St. Andrews Lock And Dam At Lockport, Manitoba

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View of part of a Caméré-style dam and bridge in Lockport, Manitoba - St. Andrews Lock and Dam
Popular day trip from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada to Lockport to see the one-of-a-kind St. Andrews Lock and Dam and have a hot dog

A popular summer weekend activity for people in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada is a Sunday drive to Lockport, Manitoba to see the St. Andrews Lock and Dam and have a hot dog (or burger). Lockport is approximately 28 kilometers (17 miles) north of the centre of Winnipeg.

St. Andrews Lock and Dam is both a National Historic Site of Canada and a National Historic Civil Engineering Site. The facility consists of a dam, a two-lane traffic bridge (Highway 44), a fish ladder for migrating fish to pass, and a lock. It is the only lock on the Canadian prairies.

Bridge, dam, and locks over a river with water rushing through

It was built by the Canadian government between 1907 and 1910 as part of a proposed river steamboat navigation extending from Winnipeg to Edmonton. That vision never came to fruition due to improvements in roads that made overland shipping a better option, but the dam and lock did improve navigation along the Red River.

Lockport Provincial Park, located on the northeast side of lock, is a good spot from which to view the dam and lock. It consists of green space with picnic areas and a walking trail with 10 interpretive signs. The signs talk about the river’s diverse environment, the herds of bison that once roamed its banks, early farming, and the St. Andrews Lock and Dam.

Fencing with view of bridge, dam, and locks in background and signs on fence about entry

You can get down to water’s edge, but be warned that there are strong currents. As well as the lock and dam, you’ll see pelicans on the water and perhaps people fishing along the banks of the river. You’ll need a valid Manitoba fishing licence if you want to join them.

Two people fishing on river by bridge with lock and dam
Moveable curtain style Caméré bridge and dam

St. Andrews Lock and Dam is the only Caméré curtain bridge-dam built in North America and the largest ever constructed. It received the National Historic Civil Engineering Site designation because it is perhaps the only surviving moveable dam of its kind in the world.

Caméré-style bridge-dams use moveable curtains that raise or lower to control water flow. French engineer M. Caméré invented this type of dam. It was popular in Europe in the late 19th century. H.E. Vautelet, the Canadian engineer responsible for the St. Andrews design, adapted the French design to deal with unpredictable flood waters of the Red River and to avoid the potential of a permanent dam causing an ice jam during the spring thaw. There are 89 moveable curtains made of 50 thin slats of Douglas fir wood hinged together.

(Note: when my photos were taken in June 2024, a part of the dam had been temporarily removed due to significant rainfalls. You may notice those missing curtains in some of the photos.)

The Red River originates in the United States where Minnesota, North and South Dakota meet. It meanders north for over 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) and empties into Lake Winnipeg. At the time the lock and dam were built, the Red River was a major shipping route from Lake Winnipeg to the city of Winnipeg. The St. Andrews Rapids, now submerged in water because of the dam, were treacherous to navigate and often meant death to boats and their crew. The Red River fell over 4.5 metres (15 feet) over a distance of 16 kilometres (10 miles) through a rocky channel full of boulders.

Although the dam and lock, built at a dollar cost of $3.5 million, made the river safer for boat traffic, its construction was back-breaking work. Men worked with picks, shovels, wheelbarrows, and teams of horses for 15 to 25 cents an hour. Many men died.

The St. Andrews Lock and Dam continues to operate today, regulating water levels on the Red River. River traffic is primarily tour boats operators and recreational boaters. It takes about 20 minutes for a boat or other watercraft to pass through.

Green space along river with view of bridge with dam and lock in background

There is also a lovely greenway on the west side of the river south of the lock and dam.

Garden, path around it, and stone monument commemorating 100th anniversary of St. Andrews Lock and Dam
Garden and monument to commemorate 100th anniversary of the dam and lock
View of bridge with dam and lock
View of bridge and lock from the south-west
Outside of a hot dog and burger restaurant with red roof

Skinner’s, which lists itself as the oldest hot dog venue in Canada, opened as a small stand in 1929. Today, there are two locations in Lockport. The menu includes burgers, fries, shakes, and ice cream as well as hot dogs. Other places to grab a hot dog, burger, and more:  the Half Moon Drive-In whose interior recalls the days of 1950s diners; and Sonia’s Stand, which offers no indoor seating but plenty of outdoor seating.

You can get to Lockport by driving north on Henderson Highway or north on Main Street, which becomes Highway 9. You can take Highway 9 all the way to Lockport or turn off (to the east) at River Road (Highway 238) for a scenic drive along the river into Lockport. You may want to take one route there and a different route back to the city.

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St. Andrews Lock and Dam in Lockport, Manitoba, Canada - a popular day trip from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada is to go to Lockport to see the one-of-a-kind lock and dam and to have a hot dog

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