St. Lawrence Seaway to Lake Champlain Yacth Tour

St. Lawrence Seaway to Lake Champlain Yacth Tour


Distance: 575 miles
Number of Locks: 27
Average Number of Days: 7-8

While primarily an industrial canal, the St. Lawrence River links Lake Ontario to Quebec and the Richelieu River. From there, travel south to the Chambly Canal, into Lake Champlain and back into the Hudson via the Champlain Canal.

Day 1: Cobourg to Kingston

Distance: 120 NM

The trip from Cobourg to Kingston takes you through the Murray Canal into the Bay of Quinte – where the junction for the Trent Severn Waterway meets with Lake Ontario.

The jaunt from Cobourg to the Murray Canal is only about 15 miles. The Murray Canal is a short-cut across the narrow neck of land connecting Prince Edward County with the north shore of Lake Ontario and bypasses the nearly one hundred mile trip around the sometimes rough waters surrounding the County.

Entering the Murray CanalThe canal is 12.12 kilometres long and consists of 2 swing bridges, one at each end. They are the Brighton Road Swing Bridge and Carrying Place Swing Bridge. There is a toll charge of $5 CND for boats navigating through the Murray Canal. The fee is collected at the Brighton Road Swing Bridge by a Parks Canada attendant who holds out a tin cup strapped onto a stick. He’ll give you change the same way.

A few facts about the Murray Canal:

Water Depth: 2.7 m (9′) under normal conditions
Overnight Mooring is available at both bridges for a maximum of two nights
Murray Canal swing bridges monitor VHF Channel 14 only during navigation season hours of operation
There is a 10-km/h speed limit in the canal
Phone Numbers:
Brighton Road Swing Bridge: (613) 475-1299
Carrying Place Swing Bridge: (613) 392-8931
Check with Parks Canada for more information.

Paddle Wheeler in KingstonThere are excellent transient docks at Flora MacDonald marina located in Confederation Basin. You can contact them by calling (613) 542-2134. Most sites and restaurants are within walking distance from Confederation Basin.

The are many boutique stores, farmer’s markets, restaurants and historic sites make this university town and one-time capital city a wonderful place to visit, and it’s a great launching pad to start your cruise in the 1000 Islands.

Kingston has some wonderful restaurants, most notably Chez Piggy (68-R (rear) Princess Street) – a Kingston institution started by Zal Yanovsky, a member of the Lovin’ Spoonful. Another excellent place is Windmills Café (184 Princess Street).

Day 2: Kingston to Cornwall

Distance: 100 NM

Leaving Kingston, you head directly into the 1000 Islands. If you can, we highly recommend taking your time weaving through these magnificent islands, some of which consist of a solitary gnarled tree clinging onto an outcrop of rocks.

Home in the 1000 IslandsOnce past the Islands, you enter into the first series of locks along the St. Lawrence Seaway. The first of the 7 locks along the Seaway is the Iroquois lock. Since you are downbound, you will lock on the starboard side – so be sure you have your fenders ready in advance.

floating bollardThe locks are equipped with floating bollards recessed into the wall for securing a line amidships. The toll is $20 CDN for all the Canadian locks and is payable at each lock.

A few facts about the Seaway:

With the exception of the Beauharnois locks (upper and lower) downbound vessels tie up on the starboard side
The 2 American locks are the Bertrand H. Snell and the Dwight D. Eisenhower – The toll for the US Locks is $20 US or $30 CDN per lock
Report in at the locks using a designated reporting-in telephone located on the dock
Be aware of the signal lights before entering the locks
Entering the Seaway lockMore information on procedures for locking can be found online at the St. Lawrence Seaway website. A Pleasure Craft Guide is also given to you when you enter the locks.

The next two locks before reaching Cornwall are the US locks – the Eisenhower and Snell – each with a 40-foot drop. You will most likely have to tie up to other boats in the lock or have other’s tie up to you. It’s a good idea to have extra fenders and lines for that reason. Also note: Industrial traffic takes priority over pleasure craft. In other words, there is no sense passing the barge along the canal in hopes of sneaking in before it.

Docked in CornwallWe docked in Cornwall at Marina 200. You can reach the Marina on VHF 68, or call (613) 932-8301. Off season call (613) 938-9400.

