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Kingston's waterways and the Canadian economy

August 15, 2017 -

This year, Canada recognizes the 150th anniversary of confederation. Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast will gather to honour their great country in meaningful ways. Throughout this historic year, Kingston will be showcasing its ongoing contributions to the nation. 

Kingston is located at the intersection of four lines of communication: the Great Lakes to the interior of North America; the St. Lawrence to the Atlantic; the Cataraqui-Rideau rivers and lakes to the north; and the Hudson-Mohawk corridor to the south. The ancestors of the Anishinabee and Haudenosaunee peoples were the first to make this location their home and to recognize its importance as a meeting place. This site also attracted French, British and American settlers and tradespeople as a place of commercial trade, military defence, and transportation.

Because of its ideal location, Kingston rose to prominence in the 19th century as a "transshipment point." Located at the important junction of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River shipping routes, Kingston served as a "break-in-bulk" port. Shipments of grain, lumber, potash, and other resources from the western interior were offloaded from the Great Lake ships onto smaller vessels that could negotiate the islands, shoals, and early locks of the St. Lawrence River to reach the Eastern seaboard and the Atlantic Ocean. Shipments of manufactured goods from across the Atlantic were also off-loaded at Kingston from St. Lawrence and Rideau canal-vessels onto Great Lakes vessels. Immigrants, too, were transshipped at Kingston and, while some stayed, most moved west to the better lands and greater opportunities in Toronto and western Ontario.

Kingston's transshipment role became a vital component of Canada's economic growth and development. Shipping and transportation firms like James Richardson & Sons, Ltd. and the Montreal Transportation Company, and ship-building and repair companies like Kingston Shipyards and R. Davis Dry Dock Company dominated Kingston's shoreline until the 1960s. All are now gone except for MetalCraft Marine, which occupies the original Davis Dry Dock in the Inner Harbour. A reminder of Kingston's maritime past, it still services large vessels and builds high-speed aluminum fire boats and patrol boats.

Today, Kingston remains intrinsically linked to the lakes and rivers that have brought people here for thousands of years. Although most of the large-scale marine activity along Kingston's shoreline ended 50 years ago, Kingston residents have maintained their close relationship with the surrounding bodies of water. This has been enhanced by the City's clean-up initiatives and its development of waterfront trails and parks. For locals and visitors alike, recreational use has replaced the waterfront's industrial activity. Kingston is the sailing capital of Canada, drawing avid sailors from around the world. Boat tours of the St. Lawrence River, the Thousand Islands National Park, and the Bay of Quinte are popular. The UNESCO Frontenac Axis Biosphere reserve and the UNESCO Rideau Canal and the Kingston Fortifications World Heritage Site attract thousands of visitors to Kingston each year. In these new ways, Kingston's several waterways are still playing a vital part in the region's story. 

Kingston is at the heart of Canada's story – shaping our past and building our future.

About the City of Kingston

The City of Kingston provides municipal services to 125,000 residents living in this visually stunning, historic city, often ranked one of the best places to live in Canada. Kingston is focusing on being smart and livable as it pursues its vision to become Canada's most sustainable city. We focus on environmental responsibility, social equity, economic health and cultural vitality –ensuring that today's decisions don't compromise our future.

Please visit www.CityofKingston.ca and join the conversation on social media.

Twitter: @CityofKingston
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCityofKingston

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Media contact: For more information call the strategic communications department at 613-546-4291, ext. 2300.