newmarket canal ontario

You can explore an abandoned 100-year-old canal in a small town in Ontario

If you're currently looking for plans ahead of the Victoria Day long weekend, you might want to keep this 100-year-old abandoned canal just north of Toronto on your radar. 

Originally constructed to connect the town of Newmarket to the Trent-Severn Waterway via the East Holland River and Lake Simcoe, the Newmarket Canal — or ghost canal — is now entirely abandoned, despite much of its work still remaining intact. 

By walking or biking along the Nokiidaa Trail, you can still visit many elements of the abandoned 16-kilometre barge canal project, including three completed pound locks, a swing bridge, and a turning basin. 

Before the start of the 20th century, the town experienced rapid growth, thanks to the efforts of William Mulock, then a sitting member of the Liberal Party of Canada. 

However, farmers and businessmen from all over the town began to express their dissatisfaction with skyrocketing railroad freight rates and met at the old Town Hall to discuss cheaper ways to get their products to the market. Mulock, who was the chief advocate of the canal, assured them that the project was the answer. 

The project was eventually approved and construction began in 1906. A full synopsis of the project, written by Newmarket history expert Richard MacLeod, was published in Newmarket Today in 2019. 

Despite its progress over the years, the new government of Robert Borden cancelled the project in 1912 and ultimately determined that there was not enough water to make the project work. 

The canal system was approximately 83 per cent complete when it was abandoned. 

Now, the site has become a popular visiting spot for graduating engineers, earth science students, cyclists, and hikers. If you're interested in checking out the abandoned project, there are many articles and blogs that detail the hike along the canal system online, as well as pinpoint where its remaining structures are located. 

Lead photo by

Wikimedia Commons 

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