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St Lawrence

ST LAWRENCE. The river St Lawrence, in North America, with the five fresh- water inland seas (see GREAT LAKES), Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario, forms one of the great river systems of the world, having a length, from the source of the river St Louis (which rises near the source of the river Mississippi and falls into the head of Lake Superior) to Cape Gaspe, where it empties into the Gulf of St Lawrence, of 2100 m. The river is here considered as rising at the foot of Lake Ontario, in 44 10' N., 76 30' W., where the name St Lawrence is first applied to it.

The river, to the point where it crosses 45 N. in its northwesterly course, forms the boundary line between the state of New York and the province of Ontario; thence to the sea it is wholly within Canadian territory, running through the province of Quebec. At Point des Monts, 260 m. below Quebec, it is 26 m. wide, and where it finally merges into the Gulf of St Lawrence, 150 m. farther on, it is 90 m. wide, this stretch being broken by the large island of Anticosti, lying fairly in the mouth. The character of the river banks varies with the geological formations through which it runs. Passing over the Archaean rocks of the Laurentian from Kingston to Brockville the shores are very irregular, and the river is broken up by protrusions of glaciated summits of the granites and gneisses into a large number of picturesque islands, " The Thousand Islands," greatly frequented as a summer resort. From Brockville to Montreal the river runs through flat-bedded Cambro-silurian imestones, with rapids at several points, which are all run by light-draught passenger boats. For the up trip the rapids are avoided by canalization. From Montreal to Three Rivers the course is through an alluvial plain over-lying the limestones, the river at one point expanding into Lake St Peter, 20 m. long by 10 m. wide, with a practically uniform depth of 10 ft. Below Three Rivers the banks grow gradually higher until, after passing Quebec through a cleft in slate rocks of Cambrian age, the river widens, washing the feet of the Laurentian Mountains on its north shore; while a more moderately hilly country, terminating in the Shickshock Mountains of the Gaspe Peninsula, skirts its south shore.

From Kingston, at the head of the river, to Montreal, a distance of 170 m., navigation is limited to vessels of 14 ft. draught by the capacity of the canals. From Montreal to Quebec, 160 m., a ship channel has been dredged to a depth of 30 ft.; below Quebec the river is tidally navigable by vessels of any draught. The canals on the St Lawrence above Montreal have been enlarged to the capacity of the Welland canal, the improved system having been opened to commerce in the autumn of 1899. Instead of enlarging the Beauharnois canal, on the south side of the river, a new canal, the " Soulanges," was built from Coteau Landing to Cascades Point, on the north side, the Beauharnois canal still being used for small barges. The locks of the enlarged canals are all 45 ft. wide, with an available depth of 14 ft. and a minimum length of 270 ft. The following table shows the canalized stretches in this portion of the river:


From Length in Miles.

Number of Locks.

Fall in Feet.

Galops Head of Galops Rapids Iroquois River .

Rapide Plat Head of Ogden Island Morrisburg River . . .

Farran Point Head of Croil Island Farran Point River .

Cornwall Canal .

Dickinson Landing Cornwall Lake St Francis Soulanges .

Coteau Landing Cascades Point Lake St Louis .

Lachine Lachine Montreal

In the stretch between Montreal and Quebec the ship channel, begun by the Montreal Harbour Commissioners, has been assumed by the Dominion government as a national work, and improvements, involving extensive dredging, have been undertaken with the aim of securing everywhere a minimum depth of 30 ft. with a minimum width of 450 ft. The whole river from Kingston to the sea is well supplied with aids to navigation. In the dredged portions lights are arranged in pairs of leading lights on foundations sufficiently high and solid to resist the pressure of ice movement, and there is an elaborate system of fog alarms, gas-lighted and other buoys, as well as telegraphic, wireless and telephonic communication, storm signal, weather and ice reporting stations and a life-saving service.

Montreal, at the head of ocean navigation, the largest city in Canada, is an important distributing centre for all points in western Canada, and enjoys an extensive shipping trade with the United Kingdom, the sea-going shipping exceeding 1,500,000 tons, and the inland shipping approximating 2,000,000 tons, annually. Quebec is the summer port used by the largest steamers in the Canadian trade. There are numerous flourishing towns on both banks of the river, from 1 Kingston, a grain transferring port, to the sea. Large quantities of lumber, principally spruce (fir) and paper pulp, are manufactured at small mills along the river, and shipped over sea directly from the place of production. The mail steamers land and embark mails at Rimouski, to or from which they are conveyed by rail along the south shore.

The importance to Canada of the river St Lawrence as a national trade route cannot be over-estimated. As a natural highway between all points west of the Maritime Provinces and Europe it is unique in permitting ocean traffic to penetrate 1000 m. into the heart of a country. It is, moreover, the shortest freight route from the Great Lakes to Europe. From Buffalo to Liverpool via New York involves rail or 7-ft. canal transport of 496 m. and an ocean voyage of 3034 nautical miles. Via Montreal there is a i4-ft. transport of 348 m. and river and ocean voyage of 2772 nautical miles. From Quebec to Liverpool by Cape Race is 2801 nautical miles, while the route by Belle Isle, more nearly a great circle course, usually taken between July and October, is only 2633 nautical miles. On the other hand the St Lawrence is not open throughout the year; the average time between the arrival of the first vessel at Montreal from sea and the departure of the last ocean vessel is seven months. From Kingston to Quebec the river freezes over every winter, except at points where the current is rapid. Below Quebec, although there is heavy border ice, the river never freezes over. For a few winters, while the bridge accommodation at Montreal was restricted to the old single-track Victoria bridge, railway freight trains were run across the ice bridge on temporary winter tracks. Efforts have been made to lengthen the season of navigation by using specially constructed steamers to break the ice; and it is claimed that the season of navigation could be materially lengthened, and winter floods prevented by keeping the river open to Montreal. Winter ferries are maintained at Quebec, between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, and between Newfoundland and Sydney, Cape Breton. In the winter of 1898-1899 an attempt was made to run a winter steamer from Paspebiac to England, but it was not successful, principally because an unsuitable vessel was used. To pass through the field of ice that is always present in the gulf, in greater or lesser quantity, specially strengthened vessels are required.

