Lanark County - Smiths Falls

Smiths Falls: Rails, Roads and Boats.

The town of Smiths Falls has an important history in the development of Eastern Ontario.  The town is named for Thomas Smyth, a United Empire Loyalist who in 1786 was granted four hundred acres in what is present-day Smiths Falls.

The Rideau Canal is great for powered and unpowered watercraft!At the time of construction of the Rideau Canal a small settlement had been established around a mill operated by Abel Russell Ward, who had bought Smyth's land. Colonel By ordered the removal of Ward's mill to make way for the canal. He settled with Ward for £1,500, one of the largest claims made by mill owners on the canal.  The disruption of industry caused by the building of the canal was only temporary, and Smiths Falls grew rapidly following construction.

A 36-foot (11 m) drop in less than a quarter of a mile posed an obstacle to navigation at Smiths Falls. A natural depression to the south of the river was used to create a flight of three locks, known as Combined Lockstation today.

Defensible lockmasters houses were built at all three stations in Smiths Falls. The house at Old Slys Lock was built in 1838 and the houses at Combined and Detached Locks around 1842.

In the 1850s the major railroad companies were looking to build main trunk lines linking Toronto, Kingston and Montreal. The two major companies at the time, the Brockville & Ottawa and the Grand Trunk, were competing for the easiest routes to lay track. For a number of geographical reasons, and also due to the proximity of the Rideau Canal, the town of Smiths Falls became a major focal point for both railways. Both the Canadian Pacific and the Canadian Northern (later Canadian National) established stations in the town, however, with the creation of VIA Rail the CN station was abandoned and all passenger traffic routed though the CPR station.

Smiths Falls in Lanark County, Ontario is a major town along the Rideau River and Rideau Canal.

Today the historic confluence of transportation routes through the town draws many travellers to Smiths Falls.  The CN station has been renovated and is now home to the Smiths Falls Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario.  The CPR station, while still acting as a waiting room for train riders, has been converted to a live theatre and performing arts centre.  The hand-operated locks and waterways of the Rideau Canal attracts many tourists by both car and boat.


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