Montreal: Old Port

Montreal’s Old Port

The Old Port of Montreal is the historic port of Montreal. It stretches for over two kilometres along the St. Lawrence River in Old Montreal. This site was used as early as 1611, when French fur traders used it as a trading post.

The historical Old Port was redeveloped in the early 1990s, under the direction of architects Aurèle Cardinal and Peter Rose. It is today a recreational and historical area. The Old Port offers Montrealers and visitors alike access to a wide variety of activities, including the Montréal Science Centre, with an IMAX Theatre, and the Montreal Clock Tower. It offers riverfront access for walking, cycling, roller-blading, quadricycle, pedalo and Segway rentals. The area as a popular destination for cycling, roller-blading and pleasure boating. In June 2012, an urban beach, called the Plage de l’Horloge (Clock Beach), opened adjacent to the Clock Tower. Every 2 years the Cirque du Soleil launches a new show from the Jacques Cartier Quay.

The Old Port is managed by the Old Port of Montreal Corporation, a subsidiary of Canada Lands Company, but it reports directly to the government.

In the 19th century, transporting goods along the St. Lawrence River was no simple task. Downstream near the Jacques Cartier Bridge, the Sainte-Marie current was so powerful that some boats had to be hauled through. Upstream in the western part of the river, the Lachine Rapids – the result of a 14-metre drop between Lake Saint-Louis and Laprairie Basin – thwarted the expansion of the port.

Until the turn of the 20th century, the sudden mid-winter thaws and inevitable spring ice jams considerably hindered the development of the port of Montreal. Masses of ice measuring up to 15 metres high caused devastating floods, including the most memorable flood of 1886. The repeated flooding prevented the construction of permanent infrastructures.

MacKay Pier (now known as Cité-du-Havre Point) was built between 1891 and 1898 to keep the ice flow in the St. Mary`s current and away from the shore. A cut stone firewall was built along de la Commune Sttreet in 1899. Finally protected, the port of Montreal could expand. Year-round navigation only became possible in 1964, when icebreakers started breaking the ice in order to open the St. Lawrence navigation canal.

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