The ups and downs of a canal
There's a 100-metre level difference between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Boats need to go through eight locks along the Welland Canals to cross the Niagara Escarpment and Lock 3 is the best place to show the kids how the whole concept works. When we visited, a good half hour went by between the moment we saw the arriving 225-metre-long freighter passing under the drawbridge and the time the gigantic lock gates shut heavily behind the ship. It took 15 minutes for the cargo to station itself inside the lock, then 10 more minutes for it to fill with water. The freighter was rising before our eyes and the kids enjoyed identifying the objects that were revealing themselves. "Wow! Look at the lifebuoy! Can you see the white stairs? The blue basket?" It got even better when the sailors working on the main deck waved at the children, who looked at them with envy, confined to the observation deck. A bulletin board lists the boats that will pass through the lock during the day. You can call Lock 3's information service to make sure a few boats are scheduled to pass when you get there. To kill the time between two boats, there's an outdoor playground and the visit to the great little St. Catharines Museum. They’ve recently built an indoor viewing lounge.