Used by the mi’kmaq for centuries, the Shubenacadie waterway was carved out of bedrock by glaciers during the last ice age.
Work on the canal system began in 1826, ceased in 1831 and resumed in 1854. The canal was completed in 1861. Construction of 9 locks and 2 inclined planes connected a chain of 7 lakes and the Shubenacadie River, enabling boats to travel from Halifax Harbour to the Minas Basin. The only other route to the Bay of Fundy was by way of Cape Sable, a dangerous sail.
The Shubenacadie Canal opened in sections and operated between 1856 and 1870. Steam vessels hauled barges laden with goods along the system.
By 1870, railways were able to transport goods faster and more cheaply than ships, forcing the closure of the canal.
Waverley had two points of particular interest on the Shubenacadie Canal System. The first was an inclined plane at the head of Lake William. This inclined plane was used in conjunction with a trolley system to move boats between Lakes Charles and Lake William. The second was a drawbridge at the other end of Lake William, between Lake William and Lake Thomas.
The drawbridge over the Old Scott’s Road, now the new bridge on Rocky Lake Drive by the Waverley Village Green, lifted to allow canal traffic to pass.
The Shubenacadie Canal was an important transportation link for gold mining in Waverley. The canal moved goods needed for gold mining to Waverley. Goods included machinery and coal from Dartmouth, lumber, bricks and granite from the Grand Lake area.
In the 1800s, Lakes William and Thomas had the same water level, unlike today.
The Shubenacadie Canal System is now a National Historic Civil Engineering site and a popular recreation and heritage corridor. The canal offers a wonderful wilderness experience for hikers and canoeists alike.
For more information on the Shubenacadie Canal, please contact the Fairbanks Center in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia:
Phone: (902) 462-1826