excavation--a serious matter in those days. The difficulty was overcome by locking up at the upper or western end 13 feet and down 23 at lower end, supplying the summit by a 'feeder from a small stream called the North River, which empties into the Ottawa three or four miles below Carillon, but is close to the main river opposite the canal.

In 1870-71 the Government of Canada determined to enlarge these canals to admit of the passage of boats requiring locks 200 feet long, 45 feet wide, and not less than 9 feet of water on the sills at the lowest water. In the case of the Grenville Canal this was and is being done by widening and deepening the old channel and building new locks along side of the old ones. But to do that with the Carillon was found to be inexpedient. The rapidly increasing traffic required more water than the North River could supply in any case, and the clearing up of the country to the north had materially reduced its waters in summer and fall, when most needed. To deepen the old canal so as to enable it to take its supply from the Ottawa would have caused the excavation of at least 1,250,000 cubic yards of rock, besides necessitating the enlargement of the Chûte à Blondeau also.

It was therefore decided to adopt a modification of the plan proposed by Mr. T.C. Clarke, of the present firm of Clarke Reeves & Co, several years before when he made the preliminary surveys for the then proposed "Ottawa Ship Canal," namely to build a dam across the river in the Carillon Rapid but of a sufficient height to drown out the Chûte à Blondeau, and also to give the required depth of water there.

During the summer and fall of 1872 the writer made the necessary surveys of the river with that end in view. By gauging the river carefully in high and low water, and making use of the records which had been kept by the lock masters for twenty years back, it was found that the flow of the river was in extreme low water 26,000 cubic feet per second, and in highest water 190,000 cubic feet per second, in average years about 30,000 and 150,000 cubic feet respectively. The average flow in each year would be nearly a mean between those quantities, namely, about 90,000 cubic feet per second. It was decided to locate the dam where it is now built, namely, about the center of Carillon Rapid, and a mile above the village of that name and to make it of a height sufficient to raise the reach between the head of Carillon and Chûte à Blondeau about six feet, and that above the latter two feet in ordinary water. At the site chosen the river is 1,800 feet wide, the bed is solid limestone, and more level or flat than is generally found in such places--the banks high enough and also composed of limestone.

It was also determined to build a slide for the passage of timber near the south shore (see map), and to locate the new canal on the north side.

Contracts for the whole works were given out in the spring of 1873, but as the water remained high all the summer of that year very little could be done in it at the dam. In 1874 a large portion of the foundation, especially in the shallow water, was put in. 1875 and 1876 proved unfavorable and not much could be done, when the works were stopped. They were resumed in 1879, and the dam as also the slide successfully completed, with the exception of graveling of the dam in the fall of 1881. The water was lower that summer than it had been for thirty five years before. The canal was completed and opened for navigation the following spring.

The Dam

In building such a dam as this the difficulties to be contended against were unusually great. It was required to make it as near perfectly tight as possible and be, of course, always submerged. Allowing for water used by canal and slide and the leakage there should be a depth on the crest of the dam in low water of 2.50 feet and in high of about 10 feet. These depths turned out ultimately to be correct. The river reaches its highest about the middle of May, and its lowest in September. It generally begins to rise again in November. Nothing could be done except during the short low water season, and some years nothing at all. Even at the most favorable time the amount of water to be controlled was large. Then the depth at the site varied in depth from 2 to 14 feet, and at one place was as much as 23 feet. The current was at the rate of from 10 to 12 miles an hour. Therefore, failures, losses, etc., could not be avoided, and a great deal had to be learned as the work progressed. I am not aware that a dam of the kind was ever built, or attempted to be built across a river having such a large flow as the Ottawa.