Welland Canal / St. Lawrence Seaway
The Welland Canal is a major part of the St. Lawrence Seaway providing a deep draft passage between Lakes Erie and Ontario. Unlike the New York State Canal System or Ontario’s Trent-Severn, the Welland was designed for and primarily caters to large deep draft vessels. Located in Canada, the Welland Canal runs between Port Weller on Lake Ontario south to Port Colborne on Lake Erie.
Due to The Welland Canal’s main purpose of providing passage to large commercial ships, pleasure craft are at the back of the line when it comes to scheduling. To quote the Seaway Handbook - "The transit of pleasure craft shall be scheduled by the traffic controller or the officer in charge of a lock and may be delayed so as to avoid interference with other ships."
The use of the Welland Canal proves most useful for those vessels already on the Lakes and transiting between Lakes Erie and Ontario. Additionally it is used by those vessels whose masthead heights (MHH) will not allow them to transit the western portion of the Erie Canal when entering the Great Lakes via the New York State Canal System.
When considering the use of the Welland Canal, remember; this is not the tranquil ride of the New York State Canal System. While the Welland should not be avoided because of its reputation, it will require some added patience and attention.
The Welland Canal closes in winter when ice or weather conditions become a hazard to both navigation and shipping. The canal's closing is typically during the month of December and it reopens in spring, typically late March or early April.
Pleasure craft toll per lock: $30 (U.S. or Canadian funds). Users who purchase tickets via the automatic ticket dispensers will be charged $25 per lock (Canadian funds). The ticket dispensers are located at either end of the Welland Canal and accept only credit cards. A single ticket (at a price equivalent to eight locks $200.00) is applicable to the transit of the entire canal system, and this ticket should be presented to the officer in charge at Lock 3.
Since (2013), The Welland (as well as all other US and Canadian Seaway Locks) will accept tickets purchased online, in advance, at the link below. Note that a separate ticket will be required for each transit.
The Welland Canal is 23.5 NM (27 SM or 43.5 km) long and runs on a generally North / South axis.
Aids to Navigation
NOAA Chart #14822 and Canadian Hydrographic Service Chart #2042 are both good choices to provide coverage of the Welland Canal and its approaches.
The Welland Canal Lock Chamber Waypoint’s in .PDF file format is available for your use. This is a zipped file of 12 KB.
The Welland Canal consists of 8 locks: Locks #1 thru #7 being 766 feet (233.5 m) long and 80 feet (24.4 m) wide. Lock #8 has a usable length of 1,148 feet (349.9 m) and a width of 80 feet (24.4 m). The maximum vessel length allowed to transit the locks is 740 feet (225.5 m). The total lift over the entire canal is 326.5 feet (99.5 m) from its northern end at Port Weller to its southern end at Port Colborne. The first 7 locks are in the first 8 miles (14.8 km) of the canal from the Port Weller end. The lifts of these first 7 locks range between 43 (13.01 m) and 49 feet (14.94 m). Lock 8 is a guard or control lock near the southern end of the canal at Port Colborne. Lock 8 typically has a lift of just a few feet and serves to pass vessels from the canal to the prevailing water level of Lake Erie.
E & W
E & W
E & W
Lockage is scheduled between the hours of 0700 and 1900 from June 15 to September 15. At other times pleasure craft lockage will be performed around commercial vessels on a best effort basis.
This lock and moorage table can be downloaded for your personal use as a ZIP file. The file contains the schedule in Adobe (.pdf) file format.
Welland Canal - Locks and Distances Table
|Lock #||Type||Lift||Next Lock|
|*This table reflects an up bound passage from Port Weller to Port Colborne.|
|Lake Ontario - Port Weller||---||---||#W1 / 1.65 NM|
|#W1||Single||46’||#W2 / 1.55 NM|
|#W2||Single||46’||#3 / 2.31 NM|
|#W3||Single||46’||#W4 / 1.14 NM|
|#W4 E/W||Double||49’||#W5 / 0.14 NM|
|#W5 E/W||Double||49’||#W6 / 0.16 NM|
|#W6 E/W||Double||43’||#W7 / 0.51 NM|
|#W7||Single||46’||#W8 / 13.71 NM|
|#W8||Guard||2’ - 11’||Lake Erie / 2.36 NM|
Welland Canal - Lock Mooring Table
|*This is the recommended mooring arrangement, but is subject to change at the direction of Canal Control.|
Controlling depth in the canal is 27’ (8.23 m) with a maximum permissible draft of 26’ (7.92 m).
The minimum vertical clearance available is 116.5 feet (35.5 m).
The following VHF channels have been assigned to this station for controlling movement of vessels in the Welland Canal and its approaches:
- VHF-FM channel 14 - For communication with Canal Control.
- VHF-FM channel 17* - For up bound shipping.
- VHF-FM channel 66A* - For down bound shipping.
*Or as directed by Canal Control. All vessels must also continue to monitor channel 14
For all vessels, 6 knots over the bottom, except in the Welland By-Pass Channel from Port Robinson to Rameys Bend, maximum speed 8 knots over the bottom.
Transit times for the Welland Canal can vary. I have heard stories of transits of as little as 7 hours and I have heard horror stories requiring more than 14 hours. Having made this passage many times myself, I have found my average transit time to be around 11 hours.
Crew requirements for passage on the Welland Canal are dependent on the direction of travel. Vessels up bound require a minimum of 3 crew members and vessels down bound require a minimum of 2 crew members.
Canadian Customs (CBSA) are conveniently located on both ends of the Welland Canal. In Port Weller on the Lake Ontario side, Telephone Reporting Stations (TRS/M’s) are located at both Lock #1 in the Welland and also at St. Catharines Marina located just outside the entrance to Port Weller. In Port Colborne on the Lake Erie side, TRS/M’s can be found at Sugarloaf Marina and also City Dock Marina.
Fines can be fairly large for vessels that are required to, yet fail to report their arrival.
Preparing for the Trip
Because of the nature of the Welland Canal, being prepared for your trip through will make your life a lot easier.
- Fenders - This is one of those times when "Lots is Good. . . More is Better". If you have expensive fenders you may want to consider fender covers, by the time you get through the Welland they will look like you have been tied up alongside creosoted pilings for the entire season.
- Lines - You may be required to moor alongside commercial bulkheads during your transit to wait for other vessels to clear. The bollards and other mooring points along these walls are designed for large ships so be prepared. You will need long mooring lines or have enough shorter lines readily available that you can bend them together in a hurry.
- Gloves - Your crew will appreciate your kindness, because it won’t take long for their hands to look like your fenders.
- Tolls - It has been reported that the credit card ticket machines are occasionally not working. You may want to consider having the cash tolls available as a back-up. Cash tolls are paid at lock #3.
Notice to Mariners
The latest navigational information can be found at Welland Canal System Notice to Mariners. Anyone planning to transit the canal system should check these notices for last minute information on closures and restrictions.