Day 3: Cornwall to Montreal

Distance: 60 NM

The trip from Cornwall to Montreal takes you through the last 4 remaining industrial locks for this part of the journey. They are the Upper and Lower Beauharnois, Cote Ste. Catherine and St. Lambert.

locking throughIt is quite a sight to see a huge barge lock through and to really appreciate just how immense they look in the lock.

Once past the last lock, the trip to Montreal takes you through the suburbs of the city. The main channel divides east and west of Ile Ste-Helene and is marked by a black and yellow cardinal buoy.

Quai de l’HorlogeThe channel along the west shore after the Ile Ste-Helene buoy ends 2 miles after Vieux Port (old port). This part of the river has the highest currents reaching to 6 knots.

Once past the Jacques Cartier Bridge, you pass Quai de l’Horloge (clock tower wharf) and enter Port d’Escale marina – a highly recommended marina with very helpful bi-lingual staff.

Port d’Escale marinaThe marina is located in the heart of Old Montreal and is an excellent launch pad to great restaurants, museums, art galleries and shops.

The cobbled streets of old Montreal are lined with heritage buildings dating back from the 1700s and are a mix of humble wooden taverns and brick-faced buildings to the more imposing pillared structures housing financial institutions and civic centers.

Restaurant Du Vieux-PortWhile smoked meat may not be considered haute cuisine, the world famous Schwartz’s deli on Rue St. Laurent is the place for smoked meat sandwiches for anyone willing to brave the line-ups. For those with a finer palate, Gibbys, set in a 200 year old building serves the best steak in town, Restaurant Du Vieux-Port, one of Montreal’s most popular restaurants, and Modavie – a restaurant serving Mediterranean food and live jazz all come highly recommended.

View from Mount RoyalThe hike up Mount Royal gives you some of the most impressive panoramas of the city – old and new and you can easily get there by taxi. Visit Montreal Tourism for more information.

Day 4: Montreal to Saint-Ours

Distance: 60 NM

Once past Montreal’s industrial area and off the St. Lawrence River, you head into a very pastoral and rural part of Quebec dotted with silver guilded churches and rolling hills.

Sorel is located at the intersection of the the Richelieu River and the St. Lawrence, and is about 37 NM from Montreal.

There is a lot of industrial activity at the entrance to the Richelieu – be sure to stay in the channels as there are several shoals in the area.

Following the channel into the Richelieu, you pass under several bridges and the river begins to narrow. You quickly leave behind the din of the city and enter a pastoral landscape.

The village of St. Ours is about 4.3 miles from the St. Ours Lock. The PDQ group docked at Parc Bellerive – a small marina/trailer park before St. Ours – the other docking option before the lock is the wharf at St. Ours.

The lock hours vary according to the season, but are usually open at 8:30 in the morning. At high season, from June 16 to August 13, they are open daily from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm. Visit the Parks Canada website for a complete list of hours and fees, which in 2005 were $1 a foot.

Day 5: Saint-Ours to Chambly

Distance: 28NM

The floating dock at Saint-Ours is by far the easiest lock to go through. The dock is lined with bumpers to fend the boats while Parks Canada staff greet you and help you tie up.

You hardly feel the lock filling as you walk around the dock and socialize with other boaters.

The distance from Saint-Ours to the next lock at Chambly is about 28 NM and the winding Richilieu River is well worth a meander.

Approaching the St. Ours locksThe current Fort Chambly is built around the Chambly rapids and was first used to protect the French from Iroquois raids and later, from the British and the Americans and eventually abandoned in 1860. It is well worth a visit.

Fort ChamblyThe Flotilla group docked outside of the first lock on the Chambly Canal – depending on your timing, you can easily clear the canal system in one day.

Day 6: Chambly to Essex, NY

Distance: 60 NM

The locks along the Chambly canal are hand cranked open and close by Parks Canada attendants who travel up the canal on a paved walkway for the next 5 locks on golf carts.

Lock attendant opening the lockThe Chambly Canal is quite narrow and you have to pay particular attention to the very narrow channels at the swing bridges. Keep an eye on the depth and watch for fallen branches.

Because the bridges only open at specific time, the “flying bridge” master will follow you by car from lock 8 to the last lock, adjusting your speed to coordinate it with the bridge openings until you reach the last lock.

