Fort Coteau du Lac

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Fort Coteau du Lac (1778-184?) - A British colonial fort established in 1778 during the American Revolutionary War in present day Coteau du Lac, Vaudreuil-Soulanges RCM, Quebec, Canada. Abandoned in the 1840s.
Fort Coteau du Lac Gun Battery
Fort Coteau du Lac Canal
Fort Coteau du Lac Blochouse


Part of Visitor Center Model
Gun Battery Overlooking the River
Barracks Foundation Ruins

Established in 1778 at the strategic rapids at Coteeau du Lac to construct and guard a canal that would bypass the rapids. Construction on the canal began in the summer of 1779 and was completed in the fall of 1780. The canal was constructed under the supervision of Captain William Twiss, commanding Royal Engineer of the British Army using Loyalist soldiers and perhaps miners from England. The canal opened for business in the spring of 1781 as the first lock canal in North America. The purpose of the canal was to eliminate the need to unload and portage supplies around the rapids and falls of the Saint Lawrence River and to reduce the transit time of supplies to the great lakes.

Two Blockhouses and palisaded works were built to protect the canal. Two 3 story storehouses stored general merchandise that included flour, pork and biscuits. In 1780 some 900 "batteau" trips were made to supply the 6,000 troops stationed at British posts on the Great Lakes.

In 1810 a new boat called the "Durham" boat was introduced to replace the much smaller "batteau". This change required that the canals be widened and upgraded for the much larger 35 metric ton capacity of the Durham boat. The work of upgrading the canals was done between 1814 and 1817 at great cost to the British government. By 1835 some 800 Durham boats were in use on the Saint Lawrence River.

In 1813 the fortifications at Coteau du Lac were upgraded to protect both sides of the canal. On the river side a three gun battery of 24-pounder cannons was put in place to control navigation on the Saint Lawrence River. An octagonal three story blockhouse was placed behind the battery. On the land side of the canal, earthworks protected the quarters, guard house and powder magazine from attack.

After the end of the War of 1812 the garrison was significantly reduced and the fort fell into disrepair. The blockhouse was used for a variety of purposes until it was ordered burned down on 5 Dec 1837. The canal remained in full operation until the 1843 when the larger and longer Beauharnois Canal was put into operation.

Current Status

Durham Boat Skeleton in the Canal

Part of the Coteau du Lac National Historic Site, Coteau du Lac, Vaudreuil-Soulanges RCM, Quebec, Canada. The octagonal blockhouse has been replicated and placed just a few feet from the foundation ruins of the original blockhouse. The three gun battery is restored with single 24-pounder cannon on a period mount. The canal itself is restored and beautifully interpreted complete with outlined workers and a skeleton "Durham" boat. Great attention to detail in the signage and displays. The visitor center should not be missed, you can listen to the explanation of the dynamics of the river at this point and instantly understand why the fort was here. The visitor center also has an excellent model of the fort and canal. Two period cannons mounted on period carriages. Two additional cannons on display without carriages.

Location: Coteau du Lac National Historic Site, Coteau du Lac, Vaudreuil-Soulanges RCM, Quebec, Canada.

Maps & Images

Lat: 45.287524 Long: -74.175436

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Visited: 30 Jul 2013

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