St. Catharines Museum

Rediscovering Niagara

The St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canal Lock 3

I love museums. They’re a fantastic place to spend some time soaking in history, even if it’s the history of a place you’ve known all your life. Case in point: last week, I paid a visit to the St. Catharines Museum and the Welland Canal Lock 3 viewing platform.

There’s never a dull moment at the museum, and its staff must be perpetually busy.. There’s plenty of exhibits, events and programs to take part in. For example, the St. Catharines Museum is home to the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame, where lacrosse fans can find heirlooms from the history of the game. Then there’s, of course, plenty of information about the Welland Canal and the museum’s latest permanent exhibit, “Follow the North Star”, which pays tribute to the legacy of Niagara’s African-Canadian community. This in addition to the museum’s temporary exhibits, virtual programming and collections, and tour programs, and they can all be enjoyed for just a small donation at the door.

But, really, the main event for many who visit the museum is the Welland Canal’s Lock 3 viewing platform just outside.

The Welland Canal has 8 locks which allow massive ships to sail between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie despite the changes in elevation. When a ship stops in a lock, the water levels inside are increased or decreased so the ship can sail on smoothly. Check out this webpage for a more detailed explanation. Before paying a visit to Lock 3, take a look at the arrival schedules found at the St. Catharines Museum’s Facebook page or here (select Welland Lock 3 from the drop down menu at the top of the page).

Stepping outside the back door of the museum, you’ll find yourself in a beautiful little courtyard known as Discovery Park with many different places where you can comfortably watch ships come and go. When I paid my visit, a vessel known as the Alouette Spirit was scheduled to arrive at the lock at 1:30pm. Sure enough, at just before 1:30, there it was! 

Here’s a short video I shot of the ship docked at Lock 3: 

If you’re planning to watch a ship exit the lock in addition to entering, be prepared to wait for a while. Luckly, Lock 3 has other attractions beyond the museum that might be of interest. Just outside the museum is a picnic area with a playground, picnic tables and benches. If it’s a hot and sunny summer day, the trees surrounding the area offer lots of shade to sit under and watch the water. The museum is also a stop on the Welland Canals Parkway Trail, a biking trail which begins in St. Catharines and ends in Port Colborne. There’s plenty of room to walk or bike on the paved pathways.

With the trees beginning to change colour any day now and the cooler weather, I think autumn is a fantastic time to spend a day at the St. Catharines Museum and Lock 3. It’s a place anyone can enjoy both indoors and outdoors and you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the city.

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