A few facts about the Chambly Canal:

The canal is very narrow and at times, very shallow – keep an eye on your depth gauge
Contact the canal staff by VHF-Canal 68
Transit time is 3 to 5 hours
Hours of operation vary – but from July 16 to August 14, they are open daily between 8:30 am and 7: 00 pm
Number of locks: 9
Entering the narrow locksLink to the Parks Canada site for more information.

The Chambly Canal is lined with gentle, pastoral landscape dotted by old sliver-tinned church steeples and the distant outline of Mont St. Hilaire.

The last lock is cleared at St-Jean and it is another 21 NM to travel to Rouses Point where you clear customs. You can stop at Gaines Marina, located one mile from the Canadian border, to clear customs.

Down the Chambly CanalIt is another 49 NM to Essex, NY – a very quaint little town that seems to belong in a Norman Rockwell painting.

The Essex Marina and Cupola House, which had excellent and clean facilities and was within walking distance to historic buildings and restaurants in town. A good restaurant to eat at is the Rudder Club, and is within walking distance of the marina.

Essex MarinaLake Champlain has many interesting coves and marinas to investigate and we welcome your input (

Smuggler Harbor on Valcour Island also comes highly recommended as a picturesque and protected anchorage.

Day 7: Essex to Whitehall, and to Lock #7

Distance: 60 NM + 24 NM

The remaining trip from Essex to the start of the Champlain Canal is spectacular. To the East, the Green Mountains of Vermont and to the west, the Adirondacks of New York.

Leaving Lake ChamplainThe lake narrows and winds through marshy waters as you approach the northern terminus of the Champlain Canal. Lock 12 is located at Whitehall, a one-time prospering lumbering and manufacturing center. Make sure you have your fender boards ready for the next 12 locks down the Champlain.

Lock 12Lock 12 is the only lock which is filled from only one side, and as a result, there are strong cross currents when the lock is filled for southbound vessels. For that reason, you tie up to the port (east) wall in this lock.

A few facts about the Champlain Canal:

Signal the lock keeper via VHF 13 or with three short blasts on your horn
The depth of the navigational channel is 12 feet
Locks and lift bridges operate from early May to November
Open daily during peak season (late May to early October) from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm
A Ten-day pass costs $37.50 and a season pass is $75.00 for vessels 26 to 39-feet in length
Visit the NY Canal System website for more information.

Down the Chambly CanalAt 139 feet, lock 8 is the peak of the summit – and you begin your descent into the Hudson River (you enter filled locks). Note: Lock 10 does not exist.

Fort Edward, at lock 7, comes highly recommended as a mid-way point down the Canal System. (We stopped in Schuylerville at lock 5, but found few redeeming qualities in town). It is also the end of the 24-mile dug channel from Whitehall – a straight line between two banks.

Approaching Lock 7A floating dock is located a short distance above lock 7 on the west shore (a hard right) – the limit of upstream navigation on the Hudson. There is a public wall with free power and free mooring, and is only a short walk to the downtown area.

Day 8: Lock #7 to Hudson River

Distance: 39 NM

An easy run through the remaining 7 locks (8 if you include the federal lock at Troy) takes you into the Hudson River.

damFollow the west shore as you approach Lock 5 where the glassy surface of the water is a dead-giveaway to the dam ahead. The 14.6 mile distance between the next two locks is the longest in the system, with the rest of the locks relatively close to one another.

This portion of the canal system is relatively easy to get through, and in no time, you’ll find yourself in Waterford, where the Erie Canal and the Champlain Canal system meet.

locking throughContinuing South on the Hudson for another 2.75 miles gets you to the Troy federal lock, the last lock you’ll see where you can toss out your filthy locking gloves and fender boards.

Make sure you have your boat registration numbers handy as you’ll most likely be asked to present them to the lock master. The lock keepers monitor VHF 13 and request that you do not leave your boat while in the lock. Expect to progress a little slower in this lock than what you’re used to on the Champlain canal.

leaving the canalYou can easily make the run from Troy to Kingston, which is about 60 miles at Rondout Creek, which will get you well on your way along the Hudson River and past some spectacular scenery and historic lighthouses. For more information on your remaining cruise down the Hudson River.


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