Finally, Clare turns south: Richelieu River and Chambly Canal

Richeleau River, Chambly Canal, Lake Champlain
image by wikipedia

Sorel 🇨🇦, our farthest point north on this loop, was our turning south point, and the opportunity to experience yet another wonderful river and canal system. At Sorel, we were 12 feet above sea level, but will gain a total of 84 feet via the 10 locks. Amazing to think – but it makes sense- that Lake Champlain is almost 100 feet above sea level. So once again we are “locking up.”

The Richelieu River runs south from the Quebec town of Sorel, leaving the wide Saint Lawrence River. The waterway encompasses The Richelieu River plus the Champly Canal. It crosses the border into the United States after about 78 miles at Lake Champlain. These are our last miles and days in Canada!

Turning onto the Richelieu, we almost immediately left the large shipping industry and entered a more rural passage, with houses close to each other and close to the water, and long stretches of farmland behind them. Beautiful tiny towns and miles of lovely river flowing (against us at 1-2 knots). Very few bridges across, but several cable ferries zipping back and forth across the river to connect the towns. On this first day, we encountered only one lock, the Saint Ours Lock, which began raising us up in elevation, 5’ for this one. We stopped for a short walk to visit the park and to get ice cream. This lock has a dam with a unique fish ladder to allow safe passage of those endangered red copper horse fish we’ve read about.

The dam with overflow waters
Many🇨🇦 parcs have these neat cabins to rent
Saint Ours lock, great lunch stop and ice cream

We traveled about 30 miles this first day on the Richeleau, finding the first real anchorage behind the Ile de Jeannotte. Quiet, with houses on one side of us, protected island on the other side. Apparently, this area is the one place you can find a unique fish species, the protected copper redhorse fish. We enjoyed kayaking, listening to a trawler named Stradivarius play guitar and sing from their bow, and evening swims. The water is murky with muddy silt, warm compared to Maine, but the air is cooler in the evenings and mornings. All lovely.

Protect environment for red copper horse fish spawning
The kayaking was great! Chris
In Quebec province, we saw many beautiful churches facing the water,
painted silver so they glowed in the sunlight.
Would love to know why they are silver….

Part of the Richeleau waterway is the Chambly Canal, a 12 mile man made canal which raised us a total of 80 feet over 9 locks. These locks were built in the 1860s and the hand crank mechanisms are the originals. We did the first three in immediate sequential steps to enter the canal and the town of Chambly. We found space in the Park Canada wall for the night.

Lock #3 part Canad wall in Chambly
Canal de Chambly

The town is part of an old military fort, Fort Chambly, and has a lovely vibrant downtown area. Chris was able to rent a bike, so after grocery shopping at Maxi, we were able to bike together along the fabulous bike trail along the canal, remnants of the tow path that the horses used to pull the barges on. A lovely ride with beautiful scenery as we previewed the next locks we would accomplish the next day.

Can you see the old lock mechanisms behind us?
Different from the other canals.

Again, the bike paths were well designed for encouraging biking, walking, running and rollerblading. Fun!

Until my rear tire blew about 5 miles out…and no Uber or Lyft…so Dean valiantly biked back into town to the bike store for new tire supplies then back to change my tire. Such a good man. Chris and I took turns riding her bike further along the path along the lovely Petit Lac portion of the canal, which was remarkable for the excellent wide path with little car traffic, lovely houses and gardens, and quaint docks with flower boxes and fire pits for sunset and star watching. All in all, Chris and I did ~ 20 miles and Dean did ~ 30 miles total = heavenly. That night we splurged for dinner on the town at a local pasta restaurant, Tre Colori, which was delicious.

Panoramic view of the fort
View of the tower on the opposite fort wall

Up early for a walk to explore Fort Chambly then readied the boat for first lock, #4 of 9 locks, ready the 9 am lock start. This canal is narrow; plans to enlarge it were scrapped so large ships cannot traverse the canal, ending the commercial usage of it. Many of the areas were a tight squeeze for 18’ chubby (wide) Clare. Locked up the 5 locks over about 9 miles, kept us busy for hours.

Narrow channel with many one-lane swing or draw bridges

We spent our last night in Canada at the end of the Chambly Canal, just after the final lock #9 on a parc Canada wall in the town of Saint-Jean-de-Richeleau. Quaint, historical and thriving town which was fun to explore, then (of course) we again hopped on our bikes and explored more of the canal bike paths. Saint-Jean-de-Richeleau was hosting some kind of hot air balloon festival and we watched ~ 20 balloons pass high overhead as we ate dinner. The town and docks were quite noisy throughout the night so crew didn’t sleep too much, but generally we’ve been blessed with good boat sleeping conditions. Boat sleep is all relative.

Pedal player piano – my kind of music making!
St, Jean-de-la-Richeleau international balloon competition

So after almost a full month full-time in Canada (plus our time in and out while cruising the Thousand Islands), we say “au revoir” and “merci beaucoup” to Canada 🇨🇦- we enjoyed our time with you! And thanks for speaking more English than we did French and being so patient with us!

On to Lake Champlain and the Champlain Canal. We say au revoir to our Canadian cruising crew, dear sister-in-love, Chris, after a few days on the Lake, and welcome new guests, Kathy and Jim. We are truly blessed by these visits.

By the grace of God we go,

~ Karen and Dean

Categories: August 2019, Canada, Richeleau, Uncategorized


  1. You are really making this trip “come to life” for those of us living the journey vicariously through you and Dean! Thank you for your wonderful blog and pictures!


  2. Sounds like you are enjoying your self’s. Good read. Thank you for sharing. George IN CENTRAL NEW YORK STATE

    Liked by 1 person

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