The river above tide water is not subject to excessive flooding, the maximum rise in the spring and early summer months, chiefly from northern tributaries from the Ottawa eastward, being 10 ft. The Great Lakes serve as impounding reservoirs for the gradual distribution of all overflows in the west. At Montreal, soon after the river freezes over each winter, there is a local rise of about IO ft. in the level of the water in the harbour, caused by restriction of the channel by anchor ice; and in the spring of the year, when the volume of the water is augmented, this obstruction leads to a further rise, in 1886 reaching a height of 27 ft. above ordinary low water. To Erevent flooding of the lower parts of the city a dike was in 1887 uilt along the river front, which prevented a serious flooding in 1899.

Tides enter the Gulf of St Lawrence from the Atlantic chiefly through Cabot Strait (between Cape Breton and Newfoundland), which is 75 m. wide and 250 fathoms deep. The tide entering through Belle Isle Strait, 10 m. wide and 30 fathoms deep, is comparatively little felt. The tidal undulation, in passing through the gulf, expands so widely as to be almost inappreciable in places, as, for example, at the Magdalen Islands, in the middle of the gulf, where the range amounts to about 3 ft. at springs, becoming effaced at neaps. There is also little more tide than this at some points on the north shore of Prince Edward Island. The greatest range is attained in Northumberland Strait and in Chaleur Bay, where it amounts to 10 ft. At the entrance to the estuary at Anticosti it has again the oceanic range of about 6 ft., and proceeds up the estuary with an everincreasing range, which attains its maximum of 19 ft. at the lower end of Orleans Island, 650 m. from the ocean at Cabot Strait. This must be considered the true head of the estuary. At Quebec, 30 m. farther up, the range is nearly as great ; but at 40 m. above Quebec it is largely cut off by the Richelieu Rapids, and finally ceases to be felt at Three Rivers, at the lower end of Lake St Peter, 760 m. from the ocean.

The St Lawrence provides ample water-power, which is being increasingly used. Its rapids have long been used for milling and factory purposes; a wing dam on the north side of Lachine Rapids furnishes electricity to Montreal; the falls of Montmorency light Quebec and run electric street cars; and from Lake Superior to the gulf there are numerous points on the tributaries to the St Lawrence where power could be used.

Nearly all the rivers flowing into the St Lawrence below Quebec are stocked with salmon (Salmo salar), and are preserved and leased to anglers by the provincial government. In the salt water of the gulf and lower river, mackerel, cod, herring, smelt, sea-trout, striped bass and other fish are caught for market.

The St Lawrence is spanned by the following railway bridges: (i) A truss bridge built near Cornwall in 1900 by the New York & Ottawa railroad, now operated by the New York Central railroad. (2) A truss bridge with a swing, built in 1890 by the Canada Atlantic railway at Coteau Landing. (3) A cantilever bridge built in 1887 by the Canadian Pacific railway at Caughnawaga. (4) The Victoria Jubilee bridge, built as a tubular bridge by the Grand Trunk railway in 1860, and transformed into a truss bridge in 1897-1898. The new bridge rests on the piers of the old one, enlarged to receive it, is 6592 ft. long by 67 ft. wide, has 25 spans, double railway and trolley tracks, driveways and sidewalks, and was erected without interruption of traffic. (5) A very large cantilever bridge, having a central span of 1800 ft., crosses the river at a point 7 m. above Quebec. The southern half of the superstructure, while in course of erection in August 1907, fell, killing 78 men, and necessitating a serious delay in the completion of the work.

The river St Lawrence was discovered by Jacques Cartier, commissioned by the king of France to explore and trade on the American coast. Cartier entered the strait of Belle Isle in 1534; but Breton fishermen had previously resorted there in summer and penetrated as far as Brest, eleven leagues west of Blanc Sablon, the dividing line between Quebec and Labrador. Cartier circled the whole gulf, but missed the entrance to the river. On his second voyage in 1536 he named a bay on the north shore of the gulf, which he entered on the loth of August, the feast of St Lawrence, Baye Sainct Laurens, and the name gradually extended over the whole river, though Cartier himself always wrote of the River of Canada. Early in September, he reached " Canada," now Quebec, and on the 2nd of October reached Hochelaga, now Montreal. No permanent settlement was then made. The first, Tadousac, at the mouth of the Saguenay, was established by Champlain in 1603, and Quebec was settled by him in 1608. Between that time and 1616 Champlain explored the whole river system as far west as Lake Huron, reaching it by way of the Ottawa river, and taking possession of the country in the name of the king of France. It became British by the treaty of Paris, in 1763.

See S. E. Dawson, The St Lawrence, its Basin and Border Lands (New York, 1905) (historical); St Lawrence Pilot (7th ed., Hydrographic Office, Admiralty, London, 1906) ; Sailing Directions for the St Lawrence River to Montreal (United States Hydrographic Office publication, No. 108 D, Washington, 1907): Annual Reports of the Canadian Departments of Marine and Fisheries, Public Works, and Railways and Canals, Ottawa); Transactions (Royal Society, Canada, 1898-1899), vol. iv. sec. iii.; T. C. Reefer on " Ice Floods and Winter Navigation of the St Lawrence," Transactions (Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, Presidential Address of W. P. Anderson, on improvements to navigation on St Lawrence, 1904).

(W. P. A.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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