For those looking for an alternate route into or out of the Great Lakes or the St. Lawrence River, the Richelieu River - Chambly Canal - St. Ours Canal may offer you an alternative to the New York State Canal System (NYSCS).
The Richelieu River - Chambly Canal - St. Ours Canal while offering greater bridge clearances than the NYSCS the amount of draft you can carry is less.
The Richelieu / Chambly route runs north and south between the northern end of Lake Champlain at Rouses Point, NY and the St. Lawrence River at Sorel, Canada. Sorel is located approximately 39 NM downstream from Montreal, 200 NM downstream from Tibbetts Point near Cape Vincent at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, or 240 NM from Oswego, NY.
The Saint-Ours Canal portion of this route is a continuation of the Chambly Canal, bypassing the final obstacle to navigation between Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River and is often referred to as the tenth lock. The term canal is somewhat of a misnomer since the St. Ours only consists of a single lock.
The navigation season for the Chambly Canal runs from mid-May through mid-October. The dates of operation may vary slightly from year to year, so a call ahead to verify the canal operating times is recommended.
A single passage through the Chambly Canal system is $1.40 per foot, a six day permit is $5.05 per foot, and a seasonal permit is $8.80 per foot.
The St. Ours Canal single passage is $0.90 per foot, a six day permit is $5.05 per foot, and a seasonal permit is $8.80 per foot.
Mooring within the Chambly Canal system for overnight stays is $0.90 per foot.
From Sorel, Canada on the St. Lawrence River to the U.S. Border at the northern end of Lake Champlain, the overall distance is approximately 68 NM. This is made up of 10.06 NM of the Chambly Canal, 0.25 NM of the St. Ours Canal, and 57.69 NM of river section.
Canadian Hydrographic Service charts CHS #1350 and CHS #1351 cover the entire route from the northern end of Lake Champlain north to the St. Lawrence River.
The Chambly / St. Ours Canal Lock Chamber Waypoint’s in .PDF file format are available for your use. This is a zipped file of 12 KB.
There are a total of 10 locks on the Lake Champlain - Sorel route. A total of 9 locks on the Chambly and 1 on the St. Ours. While many of the locks are of different sizes, the lock dimension for the smallest lock in the Chambly system is 110’ (33.52 meters) in length and 23’ (7 meters) in width. The St. Ours lock chamber is 325’ (99.06 meters) in length and 39’ (12.04 meters) wide.
A minimum depth of 6.5’ (1.98 meters) will be found in the Chambly Canal section and 12’ (3.66 meters) is reported in the St. Ours Canal.
Minimum bridge clearance for the entire route is 29’ (8.84 meters).
During hours of operation, you may contact the canals personnel by VHF-Channel 68 or by phone: Chambly locks #1 - #3 at 450-658-4381 and lock #9 in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu at 450-348-3392. The lockmaster at the St. Ours lock can also be reached by phone at 450- 785-2212 or VHF Channel 68.
In the canal sections the speed limit is 5.4 knots (10 km/hr).
As a general rule you should allow for 5- 6 hours for transiting the Chambly Canal portion depending on traffic. The St. Ours Canal will generally require 30 minutes to lock through. The remaining river section of the passage will require an additional 6 hours at 10 knots.
Because of fixed bridges and overhead power lines, vessels with masts exceeding 29’ (8.84 meters) must un-step their masts. Northbound vessels may use the services at Saint-Paul-de-l'Íle-aux-Noix, Canada. Southbound vessels should un-step at Sorel, Canada located upstream of the Saint-Ours Canal.
The latest navigational information can be found at Chambly Canal System Notices. Anyone planning to transit the canal system should check these notices for last minute information on closures and restrictions.