Lock Us Up

by Sylvie O'Rourke

We are at the Morrisburg boat launch for a scenic bike ride. Our destination: The Iroquois Locks. I cannot wait to share my new favorite local ride with others. I know they will be as charmed as I have been with the captivating riverscape along the way.

Today’s 33-kilometer bike ride was inspired by the SDG & Cornwall Adventure Club from a ready-made downloadable “Ride with GPS” map found on the City of Cornwall Tourism website. The selected “To the Locks” route takes on a scenic waterfront tour.

It is overcast and windy as we begin our ride along the shoulder of Lakeshore Drive through Morrisburg and Mariatown. We ride by a mesh of Victorian and Queen Anne homes, twenty-first century architecture, and even some farmland where we see cows, white geese, and a goat. I particularly enjoy the view of the river and it almost makes me forget how hard I am pedaling to lead this group of strong cyclists. We cruise by Flagg Creek, a boat launch, and a campground before stopping to shed a layer. I am happy to relinquish the lead for the rest of the way.

After a short jaunt along the busier highway past Doran Bay we turn off into the village of Iroquois along the golf course. We stray from the suggested GPS route to follow the new recreational trail towards the Iroquois air strip and beach where we are once more riding along the riverbank. This trail takes us to Boat House Road and the historic Galop Lock 25 originally built in 1847. We take some time to examine the lock remnants and a section of a pre-seaway highway which fades into the St. Lawrence River. There is so much history here!

It is time to leave the past behind and head towards the present and active Iroquois Locks. We have arrived just in time to witness the Algoma Hansa ship, a twenty-three-year-old oil and chemical tanker, go through the locks. The entire process of lowering one gate and raising another, filling, and emptying the lock to the proper levels, and then getting through it is a well-synchronized and rehearsed procedure. At the west end of the lock system stands an osprey perch, which I learn was built by the St-Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation to relocate a nest originally built on top of a crane. What is unique about this perch is that it offers an eye-level view from a lookout directly across it, a perspective we don’t usually get from these typically lofty abodes. The ospreys are absent today. They must be off somewhere soaring in the wind.

We speed up on the return trip with the blustery breeze at our backs. My quadricep muscles are grateful for the ease in intensity. At times we spot the large tanker from the lock heading towards Montreal. It appears that we have little chance of gaining on it. Despite the wind’s assistance and our best physical manpower, we are no match for this mighty seaway vessel.

We make it back to our starting point in time to beat the rain, which I am sure is heading our way. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to share this beautiful ride with others. I hope to cycle to the locks again next summer, but this time with a gentle breeze blowing from the river and ice cream treats from one of the stands conveniently located at either end.

Published in The Cornwall Seeker, the 2 in 1 Flip magazine, November 2021, theseeker.ca, page 20

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