Ups and downs at the Eisenhower Lock 

Dances With Words - Nick Wolochatiuk
Ups and downs at the Eisenhower Lock 
(Photo : Seaway News)

The St. Lawrence River has many fascinating stories to tell. The continental glaciers of prehistory scraped, removed and deposited so many of its physical features. The footprints of theindigenous peoples and the European explorers who came after them have been erased by mega projects such as the rapids-calming St. Lawrence Seaway and its Moses-Saunders international hydro-electric generation station.

The Canadian half is named in honour of R.H. Saunders, [May 30, 1903 – January 16, 1955], chairman of Ontario Hydro, who oversaw the Canadian side of the construction. (He died in a plane crash, in 1955, before the completion of the project.).

I find it absolutely amazing that Moses, a 38 centuries-old Biblical character, would be in charge of the New York Power Authority during the period of the Seaway construction. No one believes me when I share that fact.


COMING AND GOING – As one vessel leaves, heading upstream, another, heading downstream, takes its place in the Eisenhower Lock. (Photo by Nick Wolochatiuk)

And now there’s a brand-new Seaway Visitor Center: it opened to the public May 14 of this year. It’s located in New York state, between Cornwall and Massena, at the Eisenhower Lock, which is at the west end of the Wiley-Dondero Canal. It has a large parking area and picnic grounds. There are all sorts of indoor exhibits on its three floors; a modest movie theatre offering eight short films; numerous maps of the Seaway; large models of several types of vessels that ply the Seaway and interactive Q & A quizzes. Helpful guides are eager to answer questions about the exhibits.

Best of all are the three levels of sheltered viewing platforms that overlook the Eisenhower Lock.

It takes about half an hour for a vessel to transit the lock’s 30′ climb or drop, to continue upstream toward the Great Lakes or downstream toward the Atlantic Ocean. (In contrast, the Canadian lock at Iroquois has a variable change of only one foot.)

There is no pattern to the number or type of vessels (tankers, bulk carriers, cruise ships, private yachts…) you may see during your stay. A count-down clock informs you of the time remaining before the next vessel arrives. According to the website (, regular operating hours during the 2024 season are Wednesday through Sunday, 900 a.m. to 500 p.m.

Share this article